By: Mike Chen
We’ve seen a number of film and comic tie-ins with Zen Pinball over the years, but the recent Bethesda Pinball add-on offers one of the few tie-ins strictly with game franchises. Fallout 4, Skyrim and the recent Doom reboot get the pinball treatment here, and the result are fun and well-designed pinball tables that take game aspects from their respective titles.
All start with familiar visuals and music — in Skyrim, dragons are prominent and the familiar theme music plays, while in Fallout, a super mutant continuously taunts you (Skyrim does wind up getting a bit repetitive with its phrases, though).
Table layouts are dense without being overwhelming, making for tables that novices can pick up buts still retaining enough depth for experts to enjoy.
In addition to sights and sounds, each table offers interactive mini-games and features derived from their parent titles. In Fallout, you can assign perks and skills at the beginning, which help out with your various encounters (triggered by game events) such as exploring a number of vaults to earn bobbleheads.
In Skyrim, you use basic RPG stats and classes, which can be carried over from play to play. Doom is more of a traditional pinball table, though its mechanics were designed to match the title’s frenetic pace, as things like multiball and a superheated ball make for pinball chaos.
For the two RPGs, this does mean a lot of interaction with the dot matrix board, which can be difficult to read. While I respect Zen’s quest for traditional displays, it really would have made things easier to have a modern display for these things.
Besthesda Pinball generally hits all of Zen’s best design traits: strong tables that integrate franchise elements into a mash-up experience. Some repetition and technical limitations — inherent to the pinball arcade experience — can be annoying, but those are minor quibbles to an overall fun experience.