reviews\ Dec 10, 2010 at 7:00 pm

Marvel Pinball Review


Whether you're playing Pinball FX 2 or Zen Pinball, there's no question that the folks at Zen Studios know their stuff when it comes to pinball design. Both of these releases, for Xbox Live and PlayStation Network, respectively, have been attracting thousands of pinball fans, allowing them to compete on leaderboards and download new tables. Now four more are joining the fray this week, all based on popular Marvel franchises. The Marvel Pinball collection will add automatically to your Pinball FX 2 collection on Xbox Live, while it's being offfered as a separate release on PSN. No matter which way you go, you'll have a lot of fun.

The four tables offered in this collection are based on hit Marvel properties, which have also inspired equally popular Hollywood blockbusters. You can battle vampires and other creatures of the night in Blade; battle Sentinels and the vicious Sabretooth in Wolverine; battle Whiplash and other mechanical threats in Iron Man; or go swinging against major bad guys in Spider-Man. No matter which table you take on, there's no shortage of skill shots, bumper action and mini-stages that you'll encounter as you shoot for the high score.

Like Zen Studios' previous pinball efforts, Marvel Pinball thrives on exquisite design. Each of the pinball tables are specifically built with each of the comic property's license in mind. Blade's table, for instance, has a dark motif, complete with a demon looming in the top tier and Blade himself slashing his sword in the lower corner. Iron Man's table is also noteworthy, as Tony Stark stands around near the top of the table, until he eventually dons his super armor and becomes iron Man. It's little touches like these that really make the Marvel Pinball games stand out over previous designs, as you'll actually feel like you're in the thick of the comic book action. There are occasionally mild distractions (like how Dr. Octopus swoops down right in the middle of the Spider-Man table and grabs your ball), but nothing that will have you screaming foul.

Along with the beautiful high-resolution visuals, each table also has great sound effects backing it up. Each of these tables have a unique musical theme that loops in the background (nothing from the films, but they're nicely synched with each hero), along with a variety of sound effects and quips from virtual actors. Spider-Man, for example, is his usual smarmy self, firing off barbs as he battles the growing Green Goblin and Mysterio. And, of course, Tony Stark is egotistical as always, but likable. We also have to give props to Zen Studios for finding a suitable Wesley Snipes fill-in for Blade, seeing as how the actor isn't exactly available for open gigs.

Still, a pinball game just can't be good without the proper gameplay to back it up. If the physics don't work properly, you simply won't have any fun. Fortunately, Zen Studios, relying on its pinball programming experience, doesn't slouch here. The games themselves play wonderfully, as you'll use your flippers to launch the ball into upper areas, while occasionally relying on split-second timing to nail skill shots and score other bonuses. There are times that the ball goes a little too fast for its own good, emitting a light trail behind it as it speeds along. If it ever becomes too much, you can make adjustments in the game's menu.

There are plenty of Achievements/Trophies to unlock with these new tables, but the thing that will probably keep you coming back are the leaderboards. You'll be able to compete against others through high scoring contests and tournaments, earning ranking points as you try to become the Pinball King. The fact that the Marvel tables tie in with Pinball FX 2 is a nice touch, as you can boost your overall Wizard score.

Marvel Pinball is simply a must-buy. Though the ball physics can be a little speedy at times and some of the bonus rounds are mildly frustrating, it's a great collection of pinball games that you shouldn't miss.


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