Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Reviewer: Nick Stewart
Overall: 9 = Must Buy
If you hadn’t played Zen Pinball on the PS3, and only had the original core Pinball FX to go by, it might be hard to understand just why the arrival of Pinball FX2 and its subsequent pack releases are a Big Deal. Whereas the original, core Pinball FX was fairly weak fare, its PS3 counterpart – made by the same company, Zen Studios – was one of the pinnacles of the genre. Subsequently, so has Pinball FX2, and managing to roll along that same level of quality is its first major theme pack: Marvel Pinball. This collection of licensed, superhero-themed tables is definitely worth a look, and not just for the sake of seeing a pinball-ified Wolverine.
The four tables on offer are built heavily around the major icons and ideas at the heart of four major Marvel franchises: Spider-Man, Iron Man, Wolverine, and Blade. Each makes excellent use of the license, leveraging familiar lore for addictive gameplay whose primary goals are almost all focused on beating one or more supervillains. Interestingly, each table is also constructed in such a way to play off the characteristics of those characters. Wolverine’s table, for instance, revolves around his fight with Sabretooth, and is smaller but busier, making for an energetic, even frantic experience. Similarly, Spider-Man has a very packed play area, though it’s more stretched out than Wolverine’s, with a considerable use of ramps; it’s as close to a pinball equivalent to web-slinging as you’re likely to get as you square off against Mysterio, Doc Ock, and the Green Goblin.
Blade, on the other hand, has an extended, very vertical play area that puts a lot of focus on the interesting day/night dynamic built into this particular table. Iron Man is about the only one that falls down somewhat, as it’s driven almost entirely by ramps along the top of the table, making for an overly simplistic experience; sure, it maybe works as a reproduction of the “sterility” of technology, but it loses a lot of fun along the way. Still, it’s by and large a wonderfully addictive set of tables.
The strong use of visuals bolsters the experience considerably, and is wonderfully done. Each one has a visual motif that suits each table perfectly, with tons of really inventive animated flourishes along the way. Wolverine’s claws punch through the back of the table to deliver the ball after one particular player accomplishment, and Tony Stark will suit up into Iron Man as you activate some of his missions, which often involve him duking it out across the table. The Blade and Spider-Man tables are equally flashy, and the latter is almost excessively so, with no shortage of items to keep track of. Still, there’s truly nothing to fault in this department, which is almost as entertaining as the gameplay itself.
If you enjoy pinball or Marvel franchises, you’ll enjoy Marvel Pinball – and if you love both, you’re in for a hell of a treat. These four tables are as well made, refined, and fun as anything in the Zen Studios catalogue, and stand to consume as much of your time as any of the tables in the FX2 set. The licenses are done justice and are used rather brilliantly, not to mention that the entire package looks and sounds utterly fantastic. If you’re looking to drop a few bucks on a new addiction, Marvel Pinball should fit the bill perfectly.
(This review is based on a retail copy provided by the publisher.)