I am not a pinball wizard. I never have been. But here I am, with itchy flipper fingers, rarin' to shoot that silver ball. Pinball FX2: Marvel Pinball is ready to scratch that itch — comic book style.
A paid add-on for the free download Pinball FX2, it features four Marvel-themed tables: Spider-Man, Iron Man, Blade and Wolverine. Controls are simple: the flipper can be operated with either the bumpers or the triggers. Using the thumbstick, players can even "bump" the table. Doing so repeatedly causes the flippers to cease working for a second or two. All four Marvel tables are available from the get-go, allowing players to master all four tables or focus on their favorite. At the game's core, Marvel Pinball is pure pinball, but wrapped in a detailed and impressive looking comic package that will even grab non-Marvel fans. But it's the game's basic understand of pinball (and pinball physics) that make this a stand out.
Marvel-themed or not, this isn't directed only at comic book fans, but anyone looking for a deep but casual experience on home consoles.
Pinball FX2: Marvel Pinball's developer Zen Studios doesn't view Pinball FX2 as a game, but a platform. These guys are serious!
You said it's for non-comic fans, too. What about comic fans? Is there stuff for them? You bet. The faces of each table is covered in comic covers and comic art. Villains and heroes don't just appear on the tables as inked characters, but as 3 dimensional, catch-phrase spewing characters that interact with the table. The Green Goblin, for example, flies above the Spider-Man table and chucks a Jack-o Lantern ball into the mix. One nice touch is how detailed the backgrounds outside the tables are. The Iron Man looks as if it's been placed in Tony Stark's stronghold.
You mentioned the game's pinball physics. What's so good about them? The problem with the majority of video game pinball games is that the ball feels floaty. Pinballs are heavy, and the game is played on an incline — both of which are tricky to render in game form. Pinball FX2 does this wonderfully. The game is solid and weighty. And the flippers even have that great clicky feel as you bat the pinball around the table.
Marvel characters like Wolverine come to life during play.
Is it hard to follow where the ball is? Since players can cycle through several camera options to get different views on the table, I didn't have any problems. And when players press pause, the game counts off three sections before launching back into the auction. I did have some problems figuring out what I was supposed to do with some of the missions.
What kind of problems? Oh, sometimes I wasn't sure what was going on, like where to hit the ball or what to select. Pinball by its very nature is a fast-paced game, but some more guidance (for example, arrows) would have been appreciated.
So it's pinball. Who are you trying to beat? Yourself? Of course, players are trying to beat their top scores, but there are always rankings. Players get updates on how close they are to beating their online friends' top scores. It's a better measuring stick than playing against anonymous pinballers online.
You mentioned that there are four tables. Which is the best? I liked Spider-Man the best. The table is elaborate and well-designed. It looks great and plays great. The table I liked the least was Blade. It feels very small and confined, almost claustrophobically so.
Mixing stunning comic lore with impressive pinball physics, Marvel Pinball is a welcome addition to the impressive Pinball FX2 platform. It's worth picking up even if you haven't yet played through all the other free FX2 tables and most definitely if you have. This game sure plays a mean pinball.
Pinball FX: Marvel Pinball was developed and published by Zen Studios for the Xbox 360, released on December 8, and for the PS3, released on Dec 14. Retails for 800 Microsoft Points or US$9.99. A copy of the game was given to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Played through all Marvel tables extensively, beating Michael Fahey's Spider-Man high score. Take that, Fahey!