Developer: Zen Studios
by: Andrew "Cubninja" Gaskill
Marvel Pinball is the latest title from Zen Studios. For Xbox 360 owners, this game is an add-on for Zen Studios Pinball FX 2. PlayStation 3 owners get it as a stand alone game. Some may cry foul at a digital representation of a physical arcade mainstay, but I can tell you that the tables ‘feel’ good, if not great. For those of you with a competitive streak, four gamers can get together to play against each other on one console, or you can play online. Players take turns, so four people can play with one controller.
The first thing I did with the PS3 version was change the flipper controls from the R1 and L1 bumpers to the R2 and L2 triggers. The bumpers actually felt like they had a little lag. I had a guest playing with me and she felt it as well. I didn’t get a crack at the Xbox 360 version, but the controls are easy enough to change. The physics of the game feel great. The ball interacts with the flippers like it should, and I didn’t feel like the table was screwing me through wonky physics.
Zen Studios makes digital pinball tables that would be impossible in the physical world. For Marvel Pinball, these four tables are based on three of your favorite Marvel heroes: Wolverine, Iron Man and Spider-Man. Oh yeah, and then there’s Blade. (Don’t worry, Blade fans. Even though he isn’t a Marvel heavyweight, he still has the coolest table.) Each table is tailored to the character’s personality through different mission parameters.
Yes, there are missions in a pinball game. Multiple Marvel super villains stand guard over each table, each corresponding to their hero. Sabertooth, Green Goblin, The Mandarin, and Deacon Frost are joined by many others. Players can access battles against each foe by completing a set of criteria, like shooting a ramp so many times or setting the ball in so many saucers. Victory is achieved through similar pinball mechanics. Some of these tasks are daunting for a pinball novice, but the game’s difficulty can be adjusted, and a slow motion feature can be used. The main goal, of course, is to get high scores, and there is an impressive scoreboard system.
My biggest problem with Marvel Pinball is with the complexity of the tables. When I first started out I was assaulted with a flying ball bouncing everywhere as I desperately tried to figure out exactly what I was supposed to do. There is an old fashioned dot matrix display in the upper left hand corner of the screen that was trying to tell me what to do, but you’d have to be a chameleon to be able to watch that and the ball. When the game is paused you can access a ‘Rule Sheet’ that can be very intimidating for a pinball novice. My advice is to simply keep the ball in play and see what happens. You’ll have a lot more fun if you do. Once you get a feel for the table you can then concentrating on things like hitting the Green Goblin ramp three times in a row.
Marvel Pinball is an excellent game for pinball enthusiasts who don’t want a giant, loud, clanging, box in their living room. The Marvel theme is just icing on the cake for fans. Having only four tables might make this a steep purchase for those of you on the fence. At times the game may become overwhelming, but you’re either a pinball wizard, or you’re not.