I’ve mentioned this before, but the main bulk of my digital pinball resume consists of Space Cadet 3D Pinball on Windows 95 and Sonic Spinball on the SEGA Genesis. I dabbled recently in a PS Vita pinball title, and appreciated its efforts to recreate classic physical pinball tables, but haven’t spent much time with it lately because it couldn’t hook my attention in the long term. With Pinball FX 2′s new Marvel Pinball – Avengers Chronicles set of tables, I believe I’ve finally found a set of pinball games that will grab my attention in a way that hasn’t happened since Space Cadet and Sonic Spinball.
In the only other digital pinball review I’ve done, I mentioned that I didn’t really have enough real-world pinball experience to authoritatively comment on the accuracy of table physics, ball weight, and more. Since then, I must disclose that I have not in any way gone on a real-world pinball table bender, so my reliability as an expert has not improved. You know what I do feel confident claiming expertise in, though? Marvel Comics and video games. How fortuitous for me, then, that the Marvel Pinball: Avengers Chronicles collection of tables for Pinball FX 2 is unarguably, indubitably, irrefutably…a video game with Marvel characters.
Pinball FX 2 has definitely made its mark on XBLA. If you don’t own tables for it, chances are high that you’ve at least downloaded the free base game and played some of the demos. Most of you are familiar with the way tables are collected and displayed, and those of you who are not can become acquainted with the Pinball FX 2 platform for, as mentioned before, free (minus the cost of bandwidth and time, of course). That being said, the base mechanics of the game are familiar to any who have played Pinball FX 2, so instead, this review will focus on the design and features of the four tables included in the Avengers Chronicles collection: The Avengers, World War Hulk, The Infinity Gauntlet, and Fear Itself.
As you can see in the image, the Avengers table offers six different pinballs to choose from, each with an Avenger specific design and set of bonus abilities, as well as a separate storyline (or as much of a storyline as you can really get out of a pinball game). Of the four tables, the game-changing bonuses of the various ball selections makes this title table stand out as my favorite. With loose references to the blockbuster Avengers film (Hulk vs. Thor, Loki attacking the SHIELD helicarrier and Iron Man repairing it, and more), this table definitely gives you a solid “Avengers” feel. The functional downside here is the clutter of ramps, which dramatically increases your chances of bouncing off of a support piece instead of playing through the table smoothly.
WORLD WAR HULK:
I re-read through the entirety of Planet Hulk and World War Hulk just a couple of weeks ago, so I was definitely excited and amped up to take another look at it in pinball form. Compared to the Avengers table, the World War Hulk table definitely has a smoother, faster feel to it. The ramp system is very fluid, and not as cluttered, which helps support the smoother table action. Imagine a perfect game of tetherball, where each time the ball comes around, you get just the right amount of connection with your hit, and it goes right over your opponent’s head and back around to you. That’s what playing the World War Hulk table correctly is like. You can chain together a beautiful run of ramp runs and feel like you’re playing championship tetherball.
THE INFINITY GAUNTLET:
The original run of the Infinity Gauntlet saga in comics has been completed for over two decades, so it’s definitely easy to understand a lack of familiarity with the characters involved or the reason for the conflict for those who are more recently into comic books, or are simply just too young to have witnessed the event as it unfolded. I remember Thanos’ battle against the forces assembled to stop him, and I remember his hopeless romanticism for the personification of Death that precipitated it. It was truly an epic adventure, and to see it in pinball form was incredibly entertaining. The table is long and fluid, and while the World War Hulk table may feel smoother and faster, the Infinity Gauntlet table has an array of game changing factors that make it unique and worthwhile. Did you think pinball was meant to be played with constant gravity and direction? Silly human.
Fear Itself is the Marvel event that I am least familiar with, but from what I have read of it, the Avengers Chronicles table representing it does a good job. Functionally, the table offers a great flow for the pinball, and introduces a great new semi-circle element at the bottom of the table that really changes how a pinball table is approached strategically. This may not have been physically possible in a real-world pinball table, but in the digital Fear Itself table, it creates a speed and urgency of movement that can take you by surprise if you’re not prepared for it.
Overall, the Marvel Pinball: Avengers Chronicles pack for Pinball FX 2 is an absolutely wonderful collection of pinball tables that does both the base platform of Pinball FX 2 and the Marvel Comics subject matter a great deal of justice. In words more eloquent than any I could ever ink (digitally or physically), “I’m hooked and I can’t stop staring. Oh baby, I wanna get with you.” Thank you, Sir Mix-a-Lot, for writing the words that my heart would sing, if it could do so. Pinball FX 2 is free to download on XBLA, and the full Avengers Chronicles collection is available for 800MSP. Pinball and Marvel fans alike need to purchase this collection.
|Excellent treatment of Marvel content|
Almost perfect table design
Secret content within each table
|Avengers table is slightly cluttered|