Originally published at: https://statelyplay.com/2019/01/30/et-tu-zen-pinball/
I love pinball, be it standing in an arcade or digitally on my iPad. I’m also one of the freaks that prefers the real tables of Pinball Arcade to the fanciful, and often physics-defying, tables of Zen Pinball. Give me Star Trek: TNG and a handful of quarters and I can die happy. The problem is that Pinball Arcade’s apps are hunks of garbage compared to the polished gems that Zen puts out. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to either re-purchase my ST:TNG table only to have it disappear the next time I open the app. Thus, I was super stoked when I heard that Zen has acquired the Williams license and would be bringing real-life tables into the Zen world. What more could I want?
A lot, apparently. Last week, Zen Studios released Williams Pinball for iOS and I don’t think it’s possible for them to have shit the bed any worse.
Upon downloading the free app, I was inundated with options and picked the only table out of the initial Williams selection that I was interested in: Medieval Madness. What followed was a ridiculous mess of F2P nonsense that I still cannot wrap my head around.
Everything, and I mean everything, is behind the paywall. I don’t mind paying for tables–I expect it, in fact–but here you have to collect (or buy) Zen coins. Ugh. You only unlock the initial table you choose and, through the tutorial that can only be described as obtuse, somehow promote it to level 2. This means you can play it whenever you want in “arcade mode”, and each game will earn you a pittance in Zen coins.
What kills this is you have to even unlock “pro physics”. Seriously? Most digital pinball games try to sell their physics as close to reality as possible. Here, they’re literally selling them for the low price of 150 Zen coins. Fuck off, Zen.
There’s more. As you play, you collect “parts”. You need a certain number of these to unlock tables as well. I think they also bring new skins for flippers, balls, and–I’m not joking–ball trails. All things that hardcore pinballers play digital pinball for.
All I do know is there are a lot of really good real-life tables hiding behind one of the most obnoxious in-app stores I’ve ever seen. I haven’t even mentioned tickets, which would be the third in-game currency next to parts and Zen coins. Yes, there are three in-game currencies which is the gold standard of excellent video game design. To make matters even worse, it costs 250 Zen coins to purchase a table, but they’re only sold in denominations of 150, 350, 800, or more. So, if you just want that one table, Zen’s giving you a giant middle finger.
What really sucks is that Medieval Madness is fantastic and I’m guessing all the other Williams tables are as well. A small, but loud voice in my brain is even trying to convince me to just spend the money and buy them all, F2P shenanigans be damned. I’ll be strong, and hopefully Zen will come to their senses and make the Williams app just as user friendly as their other pinball apps have always been.