Game Review: Zen Pinball 2 – Marvel Pinball (PS Vita)

Released initially as a stand-alone game for the Playstation 3 and as add-on tables for Pinball FX on the XBox 360, the Marvel Pinball add-on for Zen Pinball 2 collects the first four Marvel Comics themed tables into a single expansion. No doubt to make the most impact possible with the launch of the new game, Zen Studios chose four of the more instantly recognisable characters thanks to film and television outings to translate into original tables. So on offer in this first set are the following:- Spider-Man, Blade, Wolverine and Iron Man so I’ll look at each in turn.

All four tables in this set follow the same general style as the rest of the the tables featured in Zen Pinball 2 – the game can be played and enjoyed just using the basic ramps and targets, but to really reach higher scores you will need to accomplish set goals and side missions which you can activate throughout the game by hitting certain targets during the game. What makes Marvel Pinball and many others stand out is the use of animated 3D characters that are present on top of the table. As you will find with many “real” tables, there will be physical characters standing on tables and these can be found on the four tables here, but throughout the game depending on the missions you choose, they will become animated and walk across the table and interact with other characters, the table and even the ball!

Spider-Man

So starting things off with Spider-Man and I have to say for starters that – of all the characters Marvel (and DC for that matter), Spider-Man is my all-time favourite superhero so it’s already off to a flying start before I even started playing. The game kicks off in style with a great piece of music that thumps away throughout the game and it’s somewhat reminiscent of the superb 90s animated Spidey series. In this table, Spider-Man is up against three of his toughest adversaries – Doctor Octopus, Mysterio and the Green Goblin and all are standing on the table watching over you.

Everything about this table screams quality right from the start. Superb graphics, excellent sound, music and speech (and dare I say well acted and reasonably well scripted considering that it’s a pinball table!), good visual effects on the table including superb animations on the score display but most importantly, the table design itself is fantastic. The difficulty balance has been finely tuned so it’s challenging but not too difficult that it proves to be frustrating and it’s definitely the strongest of the four tables in the set. Despite all of the tables all basically being the same game, this captures the spirit of the character perfectly and has that elusive “one more go” factor.

Blade

Half vampire, half human (and not a sparkle in sight), Blade takes centre stage in this table. This is much darker than Spider-Man and visually has a raw, gritty feel to it. With the support of your sidekick Hannibal King, you have to take on Deacon Frost and stop him from becoming the most powerful vampire ever known. While this one – as with all the tables – are based on the comics, the music is certainly reminiscent of the Wesley Snipes movies (although that isn’t particularly a bad thing) and the table simply oozes atmosphere. From the speech and sound to the visuals (including the change during the emergence of vampires at night), the table is a joy to play.

Wolverine

Everyone’s favourite adamantium-enhanced claw-wielding superhero (okay, I admit I can’t actually think of any others) stars here. Featuring in one of his earlier X-Men costumes, Logan has to go up against not one, not two but three of his toughest enemies in this table – Silver Samurai, a Sentinel and Sabretooth. Throw in some ninjas on top of that and he’s got his hands full! Without sounding as if I am continually repeating myself from all of the other tables, everything you would expect from the other tables is here – great table artwork and design, superb animated characters and sound, but most importantly it’s an addictive table that will have you coming back for more.

Iron Man

Pitting Tony Stark up against adversaries from the second and third movies, you’re facing off against Whiplash and the Mandarin in this hi-tech table. This is probably my least favourite of the four as a table although that’s probably because it’s a bit more unforgiving than the other three in the pack. That’s not to say that it’s a particularly bad table to play, but there are more ramps and potential opportunities where the drop can be dropped directly towards the centre of the flippers making the table that bit tougher than the others.

Visually, this is still a treat with great animations for the characters on the table, especially Stark himself as he transforms between Stark and his Iron Man persona as the armour is added. The whole styling of the table fits in with the Iron Man red and gold theme and the centrepiece of the whole table is Stark’s power core. It’s only a small touch but it really makes a difference to the game and shows that a lot of care and attention has been put into it’s design.  As I said it’s the weakest of the line-up but don’t let that fool you into thinking that this is a poor table – it’s just that the other three are of such a high standard that this had a lot to live up to.

Instead of just porting the tables across for Zen Pinball 2, all of them have bene upgraded with improved graphics, ball physics and controls and although the differences are subtle it’s good to see that Zen have taken the time to improve the game rather than just throwing the levels together for a new collection.

What has impressed me with this pack is that there are four incredibly high quality tables in a single collection and Zen Studios can quite rightly be proud of themselves for this. No wonder that they felt confident enough to release this as a stand-alone title originally for the PS3. It’s not unusual for a table collection to have on weak link, but this is a rock solid collection and should be your first purchase for Zen Pinball 2, whether you are a superhero fan or not. I really can’t praise this enough but with the chance to try them out for yourselves, you’d be foolish not to take a chance with this – you won’t regret it and even if you never purchase another table again for Zen Pinball 2, you’ll have the best ones right here.

Simon Plumbe

At A Glance

  • Title: Zen Pinball 2 – Marvel Pinball Expansion
  • Publisher: Zen Studios
  • System: PS Vita
  • Format: PSN Download
  • Cross Buy: Yes
  • Online Multiplayer: Yes
  • Local Multiplayer: Yes
  • Memory Card Space Needed: 141Mb (this does not count the space needed for Zen Pinball 2 itself)

Vita Player Rating - 09

Please note that although these screenshots may be from different versions of the game they are accurate representations of how the game looks on the PS Vita and are official images supplied by Zen Studios.

 

 

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