Pinball FX2: Marvel Pinball Review

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Pinball FX2: Marvel Pinball Publisher: Zen Studios
Developer: Zen Studios

Platforms: Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3
Reviewed on Xbox 360

The Marvel Pinball Collection for Pinball FX 2 offers four more superb pinball tables for the Pinball FX 2 platform, downloadable for 800 points ($10). Each of the four features a theme based on a classic Marvel character – Spider-Man, Iron Man, Wolverine and Blade. The tables are masterworks of pinball, filled with tremendous fun for anyone, but particularly satisfying for fans of the Marvel characters found on their respective tables.

Kyle Ackerman

You can still find pinball tables lurking in various corners of the world, populating those arcades that somehow persist, or propping up a corner of a bowling alley or bus station. When you can find such a table, it very likely costs five quarters to play and isn't nearly up to the quality of Zen Studio's latest tables. You don't have to be much of a pinball fan to appreciate that the $10 cost of these four tables is a tremendous value. In fact, you don't have to be a pinball fan at all to appreciate just how much fun you can have for a few minutes or many hours on these Marvel-themed pinball tables.

Zen Studios has clearly put a lot of effort into designing tables that capture the essence of each character, from the plot to the play to the color scheme. Beyond the obvious Marvel theme, the enemies of the titular characters literally stalk the tables. It was decidedly epic the first time Doctor Octopus actually ventured forth to futz with the pinball using his mechanical appendages. These enemies provide a justification for the tables' many missions that can even see the ball itself transformed into one of the Green Goblin's exploding pumpkins or ultraviolet spheres for vampire hunting.

Here's a little detail on each of the tables:

Spider-Man evokes the web-slinger swinging around the city with a series of wispy, interwoven metallic ramps that surround the table. The ball is constantly whizzing around the table through these wild and wavy ramps. The first time I played, the ball was constantly surprising me, switching sides of the table as it careened down the ramps. The table features Spider-Man's enemies Dock Ock, the Green Goblin and Mysterio, and while all are involved in really engaging missions, Doctor Octopus presides over the table as you play, metallic tentacles waving above the bumpers.

More than any of the other Marvel-themed tables, the Spider-Man table really evokes a mortal battle between Spider-Man and his enemies. Doc Ock will storm down the table and when the Green Goblin drops exploding pumpkin balls (that glow orange and can be hurled back at him) he actually glides out from the sidelines. As for Mysterio, well... even the ramp associated with Mysterio is suffused in a glowing purple mist and it's deeply personal when he reverses my controls. There's even a mission associated with J. J. Jameson, although he's not so much of a supervillain as a simple blowhard.

Iron Man sets you up as Tony Stark, playing as both his corporate and superheroic selves. Not only can Stark don his Iron Man armor suit and battle Whiplash, Mandarin and Ultimo, he can throw a rockin' party or launch a public offering of his company's stock. Of all the tables in the Marvel-themed compilation, this was probably the one I frequented the least. I loved the design (and particularly enjoyed watching Stark suit up as Iron Man), but never quite jibed with the table. The Iron Man table is filled with steep ramps that activate the various modes, and as much as I enjoyed the holograms floating above each, I had a peculiar knack for hitting the dividers between ramps. Once I hit my groove and found the sweet spot on the flippers, I always enjoyed myself, but it took a bit of warming up to really feel the table.

Blade is back hunting vampires, and this time it's on one of Zen Pinball's tables. If the Spider-Man table really captured the feeling of superhero-vs.-supervillain one-on-one battles, the Blade table felt like it fell somewhere between attending a rave and hunting the undead, which made it spot-on perfect. As much as I loved the other tables, I kept coming back to play one more game on the Blade table. It was unique not only in that it featured Blade, aided by Hannibal, battling Deacon Frost and Frost's undead army, rather than a series of singular foes. It was also entirely unlike the other three tables. My single favorite aspect of Blade was the day/night cycle. It felt like playing two entirely different tables, switching between them on the fly. By day, the table was brightly lit as I explored the streets of New York. By night, a green, winged Frost loomed over the table, and the activities changed. Coolest of all, I adored the UV multiball. Nothing quite like having bright, glowing pinballs floating around the dark, vampire-infested table. Without being overly precise, Blade felt like a great pinball table – no matter where I sent the ball, something incredibly cool occurred.

Wolverine is plagued by Sabertooth, Sentinel and the Silver Samurai. This is the most wide-open of the tables, but with ramps nicely themed after Wolverine's lore, including a tank of Weapon X that can regenerate Wolverine after a lost ball. A spinning area filled with targets near the top of the table is extremely cool, but often (for me) dropped the ball right down the center of the table, ending my game and leaving me slightly disappointed. Fortunately, the periphery of the Wolverine table was extremely exciting, with ramps to attack each of Wolverine's main foes. Control is key on the Wolverine table – collecting all the letters in "Snikt" is just gravy.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on December 7, 2010 4:01 PM.

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