Zen Studios has a long track record of making outstanding pinball tables for their Pinball FX2 platform, and I've reviewed a fair number of them over the years. Although there have been a few misses (I'm looking at you, Infinity Guantlet!), the majority of them are extremely high quality and a lot of fun, especially considering the low price. Today I take a look at their latest release: Portal Pinball.
The table itself is beautifully rendered and there's a lot of attention to detail here. From the blue and orange flippers, to the cubes on the bumpers, to the Weighted Companion Cube-eating fire pit that destroys your ball, the table just looks cool and is clearly dedicated to Portal. Atlas and P-body also make an appearance if the player can unlock one of the multi-ball missions.
Chell paces around the lower-left corner, using the portal gun to move around the table as you work your way through various missions. GlaDOS sits in the upper-left corner of the table, doling out quippy one-liners taken directly from Valve's masterpiece. Wheatley is his normal bumbling self, trying to offer you help but very rarely accomplishing the goal.
There are six missions to choose from, and GlaDOS helpfully introduces them all. Activating the missions is a matter of hitting the testing chamber in the back of the table, and then selecting which of the six missions you want to attempt. Completing the missions usually consists of hitting the ramps in a certain order to advance the gameplay, but this is easier said than done. While the table isn't extremely difficult, it's definitely not easy.
In addition to the main missions, there are other side missions that you can activate, including a trip to the turret factory. There's also a multi-ball mode where the regular balls are replaced with AI cores, and Core 3 (from Portal 2) spews out various "facts," my favorite being, "Humans can survive underwater. But not for very long."
One of the disappointments of the game is that the use of actual portals is fairly limited. In the few hours of playing the table, I only encountered two portals within the gameplay: The first is a skillshot attempt when first launching the ball; and the other is a portal near the top of the table that's easy to activate and simply teleports the ball to the top of the playfield where there's an extra flipper. I'd expect a game based on Portal to have more puzzles, but this is clearly more of a Portal theme rather than inspiring gameplay from the original.
That ends up being fine, because the table itself is a lot of fun. The music that plays in the background is entertaining without getting in the way, and while it'd be easy to overuse the character voices, Zen Studios did a great job of making the one-liners fun and related to gameplay, rather than being annoying.
If you're a fan of the Portal series, playing this table will bring back great memories and put a smile on your face. The gameplay is fun, and while most of the shots are ramps (which gets a little repetitive), the charm of the characters and the way Zen Studios integrated the whole thing into the table makes the entire experience a great one.
Portal Pinball is available on all major platforms except the Wii U, although we suspect it will be available there soon. Zen Studios also recommends purchasing the table on PS3 or Vita first, so you can import it to the PS4, or the Xbox 360 so you can import it to the Xbox One since the price is $2.99 regardless of the initial platform.
Now excuse me while I look for some cake.
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