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Zen Pinball: Epic Quest
Score: 88%
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Developer: Zen Studios
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - 2 (Online)
Genre: Classic/Retro/Arcade/Online

Introduction:
The latest table from Zen Studios is here, and it's easily their most interesting table so far. That might not sound like much, considering the fact that they are the standard-setters for video pinball. This one happens to be more innovative than any of their other tables. You see, Zen Pinball: Epic Quest is an attempt to splice a pinball game with role-playing elements. It might be a little over-ambitious, but there are some really incredible ideas at work here.

Redefining Tabletop:
Zen Pinball: Epic Quest casts you (so to speak) as a champion on a quest to scour the Dungeon of Epic Heroes. The object is to kill monsters and loot everything of worth. So yes, it's like Diablo, if it was a pinball game.

All the RPG elements are handled on the dot matrix; a tricky move, considering your eyes won't spend much time there. Thankfully, the game pauses during most RPG segments. When you're roped into a monster encounter, you must fight; there's no option to flee, and honestly, why would you want to do that? Combat is handled in a manner that completely makes sense in a pinball context. There are two primary combat ramps: Attack and Shield. The two loops allow you to dodge left and right, and there's a special critical hit target. Naturally, there's a time limit involved in every monster encounter: at ten second intervals, you are attacked. You can buy more time by escaping into the forest and hitting the tree bumpers.


A Small Catch:
There's a lot more to Zen Pinball: Epic Quest: you can buy weapons, level up, and even carry some of your progress over to subsequent games. It does so much with this theme that it comes across as over-ambitious. The average pinball player probably won't think much of what he/she is doing in terms of the game-within-a-game presented here. And frankly, pinball is such a chaotic game, especially when compared to the slower, more deliberate pace of a role-playing game.

Value:
If you're still having a blast with Zen Pinball, you'll probably want to download Epic Quest, if only because it's one of their most interesting releases. The pricing model hasn't really changed, so if you've never had a problem with it in the first place, you won't have a problem with it this time around. The longevity of this particular release adds to the value, which is already great. And even if the new ideas are too much, hey, it's still more Zen Pinball. Buy it.

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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