Zen Studios have proven time and time again that they are masters of their craft when it comes to pinball video games, but with Pinball M, they’re taking things down a creepier route. With the ‘M’ in the title standing for ‘Mature’, you can expect a dark and horror-themed twist to this collection, with the selection of launch tables doing a good job of setting a sinister yet exciting tone.
Check out some screenshots below:
It’s worth noting from the get-go that Pinball M has launched as a free-to-play release, but only brings with it one table that you’re able to play at no cost: Wrath of the Elder Gods – Director’s Cut, which is a revamped variant of a previous Pinball FX table. The other launch tables (which are arguably more appealing) have to be bought separately as DLC at a price of £4.59 each. I actually think the price for these is fair, especially since each one is a blast to play, but it’s something you should bear in mind if you find yourself excited at the game’s ‘free’ price point.
That’s not to say that the Wrath of the Elder Gods – Director’s Cut table isn’t a lot of fun, with its Lovecraftian theme bringing with it plenty of cosmic horror delights as you ramp up scores whilst blasting the ball past a myriad of gross tentacles surrounding the action. But come on… with franchises like Dead by Daylight, Chucky, Duke Nukem, and The Thing as DLC tables, it’s easy to see where the real appeal of Pinball M lies.
Between Dead by Daylight, Chucky, and The Thing, you’ve got a good variety of horror-themed tables that cover a classic horror movie, a modern horror TV show (I know Chucky has been around for a while but it counts), and a horror video game, so there’s something there for everyone. Pinball M is all about mature content and eerie vibes, so they fit in perfectly with the tone that Zen Studios are going for. On the other hand, Duke Nukem’s inclusion does feel a little out of place, especially compared to the other tables available at launch – whilst I can see why it would fall under the ‘mature content’ umbrella, it certainly feels like the odd one out.
“Each table is wonderfully designed to offer plenty of throwbacks to the relevant IP, with both obvious bloodcurdling details and eerie subtle nods scattered across each one’s design.”
Still, it’s hard to complain too much, especially since all of the tables are so enjoyable to play and bring with them the same over-the-top atmospheric presentation that Zen Studios are known for. Each table is wonderfully designed to offer plenty of throwbacks to the relevant IP, with both obvious bloodcurdling details and eerie subtle nods scattered across each one’s design. Whether you’re watching the creature from The Thing crawling across the table, a killer from Dead by Daylight slaying their victim, Chucky antagonising you on a blood-filled table, or… uh… a stripper from Duke Nukem dancing, it’s clear that plenty of attention to detail has been made to make these tables feel atmospheric, authentic, and, most importantly, fun.
If you’ve played a Zen Studios pinball game before, you’ll know that they like to include special missions on their tables that incorporate clever mini games to add to the excitement. It’s no different here, with Pinball M’s tables challenging each player’s skills in a variety of cool ways. A personal favourite came with the Duke Nukem table which actually sees you partaking in some first-person shooting gunplay, which is certainly unique. Some of the others aren’t quite so elaborate, but there are still plenty of cool surprises to be found as you uncover what they each offer.
What’s especially cool is the inclusion of a Campaign in each table, which gives you separate goals to complete that are spread across different gameplay modes, with rewards offered for your success. Whilst I’m sure some players will be happy to just try racking up high scores, these offer a different way to experience the game that feels refreshing and encourages players to approach the action in a specific way. There are also individual challenges to complete across each table as a means to master them, whilst there are unique game modes to play that challenge the player to approach the flipping-action in a more specialised manner. You won’t ONLY be chasing high scores in Pinball M, with these extras giving it a modern twist that’ll keep player hooked to the flippers (don’t worry, I don’t mean a Dead by Daylight kind of hook).
Check out some screenshots below:
The rewards offered across challenges come in the form of cosmetic items, which allow you to not only customise the table you’re playing on but also your play area. Come on, it wouldn’t be a Zen Studios pinball game without a cool room to play in, right? Well, Pinball M lets you alter this in a host of different ways, with plenty of spooky options available to add to the game’s sinister atmosphere. It doesn’t affect the gameplay, but does offer a neat way for players to personalise the experience and ensures there’s always a clear incentive to encourage them to complete each goal in the game.
Here’s hoping we’ll see more DLC tables release soon, because there’s SO much potential with the horror theming (I’m praying for a Nightmare on Elm Street or Friday the 13th table). As it stands though? I think Pinball M has a great launch selection that really play into the strengths of what it’s hoping to achieve with its more mature direction.
Pinball M Review
Pinball M offers a spooky take on Zen Studio’s established pinball formula, with the creepy table designs and sinister atmosphere ensuring it stands out as an exciting experience. Each table utilises its IP perfectly, whilst the clever missions and visual details do a great job of keeping the player enthralled in the pinballing action. Add to that the variety of game modes, the clever campaign missions, and host of unlockables, and you’ll quickly find that Pinball M stands out as a meaty (and blood-soaked) pinball extravaganza.
It is worth noting that you’ll have to pay for the individual tables outside of Wrath of the Elder Gods – Director’s Cut, but with a low price-point for each one, you’re getting plenty of bang for your buck here.
Developer: Zen Studios
Publisher: Zen Studios
Platform(s): PC (Reviewed), PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch