The Epic Quest table for Pinball FX 2/Zen Pinball is another example of how Zen Studios is willing to push the envelope of what gamers can expect from video pinball. The brightly colored table has a storybook/puppet show motif, where our gallant — make that greedy — hero Max is ready to take on a menagerie of monsters in a quest for loot. Sure, there’s a princess to rescue, but Max doesn’t sound very interested in that at all. As your guide, he’s all bravado and bluster, alerting you to the presence of monsters and repeatedly making it clear that he wants whatever treasures they guard.
It doesn’t take long for Epic Quest to show how it’s different. If you hit the “Forest” bumpers enough or the “Cave” target to the far right multiple times, you’re offered a choice of monsters to fight. The monsters have HP and damage statistics, and so do you. Once the fight begins, you’ll have to make a variety of shots to inflict damage, shield yourself, parry, or even score a critical hit. A timer counts down to when the enemy’s blow will fall. It’s all about inflicting fatal damage on your opponent before your opponent does the same to you.
If you manage to defeat your opponent, you’ll have the chance to upgrade Max’s equipment. You might have a choice of bucklers, mail or a variety of weapons. Max will also get a bump in his XP and eventually level up, giving him a boost to his HP and you a healthy heap of points.
This is a pinball game, though, and your luck will eventually run dry. It’s only a matter of time until that last ball drains and you’ll have to enter your initials into the machine. That’s when Epic Quest pulls other trick out of its sleeve: you can start a new game with your leveled-up Max. Sure, your points reset to zero at the start of the game, but as far as Max is concerned, he’s still on a grand adventure.
As if Zen Studios’ pinball tables weren’t addictive enough. They’ve put a damned loot system into this one. Every time I boot up the table, Max is there, brandishing his new frost brand and proudly thumping his flame-resistant breastplate, just like I left him. Where are we going to go today, Max? What monsters will we destroy with repeated shots up the right ramp? Maybe we’ll try to grab some more of those elemental scrolls, who knows?
Epic Quest is an excellent and very accessible first crack at mixing RPGs and pinball. While I’m sure some players will point out that the RPG elements could be deeper, I think Zen Studios opted to err on the side of playability rather than weigh the table down with complexity. I’m looking forward to future tables in the same vein (Conan? Please?). Until then, Max and I have some adventuring to do.