Growing up, I was a fan of anything found in an arcade, including the big honking pinball machines that too often were relegated to a corner every time the latest and greatest coin-ops were introduced. I was also a fan of comic books, and while certain transforming robots and G.I.s were usually at the head of the line, I did spend a lot of time reading Marvel Comics. So when I heard that Zen Studios would be releasing a Marvel themed DLC table pack for Pinball FX2, I was pretty excited. When the original Pinball FX
was released back in 2007, that was the one game I could quickly boot up on my Xbox 360 and play in short bursts just to take my mind off of the real world. While I haven’t spent as much time playing the game or the sequel (Pinball FX2
) recently, I was kind of excited to learn that Zen Studios had partnered with Marvel to bring out some new interactive downloadable tables featuring Marvel characters for Pinball FX2.
A couple notes on Pinball FX2, as we have not previously reviewed the game (which was a free release on 10/27/10 time limited tables.) Zen Studios stepped up to the plate and improved just about every aspect of the game from the original Pinball FX. New additions included online multiplayer, global leaderboards, Xbox live vision support and just about any type of stat possible made available. The nice thing is that this entire framework translates into Marvel Pinball (or any of the other add-on packs.)
As far as this specific table pack, Marvel Pinball for Pinball FX2 was released on Dec 7th for the Xbox 360 and consists of four tables featuring Iron Man, Spider-Man, Blade and Wolverine for the price of 800 MS Points and each table adds 50 more gamerscore. While there isn’t any real “storyline” per se with each table, you can tell that Zen Studios put some effort into researching the main table character, as well as any friends or foes that were added in from the background of Iron Man, Spider-man, Blade and Wolverine. Because there are interactive animations going on all the time, a lot of the personality traits and quirks for any characters have been added in. You get quotes form Blade about his strength returning, Sentinel about stomps and calls out Wolverine to halt and so on. It really adds to the overall gaming experience, and keeps it in your head that you are playing a Marvel flavored table.
While all of the window dressing makes for a cool gaming experience, the real fun starts off as soon as you start playing any of the Marvel tables. After downloading the pack and firing up the Marvel tables, it is pretty clear that these tables were not only a labor of love for Zen Studios, but a significant advancement in their pinball physics. In fact, Zen didn’t just stop at making the physics of the game better, as it is quite clear that they went in depth with the Marvel characters in order to provide a realistic environment for each table. There are no less than three characters per table that get in on the action. To keep Wolverine company, Sabertooth, Sentinel and Silver Samurai prowl the surface and add intrigue to the gameplay, while others villains such as Green Goblin, Deacon Frost and Whiplash hang out with our other heroes. The majority of these characters are not only animated, but can move around the table and cause havoc. On the Spider-man table, there is an instance where the Green Goblin flies all over the game-play area dropping his pumpkin bombs which become extra playable “balls” until they blow up. On the Wolverine table, Sabertooth will hop across the playing surface to get into a battle with Wolverine on the right hand side. Whiplash will flail his electric whips and so on. So these aren’t your boring flipper action only tables, they offer extra animations, some unique interactions and of course the Marvel character look and feel.As for my personal favorite, that would probably be the Spider-man table. The amount of ramps and tracks are crazy and the design and layout are both excellent. Another reason I like it is that I am more familiar with Spider-man and the other characters, so there is more of a sense of understanding what is going on in the background. While there wasn’t any table that I didn’t care for, the Blade table was probably my least favorite. I enjoyed playing it, but there were some quirks such as changing the table from day to “night” for when the vampires come out. While it fits into the interactive game-play style, it is kind of annoying because it impacts your ability to see the ball. Intentional or not, nothing ticks you off faster than playing pinball and losing a ball because of the table. The only other struggle I had was with some of the extra activities, like hitting certain lights, bumpers, holes and so on. There are also various “tasks” that they ask you to complete in the old-school led readout. The problem is that there is so much going on; it was difficult to tell what I was being asked to do next. If I took my eyes off the action on the table for a second, I ended up losing a ball or keying in my initials because the game was over.
Overall, I think Marvel Pinball is a great table pack add-on for Pinball FX2 if you want your pinball gameplay to be truly immersive and as realistic as possible. While there are a few opportunities for improvement in the layout and gameplay of a couple of the tables, they all provided hours of fun and addictive gameplay. Adding in the Marvel themes, heroes and villains in interactive form is just gravy in my opinion and really adds to the game. For anyone that likes pinball, Marvel Comics or both, the 800 MS Points are well worth adding these tables to your Pinball FX2 collection.
One final item to note is that a contest to pick the next Marvel Pinball character from Ghost Rider, Hulk, Captain America or the Fantastic Four is being held right now. You simply have to head over to www.marvelpinball.com
to vote. Personally, I am voting for the Hulk, because that should make for some real interesting battles with any of military elements that have sought his hide or the long list of freaks he has encountered over the years.