Reviewed: December 20, 2010
Released: December 14, 2010
Pinball, the sport of kings, or at least the sport of wizards. As someone who grew up in the last days of arcades, I loved the game ever since I set my hands on a busted old Addams Family machine. When I got the chance to review Zen Studiosí Marvel Pinball, I leapt at it. With four excellent tables, representing Spider-Man, Wolverine, Iron Man and Blade, and more on the way, Marvel Pinball is a terrific deal.|
When you load a table, the most striking thing is how much they look like a pinball table that could have existed in real life. While the animated models of heroes and villains break from the realism of the tables, the orange and black score screen, the lights and ramps, the table art, and even the steel balls are perfectly crafted. It might not be a game for those with old, small TVs, but for people able to make out all the details; the tables in Marvel Pinball are a feast for the eyes.
Each table has a unique play style, ranging from the fast, easy ramps of Spider-Man, to the heavier play of Iron Man and the potential longevity of the Wolverine table. Where each really stands out, though, are the animated heroes and villains on each table. When you begin a stage, the models come to life, whether itís the Green Goblin throwing out pumpkin bombs for you to bat back with the flippers, or the Mandarin and Iron Man engaging in battle.
The transformation that the Iron Man table undergoes when Stark suits up is rather impressive, and these breaks from pinball tradition only further emphasize the kind of stories that the pinball tables tell. Iíve always felt that a strong licensed pinball machine captures the essence of the property it comes from, and the tables in Marvel Pinball do that in spades.
Perhaps the strongest table is Blade, which alternates between daytime, when the eponymous vampire hunter powers up and buys equipment, and nighttime, when itís time to hunt down vampires and progress through the tableís story. It straddles the line between taking advantage of its position as a video game and being true to the game of pinball perfectly.
For all the craft thatís gone into the tables, though, the community aspect of Marvel Pinball doesnít fail to impress, either. Players are reminded of their friendsí high scores, and how far they have to go to beat them. Additionally, as players play more tables, they earn points which are tallied with those of their friends, letting them try for ever-greater Team Force scores on an overarching leaderboard.
While there are only four tables available at the moment, Zen Studios has stated their intent to make more, both based on characters and formative events in Marvel history, with names like Ghost Rider, Captain America, Civil War, and Dark Siege mentioned. At a planned price of $2.50 a pop, and with the quality weíve seen so far from Marvel Pinball, these tables seem like a steal, even the ones based on heroes or stories I never particularly cared about. Even the existing tables will keep players going for a while, especially with the ability to tweak their settings and alter the way they work, for the kind of person who wants to get into the guts of the machine.
Whether youíre a comic fan, a pinball fan, or just someone looking for a low-priced way to spend a few afternoons, Marvel Pinball is extraordinary. It looks, sounds, and thanks to the SIXAXIS controller, even manages to feel like real pinball. Iíll be excited to see how it shapes up in the future, because right now, itís the perfect blend of classic pinball style and the features that being a video game can add.