I’ve been asked by many people to create a guide for ZEN Pinball since I’m one of the few with 100% trophies for the game. I’m new to guide creation, but I’ll give it my best shot. I’m happy to add or change stuff based on feedback so feel free to post any suggestions you may have.
Warning: All of the silvers take at least an hour of gameplay to achieve when you finally get the trophies… This game is not for the weak of heart or mind! Patience is the biggest requirement for this game, closely followed by skill! You’ve been warned… proceed at your own discretion.
Ramps – These are just what you’d think. They are usually elevated and well marked with walls that outline their entry points.
Orbits – These are similar to ramps except they are found on the very outside of the table and generally circle the entire top half (hence the name “orbit). Orbits can be hit from the left or right. When I refer to the “left” orbit, that would mean entering the orbit on the left side which is usually done using the right flipper.
Sink hole – This is just a term for a hole on the table that the ball can drop into.
Caught – This is the term I will use to refer to when the ball is in a stopped position on one of the flippers.
Lanes – These are the vertical shoots that lead down to the flippers safely.
Outlanes – These are the vertical shoots that don’t lead to the flippers and instead end up in the loss of a ball.
Nudge – This refers to shaking the table in some direction using the left analog stick.
Kickback – This is a something that can be enabled that will kick the ball back onto the table if it goes down the corresponding outlane. This stays enabled until it is used or you lose the ball.
Ball Save – This is something that can be enabled temporarily which will re-launch the ball if it goes down the outlanes or the center of the table. Unlike the kickback, this only stays enabled for a short amount of time (maybe 30-60 seconds, never really timed it) and then you have to re-enable it.
There are some basic skills you should master to be able to achieve trophies in this game and I’ll try to sum them up in the following list:
• Learn the ramp dynamics
Each table has ramps and orbits that behave in a generally consistent manner. It is important to know how to hit the ramps from a caught position consistently and where the ramps take the ball. It’s also important to know after hitting a ramp if the ball will come to rest on a flipper or will be going too fast and fall over the edge of the flipper (nudging is a great technique to get the ball to rest on the opposite flipper if it’s going too fast to rest on the nearest one). I can’t stress enough how important ramp dynamics is to success on the table!
• Understand how the table works
I found that when I first started playing a table I had to get familiar with the targets, holes, missions, etc… Tables like El Dorado and V12 can get quite confusing before you get familiar with them. It sometimes helps to hold down the square button and tilt the controller to take a tour of the table from above. Also, be sure to pause the game and look at the Rule Book for that table to get a better understanding. Don’t be afraid to restart when you are learning because you essentially have unlimited balls to get familiar with how the table works.
• Lane and Outlane lights
It’s important with several of the tables to learn how to light up all the letters in the lanes. This often enables kickbacks or ball save so knowing how to do this can be crucial to extending your play. The key to doing this effectively is knowing how the lights move based on the flipper buttons. Simply put, the right flipper shifts the lights to the right and the left flipper shifts them to the left. When you are preparing to hit a ramp that will lead to a lane, make sure you shift the lights with the empty flipper so you don’t accidentally hit the ball when it’s caught on a flipper. The basic way to think about this is you are lighting the same letter over and over and then shifting the light to another letter until they are all lit. If you learn how the shifting works, you can easily prepare the lights in a useful manner prior to hitting the ball up a ramp from a caught position.
• Learn how to nudge and when it’s useful
One of the biggest things for me was learning how to nudge the table and when it was appropriate to do so. The most useful time to nudge the ball is to get it from one flipper to another. Simply let the ball start to roll down the flipper and then nudge in the direction of the other flipper. You have to make sure you nudge hard enough to clear the other flipper so you can catch it without accidentally hitting it. This is also easily done when the ball doesn’t start from a caught position, but you have to pay more attention to the timing. This is how you can get the ball into a caught position if it’s going too fast to catch on the nearest flipper. The other useful times to nudge the ball are more of a playing style. If the ball is heading too close to the outlane, it sometimes helps to nudge the ball away from the outlane, or possibly toward the outlane in an effort to bounce off the wall instead. There’s no real easy way to explain this, you just have to get used to it. I myself have not had great experiences nudging the ball when it’s heading for the center hole so I suggest you nudge, flip, and pray in that case! When you make nudging a part of your game you must be sure to enable the display and pay attention to the word “DANGER” that appears. You can only nudge 5 times in a short time before you TILT the table. If you nudge the table and the word “DANGER” is suddenly much larger than it normally is, that means that one more nudge will lead to tilting the table. I find that if you hit ramps in between nudging then you never run into this problem. It seems to increase the tolerance a bit, but you should always pay attention to the display when you nudge. There is nothing worse than having a great game going and you tilt the table because you weren’t paying attention!
• Always try to enable kickbacks and ball saves first
It’s easy to get focused on trying to get trophies and neglect the basics. I promise you if you enable kickbacks and ball saves whenever you can you will not regret it! They are invaluable and will extend the game indefinitely if you can enable them consistently. I will explain how to enable them for each table.
• Don’t worry about the score
Don’t focus on multipliers or ramp grinding unless it’s required for a trophy. Getting the silver trophies especially takes patience and skill and you will be at the top of the leaderboards if you manage to get the silvers anyway. Basically, keep your eye on the prize. Don’t let side missions tempt you and then you end up losing your ball and your patience. And once you lose your patience I promise you, you will not be getting a silver trophy until you take a bit of a break, which leads me to the next bullet.
• Take breaks often
There is nothing more counter-productive to play then playing when you are frustrated (and this game WILL frustrate you!). I know it’s hard to stop when you are so close and fail and you just want to try again, but trust me… you NEED to take a break. I got 3 out of the 4 silver trophies after taking several breaks, even an entire day sometimes!
• Death save
I personally don’t find this technique easy to pull off consistently and therefore not really so valuable, but some people do so I thought I’d mention it. If the ball goes down an outlane and you don’t have a kickback enabled you can still save the ball if you time a nudge perfectly. The technique involves lifting the nearest flipper to the outlane and then nudging the ball up and at an angle toward the opposing flipper just before it’s about to go down the middle. Here is a video demonstrating the technique: YouTube - Bangback on Twilight Zone Pinball
• Don’t change the settings and don’t save
Changing any of the default settings for the game disables trophies (I’m not sure if this applies to all settings like controller layout, but definitely changing anything in the operator’s menu does), so don’t do this! Also, if you save the game you have voided your chance to get a trophy in that game, you’ll have to start a new one. For obvious reasons you could just reload your game and have infinite balls essentially.