The good folks at Zen Studios are out with their newest four-pack for Zen Pinball/Pinball FX 2, Marvel Pinball: Avengers Chronicles. Here’s my take on the good, the bad, and the gamma ray-irradiated.
I don’t know if there is a term within the pinball lexicon for this type of game, but I’m going to coin one. World War Hulk is a “speller” table. It seems that every loop and target has a word associated with it, and in order to trigger an event, you have to hit the target or loop one time for each letter. The table deals with the World War Hulk crossover series in which Hulk is blasted off into space, spends some time with aliens, and comes back looking for some revenge. The story comes across as you play the table. If you start hitting the center “Arena” ramp, you’ll overhear various characters in the World War Hulk storyline talking about Hulk building an arena. Wolverine, Thing, Iron Man, and other superheroes make appearances. Overall, I’m not a big fan of speller tables, and I thought this one was a tad too yellow for my tastes, considering it’s a Hulk game. Also, Hulk is more erudite than I’ve ever heard him.
Fear Itself is another crossover table that emphasizes Thor, Captain America and Iron Man dealing with a new threat from Asgard, Serpent. I’m no comics scholar, so I’m not terribly familiar with the storyline. From what I’ve gathered from the table, Serpent apparently wants to scare people. There are some interesting things going on in the table. The ball drains on the extreme right and left of the table form a loop. Every now and then, magnets along that loop will activate, allowing the ball to travel along it just as if it were a regular loop. Magnets also come into play when you start a mode and you choose which of Serpent’s lieutenants to battle. In some modes, the ball will turn to stone and break apart if you hit the wrong targets.
The Avengers table is genius. At the very start of the game, you’ll have your choice of six balls to play, each one designed for a member of the Avengers squad. Cosmetics aside, your choice will also have an impact on gameplay. Black Widow gets score bonuses on missions, Captain America has a limited ball save, and so on. Every member of the team has their own ramp as well. Loki stands in the middle of it all. I haven’t gotten as far into the Avengers table as I’d like so far, but it’s definitely a blast to play. Also, I wound up playing this table just two days before I saw the Avengers movie (I don’t like noisy crowds, okay?), and I was surprised how the table took exact lines from the film.
The Infinity Gauntlet is by far and away my favorite table, perhaps of the entire Zen Pinball series. The first treat is for the eye. The ramps leading up to the large Infinity Gauntlet looming over the left side of the table glow with an ethereal light. Miniature suns hover over the bumpers, and each has a collection of planets in orbit around them. In the space behind the table, there’s a much larger glowing sun, as if the table were floating in space. Despite those graphical features, the table also has retro flourishes. The interior walls of the table look like they could have come from the side of an old school Asteroids cabinet, and the characters featured on the far wall look like they were drawn in the early 80s. Even the game’s sound effects and futuristic LED font hearken back to classic early arcade games like Sinistar.
The Infinity Gauntlet is a sniper table. The middle ground is open, and ramps and targets fringe the perimeter. There is a touch of Medieval Madness at work here, with players repeatedly knocking on the door of one of Thanos’ monuments to Mistress Death in order to gain another route to the Infinity Gauntlet.
The idea of the table is to collect the gems of the Infinity Gauntlet to defeat Thanos. If you hit the Gauntlet enough times, you’ll start a mode based on the theme of a particular gem: Time, Space, Reality, Mind, Soul, or Power. I don’t want to tell you exactly what happens in each of the modes, because most of them are truly joyous surprises that left me laughing and stretched my expectations of what is possible in a video pinball game.
I’ve played a lot of Zen Studio’s pinball tables. For me, Avengers and The Infinity Gauntlet are among the best tables they’ve produced. Marvel Pinball: Avengers Chronicles is on sale for $10 on PSN or 800 points on XBLA.
Rating: BUY IT!