Zen Studios has gained considerable critical acclaim for their series of Marvel tables for Pinball FX2. By mixing an uncanny parlor “realness” with the most memorable elements of Spider-Man, the Fantastic 4 and many other Marvel headliners, Zen has a whole set of tables that please both comics and pinball enthusiasts alike. Appropriately enough, Captain America is the latest hero to join the roster of pinball-ified Marvel mascots. Roughly coinciding with the movie, this table stays true to form by referencing only the broad source material, instead of specifically copying the film.
The table features Baron Zemo as the main villain, that other arch-nemesis of Captain America and the Avengers. While Zemo and his castle feature prominently there is plenty here for people who are just getting into Cap lore after seeing the new film. The missions offer some decent variety but also ease newcomers into Cap’s world. One of them has you rescuing various members of the Howling Commandos (the team of crack soldiers that was never explicitly named in the film) and Cap’s trusty sidekick Bucky Barnes shows up to assist. An animated figure of Cap himself stands proudly at the top of the table, shouting encouragement and getting in on the missions once you unlock them.
Zemo will occasionally step in at the lower right corner of the table to blast at Cap with his death ray, which Cap can deflect with his shield if you make some well-timed shots to the top of the table. In another mission you have to avoid puddles of toxic slime that Zemo spills over the table, slowing the ball down when it rolls through the gunk and wasting precious time. Of course the coolest element of this table is an equally impressive Red Skill figure that will step up to challenge Cap to a brawl, and once again timing is everything if you don’t want Cap to get a face-full of Hydra fist. If you’re having problems you can shoot for the Cosmic Cube, which occasionally hovers between Cap and Skull. The Cube is worth a lot of points and gives you more time on the clock, making some of the missions much easier.
As with most FX2 tables the physics and mechanics are rock solid regardless of the overall quality of the table. Luckily the Cap table is also very well designed, without too much cluttering the board but enough flash to set it apart. It’s big, with a lot of open space to angle your shots, but you also get some well-placed rails, chutes and a flashing score column at the top. I’m not sure how they do it but Zen has once again nailed the amusement park feel—the lighting, the way the table shakes, the background noise all make you feel like you found this one in the corner of a fair, or an old arcade at Cedar Point. You can almost feel those corny incandescent yellow bulbs cooking the back of your neck as you play.
The production values on this table are head and shoulders above the rest of the Marvel selection and most of FX2’s offerings in general. Zen really went overboard with the fan service on this one but made it suitably flashy for the folks still jazzed on the movie. The overall design of the table is heavily influenced by Cap’s WW2 days, another shout out to the film no doubt.
Cap is emblazoned across the center of the table, with the Commandos following his lead in the lower portion of the mural. The side panels are decorated with 40’s era war paintings and bronze stars, and many of the components of the table—flippers, rails and bumpers—look like they’ve been machined out of brass shell casings. The whole table is very evocative of WW2 propaganda posters, which gives it an oddly specific aesthetic that sets it apart from the other Marvel tables. As always the red pixel-ticker display has a grainy yet very well done set of animations for every mission and special event.
The voice acting is all appropriately over-the-top, with Cap shooting off corny heroic one-liners and Red Skull cackling like a madman. It was a little jarring after seeing Hugo Weaving’s larger than life but still nuanced portrayal, but then again this is a guy who is so evil that even the Nazis tried to sweep him under the rug. The sound effects mirror the WW2 aesthetic—propeller planes roar overhead, the rumble of distant shellfire is a constant undercurrent to the bombastic music, and when you hit the bumpers the sound of a .45 going off rings out.
For 240 Microsoft Points this is probably the best table you can spend your money on right now. It’s big, filled with features, well designed and executed. Most superhero games walk a fine line between feeling too generic or too specific to a recent movie, and getting stale and obsolete in either case. Zen has avoided that trap with their Captain America table. While some of the other Marvel tables have felt like generic tie-ins with the movies, this one can be taken as both a tribute to Cap’s early comics and a timely companion to the pretty awesome film that just came out. Here’s hoping we get an Avengers table next year that’s just as good.