Pinball FX 2 Hands-On

We check out the new features, tables, and incentives to keep those pinball paddles going.

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Pinball lovers will have more ways of showing off their high scores with Pinball FX 2, a new platform that has been developed by Zen Studios. We call it a platform because the first thing we should point out is that Pinball FX 2 is not a game on its own but is free to download, and you can purchase tables after you've downloaded the game. This allows you to play your original Pinball FX tables that you bought for free, with upgraded graphics and physics, as well as score some new achievements. If you've never played Pinball FX before, you can always purchase and download the original tables, as well as the new ones designed for this platform. The reason Zen Studios went with a platform instead of a new game is that each Xbox Live Arcade game is limited to a set number of achievements and gamer points. By creating this platform, Zen Studios allows you to give each table you download its own set of achievements and gamer points; thus, you can continue racking up those achievements with each new table.

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There will be four new tables available at launch, with the option to download the nine tables from the previous game. Trial versions are available for each table, so you can test them out before committing. Some new features that have been added include a superscore, as well as a wizard score. Your superscore represents your overall performance across the entire game. This includes tournament performances, as well as scores from all the tables, new and old. Tournaments are held for a fixed amount of time where you can play a specific table as many times as you want for the highest score. By performing well, you'll get a bonus toward your superscore. A wizard score combines the superscores of all of your friends, which is meant to encourage people to build up a network of friends so that they can play with others. Gamer pics and avatar customization will also unlock as you build up your score. To keep an eye on the competition, you can now select other players on the leaderboard and see what kind of scores they have accumulated. As you play, you can have game challenges appear to let you know how close you are to increasing your superscore or see who has passed your score so you're constantly being updated.

Hot seat multiplayer mode was featured before, but now you can play it across all tables. There is also split-screen multiplayer, so you and a friend can sit on a couch and play simultaneously to see who can reach the target point first. You have unlimited balls, but penalties can be set so each time you lose a ball, your score shrinks by a percentage. It's harsh, but it also ensures that you're not being sloppy. You can still play with up to four players online.

There's a rule sheet for each table where you can check out the different game modes, missions, and targets. There are still secrets to discover, but the bulk of the goals are included. You can customize the controls to whatever scheme you're comfortable with, as well as go into the operator menu to adjust the pitch of the machine. You can also customize the table's rules and difficulty settings, similar to a real table. Other small changes include new camera angles, so you can zoom out, and the ball trails that were featured in Zen Pinball have been added, but it's optional. After listening to player feedback, you can now enter your initials when you achieve a high score on a specific machine.

More tables, more points!
More tables, more points!

Pinball FX 2 looks to be an ideal way for pinball aficionados to get the tables they want and score some additional achievements. Look for it when it is released on the Xbox Live Marketplace on October 13.

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