Marvel Pinball: Avengers Chronicles for Pinball FX 2|
I’ve been playing Zen pinball games since 2007 when Pinball FX debuted on the Xbox 360. Since then they’ve launched their stunning sequel, Pinball FX 2 and more than 30 tables, sometimes as standalone offerings and sometimes as themed bundles. Marvel Pinball: Avengers Chronicles is the latest group of superhero-inspired tables following previous releases like the original Marvel Pinball and Marvel Pinball: Vengeance and Virtue. Apparently superheroes, comics, and pinball have a lot in common.
Technically, Avengers Chronicles is easily the best batch of tables released to date, and if you are a fan of the Avengers then you are in for a real treat with these four new interactive pinball games. Up first is The Avengers table, my personal favorite because if offers the most variety of gameplay. Prior to launching your ball you get to choose from any of the six team members, each represented by a signature style and colored ball. Your selection will then determine the various dialogue you hear while playing that ball, as well as various ball-specific activities and objectives. Your ultimate goal is to get each Avenger into the jet in the top-left of the table, which will trap the ball and let you fire another Avenger into the play field. If you can get all the Avengers onto the plane they will “assemble” for some explosive multi-ball action.
World War Hulk is my second favorite table of the batch and features our favorite green menace in a challenging table design that will put your pinball skills to the ultimate test. This table can get very loud with the Hulk yelling quite a bit, and each impact of the ball will have your controller rumbling out of your hand. Look for guest characters like Iron Man, Wolverine, The Thing, Dr. Strange, and even a cameo line from The Punisher when the Hulk invades Manhattan.
Infinity Gauntlet is my third favorite table and not just because the Silver Surfer makes a guest appearance. This table is as gorgeous as it is challenging, especially when Thanos flips the table and forces you to play upside down. Recover the six Infinity Gems to save the Universe, but watch out, as each gem will affect the table in mind-bending ways. And with 139 lines of dialogue, the longer you can keep the ball alive, the more story you can hear.
Last but not least is the Fear Itself table, and it’s really only last because I have no idea who any of these characters are or what is supposed to be happening. Other than that, the table is really cool with large circular channels near the bottom that can get the ball going into a high-speed orbit. I also loved the launch mechanism of having a guy hit the ball out of the chute with a giant hammer and the return of Magna Save to suck that ball out of the drain at the last second. Fear Itself is also loaded with some of the best mini-games of any Zen table to date.
As always, Zen Studios pushes the boundaries of realism by including all sorts of things real-world pinball games could never do, like stunning CG opening movies and table flyovers, as well as animated 3D characters that populate the tables and actually move and interact. Seeing Thor and the Hulk fight at the bottom of my table was pretty awesome, even if they did block my view of the left flipper lane. But despite all the added visual flair, the designers always root the gameplay in realistic physics and responsive flipper action, so you always feel like you are playing a real pinball game.
Every table looks stunning and I really wish I could spin my TV 90-degrees for a better view. That has always been the curse of Zen Pinball - trying to view a vertical table on a horizontal screen. They create these visually inspired tables and you either have to zoom way out for a static view or move in for a variety of closer angles that have some fast camera pans that can make it hard to keep up with the fast moving ball. The angle with the best view would be like you resting your chin on the glass of a real machine – not very playable. I usually opt for a mid-range view that offers good detail and minimal scrolling, and the game automatically zooms out for multi-ball play and even offers a PiP view of certain hard-to-see areas. Regardless of what view you play in, you can always hold down the X button and fly over the table to enjoy the art before playing. I also recommend checking out the overall view so you can see the cool designs that surround the table like the Avengers table that is actually SHIELD’s flying carrier slowly moving over the city below.
Sound effects, music, and speech are impressive, and fit with the theme of each table and the various mini-games you can trigger while playing. Despite having the most recorded lines of dialogue ever for a pinball table pack, the dialogue does repeat, especially on the Avengers table where you hear the same thing each time you launch a character ball, and if you keep the ball alive long enough you’ll hear the same lines over and over. Some of the voice actors are of questionable quality, but it doesn't really detract from the game.
Marvel Pinball: Avengers Chronicles is a great bargain at 800msp ($10) for all four tables. These are a DLC for the core Pinball FX 2 game, but that is a free download, assuming you don’t already have it installed. Each table comes with a single 50-point achievement that can be extremely challenging to unlock, and all tables fully integrate with the online social system for leaderboards and Wizard scores. Zen Studios has assembled one of their best pinball packs to date, and if you are a fan of anything Marvel (especially the Avengers) or just looking to play some awesome tables with amazing graphics and sound then add this new bundle to your collection today and start climbing those leaderboards.