Marvel Pinball Review

By Kevin Kelly - Posted Dec 08, 2010

Marvel Pinball is a shot in the arm to the newly released Pinball FX 2 on the Xbox 360, providing four brand-new Marvel tables themed after Spider-Man, Iron Man, Wolverine, and Blade. Blade? Yes, Blade. On the PlayStation 3, you can get this entire title as a standalone game, since they don't have Pinball FX 2 on that platform, only Zen Pinball. Confused yet? Grab your balls and dive in.

The Pros
  • Gorgeous Marvel-themed pinball tables
  • Fun, fast gameplay
  • Amazing pinball designs
The Cons
  • Sound can be overwhelming
  • Needs a good demo mode

Marvel Pinball Review:

Marvel Pinball is a shot in the arm to the newly released Pinball FX 2 on the Xbox 360, providing four brand-new Marvel tables themed after Spider-Man, Iron Man, Wolverine, and Blade. Blade? Yes, Blade. On the PlayStation 3, you can get this entire title as a standalone game, since they don’t have Pinball FX 2 on that platform, only Zen Pinball. Confused yet? Grab your balls and dive in.

Zen Studios is a Pinball Wizard

Check out our recently published Pinball FX 2 review to see what we had to say about the state of pinball at large, and what Zen Studios has brought to the table. Pun intended. If the future of pinball really is meant to be virtual, then so be.
 


 
You Would Never See These Tables In Real Life

Part of what Zen does is bring amazingly impossible designs to pinball tables while making them feel realistic. The ball paths, ramp designs, bumpers, flippers and all that all feel extremely real, but the Zen touch is to add something that goes above and beyond. Like Wolverine battling with Sabretooth, or having an enormous vampire deity emerge from the surface, all right there on your table. Whether it’s the Green Goblin darting around on his Goblin Glider, or Whiplash attempting to change the path of your pinball by whipping it, these touches bring a bit of Zen to the game.

There are four tables, for now, and Zen is already encouraging people to vote on the next table on their website, giving you the choice between Captain America, Hulk, the Fantastic Four, or Ghost Rider. Personally, I put my money on Hulk, just so I can see a “Shoot the Ramp to Activate HULK SMASH!” on the screen somewhere. My second choice was the Fantastic Four, because it would be neat to have a Super Skrull mode where your ball takes on all the powers of the Four, but it looks like Captain America is going to win based on the voting so far.

But the four tables this game comes with are spectacular to begin with, and they all manage to nail the Marvel spirit. Blade trades quips with Hannibal on the Blade table, which has an incredible day / night cycle to bring out the vamps (the night mode is gorgeous), and Tony Stark has that playboy attitude in his game, encouraging you to party and even get your boogie on.  Hitting the right targets will trigger the Iron Man suiting up sequences popularized by the movie, and each and every one of these tables is filled with perfect touches like this.

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Sometimes Too Much of a Good Thing Can Be Bad

The one real problem I have with Marvel Pinball is that it can be overwhelming, especially the audio. You’ll have multiple layers of sound effects, music, lines from the game, and the pinball mechanical sounds themselves overlapping each other and making it extremely hard to hear key information. How long do I have to activate the Weapon X program? What am I supposed to be aiming for to defeat The Mandarin? With a table this pretty, I don’t want to lose any details, and unfortunately that’s what the audio will make you do from time to time.
 


 
Would A Demo Be Too Much To Ask?

Along those same lines, it can be very hard to figure out every possible thing you can do on a table. While that’s a holdover from the days of actual pinball where learning was the only way you could figure things out, in today’s day and age it sure would be nice to have a tutorial for each table, showing you all of the amazing things you can trigger. You might be missing a simple shot that could make something cool happen, but because you don’t know about it, you might never think to do it.

Pinball FX 2 vs. Marvel Pinball


I wrote our Pinball FX 2 review, which I loved. But in full disclosure, I gave it a 4 out of 5, mainly because I wanted it to include the tables from Zen Pinball, which is Zen Studios’ pinball platform on the PlayStation Network. It has some vastly superior tables (Tesla is a favorite) that would be great in Pinball FX 2, but those are licensed exclusively for the PS3. With Pinball FX 2, which is free, you have to add tables or packs of tables, but none of them matched that Zen Pinball level for me.

Now, with Marvel Pinball you get four tables from the start that are all fantastic, and they are available on both platforms. Not only that, but they speak directly to the Marvel fanboy inside of me, peppering all of the tables with deep, quality references to their characters. It’s not just a game, but it’s also an homage to these heroes that you’ve grown up with and loved for most of your life. And seriously, I can’t talk enough about that Blade table. When it turns to night and the giant, green, horned beast comes out of the table? That’s awesome.
 


 
This Holiday, Soon It Will Be Silver Balls

Marvel Pinball features some of the most incredible pinball table designs I’ve ever seen, and while I might have knocked Pinball FX 2 down to a 4 from a 5, Marvel has definitely earned its stripes. Young and old pinball fans alike will enjoy this, and the Marvel fan will go nuts for all of the embedded character depth in the tables. At 800 MS points for the 360 tables to add to Pinball FX 2 (which is free), or $9.99 on the PSN, this is a great addition to your gaming collection.