I remember my first pinball game, it was Digital Illusions CE’s Pinball Dreams on the Amiga, back then (1992) I thought it was the greatest thing in the world.  Having had no real interaction with physical pinball machines whilst growing up, playing Pinball Dreams was a wonderful experience, it encapsulated everything that was great about the game of pinball, the fun, the heart pounding exhilaration, the stomach churning tension when you were trying to figure out if you could get away with nudging the table one more time. It was glorious. It was enough to turn a non-pinball player like myself into a fan.

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Not being a fanatical follower of pinball games, I have to admit that my experiences with them up until today have been sparse at best, this is mainly due to the fact that I sit down to play a pinball game but it never recaptures that magic that Pinball Dreams did.

The Pinball FX series, however, not only captures that magic that makes pinball a timeless classic but they lock it in a cage so it has no hope of escape.

With the release of these games on XBox Live, I was naturally apprehensive as try ‘yet another pinball game’ but I was extremely pleased with being completely and totally wrong about a video game.

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I’m not going to sit here and gush about how excellent every detail is about the entire Pinball FX franchise as I’m not really inspecting their latest release, Pinball FX 2 but rather their latest DLC table.  The initial think that will hit you about Zen Studios and what sets them apart from other companies straight away is that they are giving away Pinball FX 2 on XBox Live for free…

I’ll give you all a moment to get up from the floor…okay? Good! As I said, they have released this game completely free of charge as a ‘base game’ and are only going to charge for additional tables, one of the beautiful benefits of this system is that if you already own Pinball FX 1 then your tables will transfer over!

Today though, I’m only going to be looking at the new MARS table that they have released.

(from MARS table press release)

Set in the year 2100, the human race has finally managed to set foot on the Red Planet. Players will uncover hidden secrets which have long eluded life on planet Earth, and open eyes to a world never before discovered. Featuring a beautifully crafted landscape, interactive 3D objects and multiple missions and side quests, MARS continues the rich pinball tradition established by ZEN Studios, the definitive leader in pinball video games.

MARS will seamlessly integrate into the Pinball FX2 platform on Xbox LIVE® Arcade, with full social feature support including SuperScore and Wizard Score. MARS will also feature new Achievements, operators menu and rule sheet. As with all Pinball FX2 tables, players can play the table before they decide to purchase.

The first thing that will strike you about this table (and the game in general) is it’s striking beauty! The graphics are seriously impressive and with our current technology today there isn’t really anything more that Zen could do with their graphics without adding unnecessary features like 3D.

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While the gameplay side of this table can probably be summed up with ‘don’t let the ball fall in the hole’ it’s so much more than that, there are little bonuses that open up as you are playing, such as the shuttle that lands near the middle of the table and extends resource gathering arms which, if you hit all three of them, not only allows you to net a serious amount of bonus points but also a nice little Achievement.  Other features include the small scanning probe that sits on one of your flippers and shines a bean of light onto the centre of the table, again, hitting all of these net you a large bonus.

There are of course, the frustrating moments were you find your ball shooting off under a hidden section of the table and all you can see are the scores appearing in mid air as it ricochets around but this is all part of the pinball magic that Zen are keeping in that cage!

Pinball FX 2 continues to impress and with the new table MARS costing only 240 Microsoft Points, I personally would recommend this to even non-pinball fans!

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Title : Pinball FX 2 – MARS Table
Format : XBLA
Developer : ZEN Studios
Publisher : ZEN Studios
Release Date : 04/20/11

[starreviewmulti id=1 tpl=20]

*ZEN Studios provided SlimGamer.com with a promo code for a review copy.