Zen Studios and their line of Marvel Comics-themed pinball tables need little to no introduction. The various licensed tables featuring Marvel’s various characters have taken the Pinball FX2 platform to an entirely new level. It seems as though they get better and better with each subsequent release. The latest pack, the Avengers Chronicles, raises the bar yet again.
The Avengers Chronicles features 4 completely new tables for Pinball FX2, all based on story arcs from the comics and movies based around Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Each one of them is solid in their own right, but two of them stand out heads and shoulders above the rest, meaning both the other tables in this pack and those released under the Marvel Pinball series.
Let’s break down each of the new tables:
A solid table, although the weakest of this bunch, Fear Itself pits players against a long forgotten Asgardian God known as the Serpent. The table features Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man facing off against the Serpent and his various warriors. This is an enjoyable table that features a lot of ramps and short rails, which means you have to stay on your toes. The ball returns back to your flippers almost as quickly as it leaves.
This table features some phenomenal animations as well, including a cool ball launcher that consists of one of the Serpent’s minions striking the ball with a sledge hammer-like weapon to send it into play. As with all Marvel tables, Fear Itself is ripe with missions which will pit your Heroes in battle with numerous generals from the Serpent’s army.
There is a unique mechanic used which involves a pathway that drops under both flippers, below the normal “ball out” section; there is a hold at the very bottom, but as long as you have enough speed built up, you will fly right past it and be launched back into the gameplay field. Pressing the corresponding bumper, depending on your direction of movement, will propel the ball even faster and help you escape the peril of the hole. This is definitely a fun table but just not as impressive as the others in this pack.
Individual table rating: B-
The Infinity Gauntlet
One of Marvel’s most famous story arcs gets its own table in The Infinity Gauntlet. This is a very unique table to say the least, mainly in terms of its look and design. Featuring the Silver Surfer alongside the Avengers, players must battle the mad-titan Thanos as he seeks control of the entire universe. Thanos is constantly taunting players and reminding them who he is, which really emphasizes the personality of his character.
This table is especially appealing thanks to its visuals; the various rails are formed by neon means of light, which looks really cool. The entire color scheme of the table looks really nice in fact; the problem is that it becomes very hard to see the ball due to the high level of brightness in the lower part of the table, which is when you need to keep a close eye on the ball. There are some nice pathways and ramps located in the center of the field which will send your ball into a covered section; this becomes tricky because it isn’t always clear when and where your ball will emerge back into sight.
There are a couple of enjoyable features on this table that make the experience different than the normal offering, including a second plunger section on the left side of the screen which will catch your ball and give you time to take a short breather before launching it back into play. Another involves Thanos using the power of the Gauntlet to invert the gameplay field; up becomes down and left becomes right; this can happen in an instant and definitely throws you off. If you can master the alternate play field you can turn things back to normal. The Infinity Gauntlet is a really good table but it takes a while to get used to it. It definitely grows on you over time and gets better with each subsequent play.
Individual table rating: B
Word War Hulk
This is an incredibly fun table that will teach you to appreciate rails (if you don’t already). The name of the game here is rails, rails, and more rails. Set during Hulk’s return from the Planet Skaar, this table depicts the reign of terror he brought down upon the Illuminati after they banished him from Earth. Eventually, Hulk makes his way back and not only is he severely pissed off, he has brought friends in the form of the Warbound.
Players will see Hulk and his companions hunt down and battle some of the biggest heroes in the Marvel universe including Iron Man (in his Hulk-buster armor), Wolverine, and the Thing. As I mentioned, this table is heavy on the rails which are required to call out the Hulks various opponents to battle; battling other characters is a common theme in a lot of the Marvel Pinball tables and this one is no exception.The battles are set in a crumbling Manhattan, which makes the play field look like a war zone.
Perhaps the most unique feature of this table is the ability to launch the “Arena”. Once players successfully activate the Arena, they will be transported to a second table which is made up entirely of looping pathways. The concept here is meant to mimic a gladiator arena and managing to keep the ball in play for an extended period of time will rack up points quickly.
World War Hulk is a lot of fun to play thanks to its fast paced nature and constant narration. The table does a great job at telling the story for players that aren’t familiar with the arc; there is a lot of narration featured from a variety of characters which will pretty much explain the entire story. This is definitely a great table and would be the best of the bunch if it weren’t for the Avengers table.
Individual table rating: A-
While all of the tables in this pack are enjoyable, the fourth table in the pack is easily the best. In fact, based on Marvel’s recent theatrical release, The Avengers may be the single best Pinball FX2 table released to date. Period. The Whoever came up with these gameplay mechanics deserves some sort of medal as this concept is ingenious.
In the Avengers table, players are given a choice of 6 different pinballs to use on each turn, with each one representing one of the members of the Avengers team. Depending on whose ball you pick, you are given different bonuses and properties to deal with during gameplay. Each of the balls is painted to represent the corresponding Avenger too, which adds a nice visual touch. The bonuses that you receive are all based on each of the characters various strengths; for example the Hulk’s ball adds more power to the bumpers and power bounces. Just like the Hulk leaps from ground to sky in a heartbeat, your ball will propel itself off of these environmental objects in the same way. Hawkeye on the other end, will earn your more points for hitting specific targets and skillshots on the play field, thanks to the character’s keen eye.
This gameplay mechanic really changes the way that you play the game. Depending on the mission at hand, or that you are working towards, you will want to pick a character that will give you a scoring advantage in accomplishing your goal. If you are mid-play, you may strive to get your ball locked so that you can bring in another (specific) ball into play. This also allows players to approach the table with different styles and game plans, which is an interesting twist to the pinball genre as a whole. This mechanic will also change up the way competitive players compete as well; think about it, perhaps you and your friends set up tournaments or challenges using a specific ball (character). There are simply a ton of gameplay possibilities opened up thanks to this feature.
Of course, being based on the blockbuster movie, this table brings out the Avengers cast as a whole more than any other table in the pack. There are a ton of characters features here, in both animations and voice overs. In addition to each of the members of the team, you get a lot of interaction with Nick Fury, Loki, and even an awesome incarnation of the S.H.I.E.L.D. heli-carrier. I could play this table for hours, and I have.
Individual table rating: A+ (I would go higher if I could)
Once again, Zen Studios has proven that they know how to handle the Marvel license. All four tables featured in this pack are filled to the brim with “character” and do a great job of bringing these four individual story arcs to life on the play field. It is interesting that they have managed to craft 4 distinct tables based on the same characters; that really serves as a testament to the talent of these developers. If you enjoy Pinball FX2, this is easily the best pack available for the platform today.
What are you waiting for? Avengers, assemble!