Zen Studios shows off their mastery of the digital pinball genre with this newest quartet of tables that takes inspiration from the summer movie sensation The Avengers and delves deeper into Marvel history. It's a fantastic set packed with fun gameplay, but it's not entirely perfect. Read on to find out why.
- Four very different and highly detailed tables
- The Avengers table features pinballs that have bonuses
- The Infinity Gauntlet table warps reality
- Tables are difficult and not quite as "user friendly" as past offerings
- Not enough emphasis on online multiplayer
- Should be able to buy individual tables
Marvel Pinball: The Avengers Chronicles Review:
That’s it. I give up. No longer will I keep my own cash and credit cards, as I’m handing everything over to Zen Studios. That’s because whatever table pack they come out with next, I know I’m going to buy it. The deal has been sealed with The Avengers Chronicles, a four-pack of tables out now via Xbox Live and the PlayStation Store, which is one of the most impressive entries into the pinball world that I’ve seen in my life. And I’m old. I know what I’m talking about.
There are only two companies out there putting out digital editions of pinball tables: Zen Studios and FarSight Studios. Both do equally amazing work, but where FarSight puts out incredibly accurate versions of pinball tables from the past (their Pinball Arcade is not to be missed, particularly for Bride of Pinbot), Zen Studios steps into the fantastic by putting out tables that never existed, but that still adhere to the laws of pinball.
The Avengers Chronicles is a perfect example, and might be their finest work to date. The company is actually branching out beyond pinball for the first time ever, and we were able to check out CastleStorm and KickBeat at E3 this year. But this new addition to their Marvel Universe of tables proves that when it comes to the silver ball, they really know their stuff.
The Avengers Continue Their Adventures
It also represents one of the best values in gaming you’re likely to see all year at only $9.99 on PSN and 800 points ($10.00) on XBLA. That’s only $2.50 per table, and each one of them offers a deep gameplay experience that will keep your fingers busy for hours.
Each one is a piece of art, and here’s how they break down:
- THE AVENGERS: This table is based on the hit movie from this summer, and the table itself is the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier cruising over a city far below. Loki himself is at the top of the table, and you have to do battle with him with the Avengers, and you have them by the balls. Literally. This is the first table from Zen to utilize special pinballs, each of which is based on one of the Avengers, and which will require different gameplay for each ball. There are lines from the movie in here, but not read by the actors from the film. Regardless, it’s a fun extension of the film in a unique pinball form.
- WORLD WAR HULK: Following the events of the comic book series from 2007, this table has the Hulk enraged (shocker) and seeking revenge after he was shot into space by a cadre of superheroes. He misses the planet they intended for him to land on, and now he’s back, and he’s pissed. He constructs a massive arena and forces Earth’s heroes to fight against each other. You’ll be alternately trying to evacuate Manhattan and controlling the more intelligent Hulk here, while dipping into a Madison Square Garden mini-playfield and listening to cameos from some of Marvel’s mightiest heroes.
- FEAR ITSELF: This table has the Avengers battling the Asgardian god Serpent, who has ensnared the world in the grip of fear … itself. The table uses a ton of magnets, and you’ll find yourself battling the magnetic pinballs of the Worthy – warriors of Serpent who are given massive amounts of power through hammers not unlike Thor’s Mjolnir. There’s an extremely deep mini-game here, as well as a table full of gorgeous artwork. I love how the flippers are flanked above by Captain America’s shield, which has been split in half and covers the bumpers.
- THE INFINITY GAUNTLET: This table is my favorite from the collection, hands down. But that shouldn’t be seen as a slight on the other three, because each one of these is a truly beautiful piece of physical wizardry. In The Infinity Gauntlet, you battle Thanos with Adam Warlock and the Silver Surfer as they seek to wrest away control of the Infinity Gauntlet and its gems. The Gauntlet itself looms large above the playfield to the left, and successive hits on it will trigger one of the gems, each of which has a different effect on the game. I won’t spoil the fun for you here, but be ready to reach for a clean pair of shorts when you happen upon the Reality Gem.
Sometimes Pinball Can Be A Punch In The Balls
But even though these tables will blast your eyeballs with visuals, there are some slight drawbacks. One thing we can fault it for is that some of these tables are incredibly hard to master. We’d love to see a table tutorial mode for each entry, especially since there are so many impressive events on each table that are more than worth showing off. The operator’s menus can be confusing as well, unless you really know what you’re doing. A Flythrough mode of each table, explaining the events and the tweaks would be a welcome addition.
What makes this notable is the fact that many of Zen’s other pinball tables are very user-friendly in the sense that it will be very clear what you need to do in order to advance the game. Whether it be ramp design, indicator lights, or a cue on the in-game LED screen, tables like Excalibur and Ms. Splosion Man can guide you to the next event or jackpot total without holding your hand. In the tables in Avengers Chronicles, it can be a complete mystery as to what you need to do next. Is there a particular reason to select certain Avenger pinballs?
Also, given the fact that the game supports online multiplayer, there is nothing in the game to inherently draw you into it. The Autolog feature from Need For Speed puts down a good roadmap that can coerce you into multiplayer, and Zen should follow suit. I don’t only want to know what the next Superscore is above mine: I also want to know that Dana just started playing The Infinity Gauntlet table, or that Jake wants me join a matchup on The Avengers.
Also, it would be nice to be able to buy these tables individually, rather than as a pack. Granted, ten bucks is a low price point, but maybe you’re only a fan of Thor, and just want the Fear Itself table for $2.50? That should at least be an option, rather than having to pick up all four at once. If you break Pinball FX 2 down into its component tables, you might end up spending a ton of money on this game, only to play a handful of the tables.
Truly, These Are Pinball Wizards
These tables bring the total of Zen Studios entries in the Marvel pinball world up to an impressive sixteen, and it feels like they keep getting better and better. Zooming in on any of these tables will show off the impressive artistry and work that goes into creating a pinball experience. What’s even more amazing is that they keep everything within the confines of the physics of pinball itself, to you’ll see seams on the table and lights that are plugged into the playfield. The only thing missing is a slot for the quarters to make you think it’s a real table.
Ultimately, we can’t deny that this game is incredibly fun. The tables are gorgeous, and it’s a fantastic way to breathe life back into a seemingly dead arcade genre. We just wish that The Who was there singing us through the game as we go for the high score.
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Editor's Note: The Avengers Chronicles was reviewed using an Xbox 360 copy of the game; however, we also played the PS3 version, and found no differences. If further investigation reveals any differences between the 360 edition and the PS3 edition of the game, this review will be updated to reflect those differences.