Marvel Pinball Review

Marvel Pinball, the newest set of downloadable tables for Pinball FX2, will make Marvel fans wish someone was still making pinball machines. For the most part, it wraps in the cool aspects of the license with some great classic pinball action.

The download will run you 800 Microsoft Points on Xbox LIVE or $9.99 on the Playstation Network, and that price might be a little steep for players who aren’t super-fans of either pinball or Marvel Comics. Yes, that is a comparable rate for Pinball FX tables — they run at 200 MS points or $2.49, and this update comes with four tables, so it works out to the same rate — but dropping $10 or its equivalent on new pinball add-ons could scare away players who aren’t die-hard.


Marvel Pinball (PS3 [Reviewed], XBox360, PC)
Developer: Zen Studios
Publisher: Zen Studios
Release Date: December 14, 2010
MSRP: $9.99

Not that there isn’t a fair amount of value for your purchase. Each of the tables is skillfully designed, with lots of different challenges to take part in. Each has a unique look and theme, with different franchise-specific aspects: on the Spider-Man table, you’ll be bouncing exploding pumpkins around, while the Blade table switches between day mode, in which you hit ramps to power Blade up, and night mode, when you’ll be shooting at different¬†targets to take down vampires.

The controls for Pinball FX2 are pretty standard, with nothing new showing up with these new tables: the trigger buttons control the flippers, the left analog stick can be used to tilt the table to save your ball once in a while, a face button selects things when you need it and another changes your view of the game surface. All of the Marvel tables come with lots of available views, but none of them is an improvement over the standard stationary, full-table shot as if you were standing in front of it. The other viewpoints tend to be closer to the action, with more camera motion, and I generally found it harder to play without being able to see everything and plan accordingly.

As with other Pinball FX2 tables, the graphics here are stellar. Each has the look and tactile feel of a real arcade machine, and comes complete with the level of challenge one would expect from really playing on one. In fact, all four Marvel tables are more or less awesome, and it’s a shame they only exist on your TV screen.

The four tables in the pack represent a different Marvel hero: Spider-Man, Iron Man, Blade and Wolverine. Each is designed to be specific to the character, with bits of voice work recorded for when you lose a ball or nail a challenge on each table. Tony Stark has lots to brag about when it comes to Stark Industries as you rack up points on the Iron Man table, while Spider-Man trades snarky comments with Green Goblin, Doc Ock and Mysterio. Not all of the writing for the lines is amazing — this is a pinball game, after all — but for the most part the voice work is a nice touch that conveys a little more sense of the attention Zen Studios paid to the license. But the lines can also get a little repetitive, and you’ll quickly come to loathe a computer voice decrying “Ball lost!” every single time you screw up on the Wolverine stage, but it’s nothing to really fuss over. For the most part, the audio adds to the experience, rather than subtracts.

Like the rest of Pinball FX, Marvel Pinball gets addicting in a hurry. The game is already filled with trackers for your score and achievements to keep you trying to one-up yourself and your friends, and the added bonus of clearing different “stages” on each table — taking down Green Goblin by shooting his exploding pumpkins up his designated ramp, for example, or taking on two villains at once with a flood of pumpkin bombs at the same time — adds another level to the strategy and value of continuing play. You’ll not only be chasing down a better score, you’ll be wanting to increase your skill to beat different aspects of each new table.

While you’re forced to pay the full 800 or $9.99 to get any one of the tables, the pack makes up for purchasing all four by making them converse with each other through challenges. Beating certain challenges on one table opens up a new one on another, which will help get you playing all of them regularly, if pounding your score up to new heights isn’t incentive enough (and it is). That’s a nice bit of added value that makes the price tag sting a little less.

All the tables are well-designed and balanced, too, except for the Wolverine table, which I found to make my ball drop at a higher rate than the others. It felt like that table specifically was designed with a lot of cheap kills, and while the other boards have lots of different ramps and challenges to hit, the Wolverine table seems to have fewer things to shoot, while sending your ball straight down the kill tube way more often.

Meanwhile, the Blade table is the most fun, with smaller challenges that are simpler and therefore more rewarding to complete. One spot has you buying weapons for Blade, another has you kicking through images of suspects while a timer runs out, trying to pick out the vampire from memory.

But every table has actions that need to be completed in sequence before you can access new aspects, giving the pinball action another way of drawing players in — the need to finish each table. For example, if you complete the tasks to defeat Mandarin and Whiplash on the Iron Man table, you’ll get to face off against Ultimo.

Put simply: there’s lots to do.

So is Marvel Pinball worth 800 MS points or $10 straight off your credit card? For Pinball FX2 fans, absolutely — added bonus if you dig Marvel heroes, as well. Not all the tables are created equal, but they do all offer some tough challenge and addictive score-chasing gameplay. And the Marvel license makes these levels feel like the pinball tables you remember from the arcade when you were a kid.

Pros:

  • Beautifully rendered, Marvel themed levels
  • Great, challenging table design that works well with each specific character
  • Cross-table challenges to get you playing on all four stages
  • All the benefits of Pinball Fx2, including in-game score-tracking for your own records, plus friends’ scores

Cons:

  • Extra view options aren’t too useful
  • Wolverine table design isn’t quite as sharp as the others
  • 800 MS Point/$9.99 PSN price point is a little high for non-Marvel fanboys

Final Score: 90

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1 Comment on Marvel Pinball Review

corpse

On December 9, 2010 at 2:46 am

Dude just get Zen Pinball(PS3 only title I think, sorry 360) best damn thing there is to virtual pinball machines. That’s all I have for this review. Don’t see the point in buying a pinball machine game for marvel based comics (sorry I hate marvel comics).