Zen Studios are certainly back on form. Their Star Wars: Rebels table was highly authentic and enjoyable, and their latest table, Portal, follows in its footsteps with just as much care and attention to detail as any other property they’ve turned into a pinball experience.
Indeed the Portal pinball table is smashing. Dialogue has been expertly lifted from Valve’s puzzle series and repurposed to fit this table and your actions within it spectacularly; with GLaDOS taunting you, Wheatley encouraging you, and the companion cube silently loving you. Moreover, the miniaturised GLaDOS and Wheatley, residing near the top of the table, look fantastic, GLaDOS in particular with her fully animated motion and reactions to lazers being refracted by cubes and aimed at her.
Moreover, series protagonist, Chell, stands ready to the bottom left with her trusty portal gun, ready to create portals and re-appear above her starting position or across a light bridge to a platform on the right above the ball launcher. The ball launcher itself is a digital computer display of the power you can generate when launching the ball, however, on the launch lane are a set of collapsing tiles and portals, time your launch and get the right power and you can jump through one and start the round off with a nice score bonus. Indeed, it’s a visually stimulating and attractive, feature rich table.
However, it’s also a visually busy table, with the aforementioned features and table details that represent the minimalist and clean white Aperture Science labs as well as the darker, grimier foundations, all vying for your attention alongside the fast pace of the ball. The table is also complex, of course there are the portals which pop up where you’d otherwise see targets and drops, teleporting the ball to other parts of the table. They’re terrifically implemented to fit with the expected play of a pinball table but match the aesthetic and theme of Portal. Tight lanes mean hitting a specific one can be a challenge, even more so when physics altering goo is splashed onto the table. Add two extra flippers, one on the central lane and the other on the left, and the additional options to fling the ball around and rack up speed and points multiplies further. It all results in a fast and frantic experience that’s equally challenging and awe-inspiring.
Fortunately, the missions can be completed in any order and you can choose which of the six to tackle each time you activate them, keeping the focus on fun pinballing action rather than narrow parameters and potential frustration. Overcome them all and you get to face GLaDOS in a final showdown.
The Portal pinball table is brilliantly authentic and oodles of fun to play while offering a stiff challenge for pinball veterans. It’s another spectacular example of Zen Studios capturing the essence and personality of a property and converting it wonderfully into a pinball experience. What will they think of next?
Thanks to Xbox and Zen Studios for their support
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