It feels almost surreal to be talking about a pinball table, let a lone a series of them, in the year 2012. Thanks to the efforts of Zen Studios and their Pinball FX2 platform, the gaming industry is doing just that. Pinball is back, and in a major way. Sure, it isn’t quite the same as hearing the “thump” of the real flippers and bumpers, but it is thoroughly enjoyable and provides nearly endless replay value, and in that sense, it is a lot like the real thing.
The latest pack to be released for Pinball FX2 is the Marvel Vengeance and virtue pack. I have been fortunate enough to spend the last couple of weeks with each of the tables included in the bundle, which focus on a couple of iconic Marvel series and one that a lot of people may not be familiar with. Vengeance and Virtue includes 4 tables: X-Men, Thor, Ghost Rider, and Moon Knight. Each one provides a great pinball-experience although some do it better than others. Because of that, it is probably best if we break each one down individually:
The X-Men table is easily the most attractive of the bunch, both visually and feature-wise. Who hasn’t heard of the X-Men? The table centers around the core concept of the X-Men Universe: the feud with Magneto and his Brotherhood. As with most of the Marvel tables, the X-Men table focuses on a variety of missions which are triggered on the table. There are a variety of missions included on this one in particular and die-hard fans will recognize a lot of them as being based on actual comic events from the various story-arcs from the series (particularly the Dark Phoenix Saga).
The table also does a great job of using a wide variety of characters from the X-Men universe. There are many familiar faces included from both sides of the X-Men / Brotherhood war. You will be seeing the likes of Xavier, Magneto, Cyclops, Iceman, Storm, Colossus, the Blob, Sentinels, Toad, Juggernaut, Mystique, and many more. The table give you a ton of mini-games / missions as well, including 4 Wizard Modes as well as forcing you to work your way up through missions for the final face-off against Magneto.
The X-Men table is filled classic X-Men art that highlights all of the key players from the group. There are even rendered versions of both Magneto and Xavier present who will narrate your battles and go back and forth with some witty banter. Thankfully, the voices for both characters is acceptable though not the best that I have heard from all of the various animated incarnations of the them. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the voices used for the other characters that you hear from during gameplay. Wolverine in particularly sounds way off and lacks that rugged-muster that the character is known for. Other voices, such as Nightcrawler and the Blob, are perfectly acceptable.
Despite the wide variety of rails and ramps, this table is laid out well and easy to read from a playing perspective. I always get worried when I see as many options as I do with this table, but the flow that results from this particular design is impeccable. I really like Magneto’s interaction with your ball, which occurs on occasion and he stops your ball(s) mid-play (using his powers). Granted, this is a little unrealistic in the pinball sense but it provides a nice level of immersion (and detail) for the table’s setting.
The Thor table in Vengeance and Virtue is all about recreating the feeling of one-on-one battles between Thor and some of his most famous opponents. The table doesn’t feature nearly as many characters as the X-Men table, but the 5 characters featured are presented in full 3D and engage in actual battles on the table.
The focus here is activating the Gate of Asgard, which will then trigger confrontations with the likes of Loki, Destroyer, Ymir, and Surtur. Once the battles are triggers, and actual confrontation between 3D renders of Thor and his opponent engage in battle on the screen. It is then up to you to fuel Thor in the battle by triggering various ramps and targets on the tabletop. It is a very simple concept that works very well.
Visually, the Thor table features a great set design with quite a few iconic set pieces from the Asgardian universe. Combining those things with a ton of lighting (and lightning) effects on a table filled to the brim with animations creates a very enjoyable time. The Thor table was easily my favorite of the bunch, mainly due to it’s simplicity in design combined with a great “epic” feeling to the battles.
The Ghost Rider table is modeled off of the modern era of Johnny Blaze. Based heavily on the 2006-2009 series runs, the table takes the player front and center in the war between the ghost Rider and Lucifer. Overall, the table has a stunt-show set feel to it with a lot of focus being placed on Johnny Blaze’s former career; all of the ramps and surroundings are modeled as if they were taken straight from the set pieces of one of Johnny’s side show events.
Despite the limited setting, this table manages to squeeze in a few enemies from Ghost Rider lore including full rendered versions of Orb and Zadkiel in addition to Lucifer. There are even cameo appearances form the likes of Mephisto and Scarecrow.
I found this table to be the most user-friendly of the bunch. The rails and ramps are generously spaced and the tabletop isn’t nearly as cluttered as the other offerings (though they are organized clutter). Newcomers to the pinball genre will have their best luck on this table when they are starting out. Because of that fact, I wasn’t as impressed with this table as the others. It was entertaining for a few play-throughs, but its simplicity eliminated my urge to replay it like like I do the X-Men and Thor tables.
Casual Marvel fans are likely asking their selves “Moon who?” right about now. The final table of the collection is dedicated to Marvel’s mercenary super hero Moon Knight. While Moon Knight isn’t exactly the most recognizable face from the Marvel roster, he is one of the coolest.
The Moon Knight table will help rectify some of you unfamiliarity with the character as you are thrown deep into the world of his crime fighting on the streets of New York City. The table pits you against a wide variety of Moon Knight’s traditional enemies including Bushman, Midnight, and Khonshu. Just like the Thor table, a lot of the missions that you will trigger on this table feature actual confrontations in the form of boss fights with the iconic bad guys.
These confrontations are driven by your performance on the ramps and rails which will fuel Moon Knight’s offensive onslaught to take down his enemies. This table is a lot of fun, especially for Moon Knight fans because their beloved hero doesn’t always get shown a ton of love by the Marvel video game universe. Hopefully this table will serve is his pseudo-coming-out party and help bring him a little more into the forefront of the Marvel-video game world.
Vengeance and Virtue is a stellar addition to the Marvel Pinball family. All 4 tables are filed to the brim with characters and references from the various Marvel universes that are represented. The Thor and X-Men tables in particular stand out with excellent table designs and fast paced gameplay. Moon Knight is also a very enjoyable offering as well. Ghost Rider isn’t a bad table, but there is a clear “fun factor” difference between it and the others. The table appears to serve a distinct purpose which is walking new players into the pinball world; I just find it odd that Zen chose the darkest of all of the characters in this package to craft a beginner’s table; Ghost Rider seemed more like a fit for a hardcore offering. Either way, it is still a great package and one worth your time and money if you are into the Pinball FX2 experience. If you liked the other offerings, you will like these as well.
Zen Studios seems to be incapable of doing wrong with the Marvel license. With this pack, you get 4 new tables for less than the price of the average standalone XBLA title. While this group isn’t as strong as the previous Marvel tables, they still provide an enjoyable experience for both the Marvel and pinball fans in your house.
Rating: 8.9 Class Leading
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
If you have been here before, you know the basics: lifelong gamer, father, and of course, certified news monkey. I have been blogging on the industry for close to a decade now, in some form or another. It wasn't until I landed here at Gaming Nexus that I really dove in head first. Now, writing about games has become what I do for fun (and sometimes work) and something I intend on doing until the day I die.
I'm a huge fan of just about everything you can interact with using a controller, no matter how old or new, good or bad. If you put it in front of me, I will play it... end of story.