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Pinball was one of the staples of the late, great American arcade. The intricacies of the machines, the flashing lights, and the feedback from hitting the flippers are hard to match. Zen studios has picked up where the defunct arcades left off, offering virtual pinball through its Pinball FX series and more recently in the release of the add-on pack Marvel Pinball.
Marvel Pinball fits right into the framework of the Pinball FX interface, allowing you to switch between the classic tables you may already have as well as introducing four Marvel character themed tables to play. The pack consists of tables featuring the like of Wolverine, Blade, Spiderman, and Ironman. The goal is, of course, to get as high of a score as possible. You can accomplish this by completing a variety of character specific missions within each table.
Before beginning, new players may want to check the rule sheet in the menu of each table due to the staggering amount of subtleties contained within each virtual machine. Spiderman can fight Mysterio, Green Goblin, and Doc Octopus but you may never know how to do so without checking the rules just because of the amount of flashing lights and triggers available to you. Every board is dripping with personality and very true to comic book lore. On the Blade table, you work with Hannibal to take out vampires, while on Ironman’s board you power up your suit and try to take out villains such as the Mandarin and Whiplash. Fans familiar with only the movies may be a little confused as to characters and locales presented, but comic book fans will love the way the boards stick to the lore so well.
The boards are lacking a storyline, but do drawn inspiration from real comic book scenarios. You progress on each board by completing missions which are activated by hitting certain ramps or targets several times. Once you complete these missions there is usually an indicator on the board that lights up letting you know which objective you finished. It is in trying to complete all the objectives with one ball that it becomes challenging, because as soon as you lose a ball you have to start the process all over.
The game sounds and looks amazing for a pinball game. Flippers and bumpers sound exactly like they should sound and the character voice acting is appropriate and very good at times. Each character has enough one-liners and mission specific quips that you will not tire of the dialogue very quickly. Every board is presented differently and boards like Spiderman’s and Blade’s definitely stand out among the others because of their supreme attention to details.
There are real pinball tables that control worse than Marvel Pinball. The power of the Pinball FX 2 physics engine really makes its presence known here, and if you are good at pinball then you will be good at the digital representation. That is a testament to how solid the physics are in this title. Good physics do not mean a thing if the controls are awkward but this is avoided by the flippers being set to the triggers and giving feedback through the use of the controller’s built in rumble feature. Of course, nothing will compare to an actual machine, but this may be as close as you will get in a virtual imagining.
You may feel that a solid single player pinball experience is very standard, but you may be surprised to know that Marvel Pinball contains both online and local multiplayer. While it is fairly difficult to have a real multiplayer experience in a pinball game, you still have a competitive score attack mode, which is really the best you can do in a mostly single player game. You can either compete on the same board or on concurrent boards and try to one up each other’s score. It is a simple addition that really helps to extend the amount of time you will play the game.
This game is brutally hard, but that is through no fault of its own; it is simply a reflection of how hard real pinball can be. However, it never becomes a frustrating endeavor as each new playthrough you will discover new things about the board. Every time you launch the ball you have the opportunity to experience a situation you may have never encountered before, and that is where Marvel Pinball shines.
While this is a great title, the bottom line is if you do not enjoy pinball then you may not enjoy this game. The controls are tight and the visuals pop so you would be crazy to pass it up, especially if you are a big comic book fan. There is not much to hate about the game. It is incredibly fun, addictive and the tables have enough variety to really pull you in and mesmerize you. Pick it up today for only 800 Microsoft Points