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Pinball FX2: Portal Pinball
Score: 90%
Publisher: Zen Studios
Developer: Zen Studios
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - 4 (Online)
Genre: Arcade/Classic/Retro/Online

Introduction:

If Valve gets tired of making money and goes back to being one of the best game developers on the planet, weíll finally get to see the likes of Half-Life 3 and Portal 3. But in the last few years, the former has been reduced to a meme and the latter shows no signs of even existing. That being said, the lack of a new Portal game isnít nearly as painful as the horrifically sad cliffhanger that has left gamers in agony since 2007ís Half-Life 2: Episode Two. But a return to the cold, sterile womb of the Aperture Science Enrichment Center canít be anything but delightful. And so it is with Pinball FX2: Portal Pinball.

Theming:

At this point, it must be hard to mess up anything Portal-related. Okay, never mind that embarrassing reference in Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. But from the simple color palette (whites, grays, and more whites) to the elegant and often deadly machinery, Aperture Science has a very austere, specific dťcor. But itís all designed to make you believe that behind each perfect panel and in the depths of every crevice is something sinister.

Portal is famous for its ideas and its humor, and both are on display on this table. Of course, portals open up here and there, allowing you to instantly take the ball from orange to blue, or vice versa. But surprisingly there aren't many portals; is this a deliberate action to help the gameplay remain easy to follow? Whatever the case, it feels like something of an omission. Companion cubes, thermal discouragement beams, and stick figure sketches abound, and hovering above it all is GLaDOS herself. Most importantly, the soundtrack and voice acting is smartly used. I gave South Park Pinball flak for not working as a result of its bowdlerization and out-of-context line readings. Pinball FX2: Portal Pinball is the counterpoint. Failure is a constant in pinball, and GLaDOS and Wheatley always have something to say.


Missions:

If youíve taken a trip through the Enrichment Center lately, youíll find the mission design instantly recognizable. Lots of key landmarks from both Portal games represent targets, mission objectives, and other assorted pinball knick-knacks. You'll have to raise and then enter the chamberlock if you want to start a mission.

One of the missions is simply to get main character Chell (who is physically on the table) from the entrance to the exit of each test chamber. Her actions directly correspond to shooting particular lanes, so you'll have to make a conscious effort to keep from making the wrong move. Ratman's Den places you on a miniboard, complete with those polite turrets with the sweet voices. If you complete a series of particular shots, you'll find the den.

Other memorable sequences from the Portal games include the final battle with GLaDOS (the one with the neurotoxin), the hysterical diversion through the Aperture Science Turret Factory, and the silly antics of Portal 2 co-op buddies Atlas and P-body. Zen are clearly fans of this universe, and it shows.


Value:

This quirky property is a good fit for Zen Studios' attention to detail and adaptability with pinball tables. Though there aren't quite as many portals as I would have hoped, the theming and sound design make it a welcome return to this darkly funny world.

In terms of price, $2.99 remains a good deal. There's really no way around it. I've been reviewing these tables individually for a good while, and though few of them have been particularly innovative or even terribly different in design, they remain quality content. And so it is with Pinball FX2: Portal Pinball.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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