Pinball FX 2 review

  • Near-perfectly realistic physics
  • Fantastic table designs
  • Horredously addictive score chasing
  • Makes the old tables feel kinda crappy
  • Can't always find people to play online
  • Barely missing a high score is traumatic

The trouble with digital representations of pinball is that often they don’t match up to the physics and tactile sense of the addictive clackey-clack of real flippers and balls. Pinball FX 2 has successfully slid right past that obstacle – it claims to have a new, improved physics engine and it shows. The illusion of a real ball bouncing around in a real machine is complete. We’re pinball fanatics here at GR, and it’s not easy to please our discerning tastes, so we’re happy to say that FX 2 finally overcomes the main hurdle for virtual pinball.

Above: Pasha is our absolute favorite table. The purple area slides back to reveal a second, mini pinball table

The original Pinball FX came with three tables, while FX 2 comes with four when you purchase the core pack. What’s much more important, though, is that the table designs of these four new offerings are across the board far superior to the original FX tables. In the original game, each table was a bit cramped, with a similar theme across all three tables: a lower area separated by an upper area, with one extra flipper on the left hand side. Also, just comparing how the tables generate flow of play shows how much better the new tables are – the old tables feel clunky and full of dead spots where your ball would just bounce off scenery and not provide any delicious points. In the new tables, there is so much more to interact with.

Above: Biolab is probably our least favorite table, but that only means its a bit less awesome than the others

Each table has its own tricks and special events to set it apart. Secrets of the Deep offers an oceanic theme, with jellyfish, submarines, and shipwrecks adorning the layout. It has a small upper play area with its own set of flippers, giving you almost two boards in one. Biolab presents a mad scientist theme with minigames involving the engineering of creatures that change species inside a big canister near the top of the playfield. Pasha is a Persian adventure, and our favorite of the new tables. Its challenges include opening a book of tales and then choosing a story, a merchant who plays the old “ball hidden under three cups” game, a neat effect where the table turns into sinister blacklight when you’ve primed it to lock balls for multiball, and a really cool secret where part of the board opens up to reveal a miniature, second pinball game inside. Finally, there’s Rome, which sports some beautifully combo-able ramps and a minigame where you fire cannons at a ship.

Score chasing and Achievement mining are particularly compulsive in FX 2, with an overall Superscore which combines all of your top scores and adds them together, measuring you up against every other player. Since the only way to improve your Superscore is to beat your old high scores, getting close to nailing a new record on a table becomes tense and heart-accelerating. You can also play two-player splitscreen or online four-player battles, with the goals being either to reach a certain score first or have the highest score in a set amount of time.

Above: Rome sports some delicious ramps

The online multiplayer unfortunately has been a bit patchy in its playability, but it’s not due to lag or gameplay issues – there simply is hardly anyone playing. When we did some initial quick matches, we found several games in a row after a brief wait. After that, though, the three or four other people who had been playing seemed to have quit. We started getting placed in lobbies where no other players were present – we don’t know if it’s a bug or if people were just quitting immediately before we could see them in the lobby. When we came back a few minutes later, more people were playing, so finding opponents will depend on luck. When we did get games, though, they were hyper-intense as we watched each player’s icon racing toward the end, with some people suddenly leaping ahead of the others with mega-bonuses.

Above: Secrets of the Deep is probably the most aesthetically pleasing table. We also like hitting ramps to make the little submersible on the right hand side creep ever closer to the docking tube

When it comes down to it, Pinball FX 2 is just unhealthily addictive. Our fingers are still aching from mashing the triggers with too-enthusiastic motions. And if the four main tables aren’t enough, you can import any Pinball FX 1 tables you already have (gussied up with the new improved graphics and physics) and purchase all the other tables that have been released over XBLA. If you're not sure about the purchase, you can download the game with one table as a kind of demo. We’re going to keep playing probably long after this review, and we’ll have no qualms ponying up for extra tables. Pinball heads unite – this is as good as it gets without having an actual table in your house.

Oct 29, 2010

More Info

Release date: Aug 14 2014 - Xbox One
May 10 2013 - PC
Oct 27 2010 - Xbox 360 (US)
Oct 27 2010 - Xbox 360 (UK)
Available Platforms: Xbox One, PC, Xbox 360
Genre: Arcade
Developed by: Zen Studios
ESRB Rating:
Everyone 10+: Fantasy Violence, Mild Language
Matthew Keast

My new approach to play all games on Hard mode straight off the bat has proven satisfying. Sure there is some frustration, but I've decided it's the lesser of two evils when weighed against the boredom of easiness that Normal difficulty has become in the era of casual gaming.

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  • SerpentineZERO - November 6, 2010 10:24 p.m.

    Wow, what a troll.
  • B Rizzle Ray - November 4, 2010 8:22 p.m.

    Rave Reviewer your an idiot, u can defend this bias review all u want. this game sucks. and i didnt think it was a shooter u tard. this website has completely BS reviews. they get paid to rate shitty games better than what they actually are. if this game was a 9 out of 10 then im sure people would actually be playing it. but no. it got a 9 out of 10 so that they could help the developer promote their backwards pricing on this game. your obviously a virgin who still plays pinball. let your balls drop. mine already dropped in your mouth.
  • RaveReviewer - November 3, 2010 4:26 a.m.

    I am so sorry B rizzle. I usually am very polite and kind on message boards like this. However, you have forced my hand here. You stupid to think that the reviewer by giving this game a better score than halo is stating that this game is better than Halo. They are to different Genres of games. In this case this if you didn't know is a pinball game in which you play pinball. Halo is a shooter. The reviewer is reviewing this PINBALL game as if it were a PINBALL game and comparing it to other PINBALL games he has played. Compared to them, his expert opinion is that this PINBALL game is a better PINBALL game than the rest of the PINBALL games he has played. I hope you can see where i'm going with this. If you were bored with this game after the demo you must not like PINBALL games and obviously thought you were going to play a SHOOTER like HALO. I know the TITLE of the game must of thrown you for a loop though. I mean Pinball Fx 2 that sounds like a great shooter. @Matt this is your fault for not clearly stating that this game is not a shooter! With that aside I think this review was spot on and this is a great PINBALL game good work sir. Next time you should be a little more clear about the genre though so people like B rizzle (what a name) can better comprehend what the game is truly about. I've said my peace good day.
  • B Rizzle Ray - November 1, 2010 11:02 p.m.

    I've been noticing this websites reviews are way unrealistic this game isnt as good as halo, i dont even like halo, but this game doesnt compare. this is an attempt to help them sell their overpriced game. MNC is better Trials HD is better Plants vs zombies is better. PINBALL FX 2 has no replay value. it bores the crap out of me before the trials period is even over. save ur money for something worth playing SOMEONE must be paying you guys to rate these crap games better than they are. pinball gets a higher rating than halo. i think i speak for everyone when I say. Your Wrong
  • Ultima - October 30, 2010 5:21 a.m.

    Cool beans, I love pinball games. But HOW could you not mention Video Pinball on the Acorn Electron?! Thats like going to a restaraunt and not eating food. Something tells me if Keast had played Video Pinball, or eaten food, -- which I'm fairly convinced he hadn't -- his review for this would've read a little different. Rah raah raaaaaaah etc.
  • ThatGamerDude - October 30, 2010 4:10 a.m.

    What platform is this form, I'm interested in buying it. It would be a good replacement for Zen Pinball. Also I still need to get Pinball Hall of Fame, better get on Amazon right away!
  • TheCakeIsaPie - October 30, 2010 2:55 a.m.

    @ Eric: Well said. Man, I missed you when you left PSM.
  • revrock - October 30, 2010 2:09 a.m.

    Can't we all just get along?
  • EricBratcher - October 30, 2010 1:22 a.m.

    Two points: First, you're right that Pinball Hall of Fame is really good - both the Gottlieb and Williams editions are fantastic on their respective systems, be it PS2, 360, PSP or Wii, and well worth the price. In fact, I have a friend who sold his real-life pinball machine after I gave him the Williams Collection on Wii. However, your logic is flawed when you say not mentioning those games in this review is like covering Medal of Honor - please note the spelling - without playing Call of Duty. There's a big difference between not playing a landmark game so you can compare other titles to it and not specifically mentioning that game in the review of a similar product. Matt may not have mentioned Pinball Hall of Fame. But that does not in any way mean he hasn't played it and used that experience to inform his review of this game. See the difference? Secondly, just because someone disagrees with you does not mean they are ignorant or biased/corrupt. Matt and I have discussed pinball. He has shown deep enough knowledge of the genre to satisfy me, his boss and a man who has played nearly every pinball game ever made, including both entries in the Pinball Hall of Fame on every platform upon which they were released, even if he doesn't specifically call out those similar games in this review. And he's a professional. So his score is legit, honest, and educated, I assure you. My point is this: If you disagree with his score, it's simply a slight difference in taste. There's no reason to attempt to undermine his depth of knowledge because of it. Show some maturity and be thankful that there's another pinball lover out there - in case you haven't noticed, there aren't that many of us around. Stick together!
  • ViolentLee - October 29, 2010 10:07 p.m.

    No mention at all of Pinball Hall of Fame, the amazingly excellent game of a year ago, in this review? That's like having a reviewer cover Metal of Honor without having played Modern Warfare 2. Or Backbreaker without playing Madden. MC Kids before Mario... you get my point. Something tells me if Keast had played HoF -- which I'm fairly convinced he hadn't -- his review for this would've read a little different.
  • ThePurpleDragon - October 29, 2010 9:38 p.m.

    @HerWhisperingEye Wrong, actually Reach got a 8. So it wasn't as good as this game. LOL!
  • HerWhisperingEye - October 29, 2010 9:12 p.m.

    Wait so this is as good as Halo: Reach? LOL.
  • y2kpikachu12 - October 29, 2010 9:11 p.m.

    Lol, I like the things I'll hate, except the online. I wasn't really thinking about this game at all but if it's really that good I'll at least try the demo now. Good review.