Game Review: The Sorcerer’s Lair Zen Pinball
Release: October 12th, 2011
Developer: Zen Studios
Available Platforms: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
MSRP: 240 MSP, $2.50 (Zen Pinball, which is required, is $9.99)
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone
The Sorcerer’s Lair table for Zen Pinball launched earlier this year in June. The table featured an innovate table design, fantastic art, and, like all the tables for Zen Studio’s pinball games, the perfect pinball feeling.
I played The Sorcerer’s Lair, and reviewed it, when it originally came out for Zen Pinball on PS3. Since then I have put many more hours into the table, and recently I have been spending time with its new Xbox 360 counterpart. Today the table will launch on the Xbox Live Marketplace, finally giving Xbox fans a chance to play one of the finest tables yet for any of Zen Studio’s titles.
Since I already reviewed the table, and its mostly identical to its PS3 version, the original review will be posted below. At the bottom I will discuss some aspects of the table that I think are improved on the Xbox 360 version. Without further ado, here in my review of “The Sorcerer’s Lair”:
In the Sorcerer’s Lair you play as Jake and his sister, two children who have wandered into an abandoned stone structure outside their town; now deep inside the mysterious lair the children are trapped – and are being pursued by an evil sorcerer who utilizes his magic and minions to try to get rid of them. The children can get help from a friendly ghost named Whisper and upon completing all the table goals you are given a chance to defeat the sorcerer and escape.
While I am not a big fan of the Sorcerer’s Lair’s art style, I have to say that Zen Studios has done a great job with the look of this table. Dark purples and eerie greens make up the majority of the tables color scheme and match well with the innocent feel of the table. The Sorcerer stands in the rear of the table, working and creating potions in the background as you play. He is represented by a 3d model but he blends in very well with the design of the table and is not distracting. On the left sits a trio of bumpers that represent a creepy forest are connected to the outer orbital – which empties out to a haunted tree on the right side of the table. The center is filled with the main ramps – one on the right and two on the left. The main ramps both feature towers that rotate after each successful shot. The right ramp empties out on the in-lanes when facing right, and when it faces left it allows you access to a tiny upper-playfield where you can complete various goals. The left ramps tower can go to the Sorcerer himself and interrupt his work. Angry by the distraction he will destroy your ball and lock it, locking three balls activates one of the two multiball features on the tables.
The main game modes are activated by hitting three drop targets in the center of the table. Completing those targets will cause a stairwell to rise from the center and light the “Cellar” lamp – sink the ball into the cellar entrance and one of six game modes will randomly begin.
Two of the cellar modes will bring you to separate play fields. They bring you to a mini playfield similar to ones feature on other Zen tables – such as Shaman. I find this mini playfield to be an improvement over the others however because it features slightly larger flippers and a peg to stop the fall from falling straight down the middle. A 3rd cellar mode activates a mini game in which you turn gears and ramps to guide the ball safely back to the table – however this mini game is just as frustrating as others because it ends after just one mistake and usually takes a couple tries to understand the basic mechanics of.
This table is very accessible because unlike most others you only need to begin the modes to proceed. Simply starting the six game modes will allow you to begin the final fight with the sorcerer. This is a huge improvement over some other tables for Zen Pinball/Pinball FX that simply require too much skill for most players to complete.
Other features of this table also make it very accessible for players. Unlike some of the recent Marvel Pinball tables I was actually able to figure out the features of the table without looking at their rulebooks, which speaks to the clear design of The Sorcerer’s Lair. Also the outlanes are recessed in the table so the ball does not easily fall into them so you don’t have to spend a lot of time activating the kickbacks – which prevents frustrations that arrive when you easily lose your ball in the middle of play.
The other modes of the game, which include Elusion ramp trick shot, and activating the Gargoyle Multiball, are accessible with the right flipper and you can easily line up shots for both by shooting the outer or center orbital. You can also get Whisper the ghost to help you by shooting her hideout four times, and will grant you anywhere from score bonuses to multipliers and extra balls.
But just because this table is accessible does not mean skilled players will be bored. While you only need to activate the cellar modes to proceed, completing them will award you with an Obsidian Stone, the more stones you collect the more you will score in the final showdown with the Sorcerer. Also the table features some complex combo shots that take a lot of accuracy to complete.
The rulesheet provides good clarity for anyone who is confused and offers details on how to complete all the features. Like all the Zen Pinball tables the rulesheet includes pictures which really help with the clarity.
The Sorcerer’s Lair is one of the best tables available for any Zen Studios pinball games. Its simple design is easy to understand and play, making it accessible to all players. Its also a fun table to just shoot around on due to its design, which is closer to classic pinball tables.
Everything about the table design and quality is the same as it was on the PS3 version. However there are a few small differences that I think make the Pinball FX2 version for the 360 slightly better. For one, Pinball FX2 is a more complete game on Xbox 360. It features more tables and houses all the tables in one interface; whereas on the PlayStation 3, Zen Pinball and Marvel Pinball (and the upcoming Marvel Pinball: Vengeance and Virtue) are all separate games, meaning long wait times exiting one game and starting the other if you want to switch between those games’ offerings.
Load times in Zen Pinball are also longer than in Pinball FX2, not only in initial start up, but also while loading each table. Finally the Xbox 360 Controllers’ deeper triggers allow finer precision when trying to only do a half-pull to activate the upper flippers.
The Sorcerer’s Lair for Pinball FX2 is the same great table it was on PS3, but if you had the choice between the two versions, I would lean towards this one. Sorcerer’s Lair is available now for Pinball FX2 for only 240msp. Its one of the finest of the 15+ tables available and is sure to provide a fun time.
+ Great Design – its simple yet developed allowing for easy pick up
+ Much more accessible than many other tables
+ Rulesheet includes pictures
– Not yet available for Pinball FX2 on the Xbox 360
+ Now available for everyone’s choice of system!
9 out of 10