Spiderman. Iron Man. Wolverine. Blade. The heavy hitters of Marvel comics are here….and they want to play some pinball. Zen Studios brings you Marvel Pinball, an incredibly realistic pinball experience on PS3 and XBox360. I was lucky enough to give the PS3 version many hours of my time, and I must say I am quite impressed with the experience.
This is pinball. There are no extraneous story lines or content not related to the main objective of playing an arcade favorite in your own home. The game opens by giving you your choice of the 4 tables: Wolverine, Spiderman, Iron Man, and Blade. You can play the tables in any order you like, as many times as you like. The game records your high scores, and each time you achieve one you get to enter your initials in true arcade style. In fact, much of Marvel Pinball is in true arcade style. The gameplay has a remarkably realistic feel to it, and the ball flips and ricochets in just the way it would on a real table. The controls are very simple. Holding the “x” button down launches the ball into play, and by tweaking the force with which the ball is launched you can earn points by hitting various skill shots on each of the tables. “L1” and “R1” control the flippers by default, by you can change this and I personally found it a much more comfortable fit to use “L2” and “R2”.
In addition to tweaking the controls, you can alter the dynamics of the table to make the ball roll faster or slower. This will disqualify your scores from the leaderboards, but can be useful for practicing a table that is giving you trouble.The leaderboards are a major selling point of the game, as seeing how your score measures up to the rest of the world only increases your drive to improve your score and status. In addition to scores on individual tables, Marvel Pinball has an “All-Time Hero Scoreboard” which shows your performance overall.
The tables themselves will delight super hero fans and pinball aficionados alike. Each table features scores of details from the comics and challenging boss battles to increase your scores as well as add to interest to the play. I won’t go into too much detail on these, as figuring out what’s going on at each table is a big part of the fun, but switched controls, vampire line-ups, and pumpkin balls are just a few of the surprises that await you. The tables are also packed with all kinds of pinball candy, and from twisting rails to hidden ramps there is much to keep even non hero-loving gamers happy. There are also various missions assigned to each table to help keep play fresh, even after multiple play-throughs. And Marvel Pinball isn’t just a single player experience. You can choose to play multiplayer, either online or locally.
While Marvel Pinball comes with just four tables to start, there will be other tables available for purchase in the future. Marvel fans can even vote on which table will be released next at MarvelPinball.com. The choices for the first DLC table include Fantastic Four, Captain America, The Incredible Hulk, and Ghost Rider. There is no official word on when this DLC will become available.
My one and only real criticism of Marvel Pinball is the placement of the game hints. Rather than have them spoken aloud or streamed across the bottom of the screen, the tips and instructions needed during play of the tables are in a grainy box in the upper left corner of the screen. What this means is that while you are playing a fast-paced game when any slip-up means a lost ball, you must direct your eyes to the top of the screen and read what you are supposed to do while the ball is in play. This is quite distracting, and you must make the choice of just winging it and hoping you’ll figure out what to do, or risk ball loss to quickly read the box. This doesn’t occur just once or twice a game either. There are updates and instructions throughout a lot of the time you play, directing you on how to complete missions and earn points. I got around this by enlisting my husband to read to me while I played, but having a wingman is definitely not always an option. I also noticed a small bug almost immediately after beginning the game; the very first time a score was registered on each table, that score was attributed to someone else on my friends list–the one that comes first in alphabetical order. While this occurred on all the tables, it resolved itself on the second play-through of each table.
While there are a few minor annoyances that keep it from being perfect, in the end Marvel Pinball delivers on its promise–a great game of pinball. The tables are interesting and very cool to look at, and Super Hero fans will practically foam at the mouth at all the great Marvel details and characters. The tables play just like your favorite pinball game at the arcade, and at only $9.99 for the game, you don’t even have to beg your mom for quarters first. I give Marvel Pinball an 8.5 out of 10, and recommend it to pinball wizards and Marvel fanatics.