The logic behind most video games follows a basic premise; because you can’t slay a mythical beast or play in a professional football league in real life (probably), we will make a video game that allows you to do so. However, there are some games out there that mimic real life activities that you can do right now, such as skateboarding, billiards, or surviving in the forest with nothing but a loin cloth and a rock.
Pinball FX2 VR allows you to play, you guessed it, pinball! Now, I have played a pinball machine or two in my life, but I wouldn’t say I am a pinball aficionado. That being said, I can do my best to relate to you my opinion on whether or not Pinball FX2 VR approximates the act of playing a pinball machine.
The biggest factor in making a pinball game believable is the physics, and I can tell you with certainty that Zen Studios has nailed the ball physics in this game. Much of the game of pinball in knowing how to manipulate the ball so that you can direct it where you want it to go. So it stands to reason that your brain would expect the pinball in the video game to mimic a pinball in real life, and it does!
As for the controls, you need them to react without delay. This may depend somewhat on the controller you are using, but with the Xbox One controller, everything was immediate. You can use the triggers or shoulder buttons for the flippers, pull back the right thumbstick or press the “A” button to launch the ball, and even use the left thumbstick to tilt the machine, so there is a configuration to suit just about anyone.
Lastly, each table has missions or quests to complete. On some tables it’s a bit more obvious, like on Epic Quest you battle monsters and gain loot. On MARS you take samples. On Secrets of the Deep, you… save sea turtles? When you do these quests, you can net major pointage. But there were times when I wasn’t sure exactly what I was supposed to do to complete them, or it told me, but I didn’t understand how that translated to what I was supposed to be doing on the table.
The second largest factor for a pinball game, in my opinion anyway, is the bleeps and bloops. The sound effects are subtle but believable. From the ball hitting the table, bumpers, and rolling on the rails, to the digitized effects emanating from the machines themselves. Everything is as it should be. The sound work really adds to the immersion of the game and helps you forget you aren’t actually standing in front of a pinball table.
As for the eye candy, you begin the game inside some kind of seaside mansion/showroom. It seemed a bit out of place at first, but Zen Studios does some interesting things to the background while you play each table. For instance, on the Secrets of the Deep table, you are suddenly immersed in water while a shark and a submarine swim about. In Epic Quest, the medieval themed table, you actually get loot which changes the appearance of the knight standing next to the table. On one hand these visuals are not too distracting, on the other, it sort of breaks the realism of playing the machine. Personally I think it adds a bit of flair to what could otherwise be a very inactive atmosphere.
The machines themselves have a lot going on. The tables feature many moving parts and are a visual treat to watch. The lighting on the tables, the MARS table immediately comes to mind, looks particularly slick. All said, the visuals look pretty good, and the designs of the tables are helped by the art that accompanies them. You can configure the graphic fidelity in the options menu as well, so it scales well with many machine configurations, an important feature to hit the target 90 FPS when using a VR headset.
Playing Pinball FX2 in virtual reality doesn’t really change the core function of the game. It’s comfortable enough and it feels fairly natural, but playing in VR doesn’t add anything substantial from playing the game other than one specific factor: focus. I found it very easy to maintain focus on the game, and my vision became tunneled to the point where I forgot about most of the in game visuals that happen around the table, let alone what was happening outside the headset. It was just me and the machine, and I appreciated the amount of immersion that VR afforded. However, your neck might get cramped after staring down at the “table” in front of you if you play for long enough, especially if you play while sitting down.
It might not be the game you show off to your friends when they want to experience VR for the first time, but it is a quality, comfortable experience that immerses you in the game of pinball.
Pinball is one of those games that I enjoy playing, but never really seek out. I’ll play a table if there happens to be one nearby, but I don’t go out of my way just to play. However, with Pinball FX2 VR, I am able to pop in, get my fix, and get out very easily, all without having to exchange dollar bills into quarters, wait in line, or leave my house! I would have liked to see a couple more tables, but for $15 bucks, you get three quality tables and one quality VR experience. Even if you’re not a huge pinball fan, it’s a nice diversion from the usual action/horror experiences in VR.
8.5 / 10
This review was submitted by Lucas Rose! You can catch Lucas’ podcast and other works over at Fluxtaposed!