I love pinball. I love it for the nostalgia, I love it for the lights and sounds and I love it for the unique game play. But pinball machines and arcades aren’t as familiar of a sight as they once were. Which bums the hell out of me.
Fortunately for all of the old school gamers, developers are putting more and more time into resurrecting old classics on home consoles and rebooting old franchises that we’ve long since missed.
Pinball is shown little love across all game platforms, but in the past few years one company has really stood out in it’s innovation and dedication to recreating a fun and addictive way to play pinball all over again. Zen Studios has put a ton of work into it’s Pinball FX series and they’ve really begun to show some serious progress with their latest DLC pack, Avenger’s Chronicles for Pinball FX2′s title Marvel Pinball.
Each new table represents a different story-arch in the Marvel Avenger’s universe. There are 4 in all, and the pack is available for just $9.99, a paltry sum for the hours upon hours you will devote to playing this game. Before I go into each table, I feel obligated to point out that this game goes well beyond anything Zen Studios has done before, as far as innovation to the standard game of pinball. To keep things fresh, they’ve added a ton of interesting features and gameplay mechanics.
The Infinity Gauntlet
Taken from the pages of one of the most interesting story-lines Marvel has come up with, The Infinity Gauntlet‘s table focuses on the super villain Thanos and his obsession with Death. To make a long story short, Thanos acquires six cosmic gems which each give him control of something different (Time, Space, Mind, Soul, Reality, and Power). This is an important part of the gameplay as well, upon activating different triggers Thanos will call on his powers to alter the reality of the game. For example, the Reality gem flips the table upside down, you must play the game that way until you either lose a ball or beat the challenge. The Time challenge, slows down the pinball at random, causing you to react appropriately. Other challenges bring you off the pinball table completely. For instance, one with Adam Warlock has you travel through a green wormhole and onto a mini table where you must carefully guide these mystical ball-type things without letting them fall off.
The various gems create unique challenges and the table itself is a masterpiece of design aesthetic and color. I really enjoy how much time was spent in the voice-acting as well. If you listen carefully, you can get a good idea of the entire plot of each story-line on each table (World War Hulk does it the best).
This table is hard, really hard. Taken from one of the most complicated stories in the Marvel universe to-date, Fear Itself tackles the epic struggle of Earth’s mightiest along with the denizens of Asgard, against Odin’s brother (The Serpent) and “The Worthy”, a group of super heroes taken over with evil by The Serpent. This plot-line is very complex, and it’s all here. In challenges, in voice-acting, and in presentation. It’s an amazing feat, and the longer I play it the more tiny things I notice that give nods to comic series itself.
The major challenges are all based around The Worthy, Juggernaut, Hulk, Titania, Attuma, Grey Gargoyle, the Thing, and the Absorbing Man, who have all come into contact with magical weapons The Serpent has brought to Earth, which transform the heroes into deadly foes. Each one presents a different and interesting challenge upon activation, The Hulk’s challenge (Nul as he is named after becoming a Worthy) is my favorite. It’s a very hard skill shot into a small area of the table which causes a ricochet of bummers and a mess of lights and sounds. While this table’s more of the standard pinball approach than Infinity Gauntlet, I think it’s most interesting aspect is how much of the incredibly complicated story-line is put into the many challenges on the table.
World War Hulk
The table with the best story, in my opinion, is World War Hulk. After the events of Planet Hulk, where Hulk is banished into space and lands on Sakaar, WWH centers around his return to Earth. Without going into too much detail, Hulk is pissed and he’s stronger than ever. When he returns to Earth, he has with him an entourage called the Warbound. Together they conquer Manhattan and lay siege to many other Marvel sites. The pinball table focuses on all of the events and does the best job of chronologically giving you bits of the plot as you play. Again, this table’s challenges and narrative don’t miss a beat of the plot.
The main challenge on this table centers around the arena that Hulk builds in Manhattan. In the story, he forces some of Marvel’s top super heroes to duke it out with alien beats and even each other. The game mechanic here is another challenge that takes you off of the main pinball table and onto a smaller one. Here you have to launch the ball onto specific tracks in order to take down the heroes in the arena. I haven’t completed it yet, but I’ve come really close!
Knowing that this table was modeled after the plot of the recent 2012 film, The Avengers, I was going in prepared for disappointment. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the movie, but movie-franchise based games are generally really crappy and uninspired. I am happy to report that this is not the case with the pinball version. Although I must immediately follow that up with, this is my least favorite of the new tables.
What bothers me about this table is that it is undeniably an ad for a movie, and a little sloppy. The great voice-acting of the other tables is not present here, it’s just a bunch of tag-lines from the film but voiced by less talented folks. It’s not even connected to the plot like the others. It’s just a bunch of random movie-lines.
What’s great about it, is that for how hokey it is, it’s actually a really fun table. You select one of the Avengers each time you start a new round (or ball in this case) and each Avenger gives the ball different properties and each ball (or character) is required to activate and complete different missions. It takes a lot of skill to be able to master this table, and I’m a long way off.
All in all I would give Avengers Chronicles a 9/10.
Concept = 10, Presentation = 9, Replay-ability = 10, Sound Design = 8