By: Mike Chen
When you load up the Zen Pinball table for Portal, it’s important to keep your expectations in check. This is a Portal-themed pinball table, not a Portal pinball game.
It’s a key difference. An actual Portal pinball game would theoretically involve all sorts of creative orange and blue portals to fire the ball through. That’s not what you’re getting here, and that may throw off Portal fans that aren’t used to Zen Pinball.
Instead, what you’re getting here is a pinball table licensed with a Portal theme. Chell runs in and out of the side based on events, dialogue from GLaDOS and Wheatley pepper the playing experience, and the board is designed to look like a distressed Aperture facility. The multi-level board is par for the course when it comes to Zen layouts, with multiple flippers and mini-games triggered by hitting certain objectives.
The mini-games are usually a highlight of Zen tables, and they’re also usually where licenses really come to life. Unfortunately, none of them really grasp the capabilities of the Portal theme other than the guise of “testing” and some GLaDOS snark.
There are occasional portals that appear in the game, but they’re an accoutrement rather than utilized in the main table design, so while they’re fun to see, they’re ultimately little more than eye candy.
The Portal table for Zen Pinball is a perfectly acceptable pinball table. However, unlike other Zen efforts, it doesn’t make the best use of its license, and given the creative layout possibilities of Portal, this feels like a wasted opportunity.