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Marvel Pinball 3D

19:5812/07/2012Posted by Charles Etheridge-Nunn2 Comments

Pinball video games are an odd one to review, given that you control maybe a tenth of the game level’s elements and watch the rest play out. The Marvel licenses and the 3DS are an interesting way to make it seem relevant. For the most part, it works.

Zen have been releasing pinball tables steadily under the Pinball FX umbrella on the 360 and the Zen Pinball on the PS3 for a little while now, covering several different topics, but the most popular has been their collaboration with Marvel. I admit that flush with enjoyment from Peggle, when I heard that there was a set of Marvel Pinball for the 360, I bought it, played it a bunch and now only return to it occasionally with my brother and father when we’re too drunk to play fake plastic instruments and can’t be trusted with Dance Central and the living room (oh how I wish I was reviewing games when Dance Central 2 came out).

If there’s one thing to say about Zen, they know how to make a pinball interesting, delivering tables which look like they could be real, while being bizarre and fantastical. The controls, as always are simple, press A to shoot the ball, and then use shoulder buttons to whack the flippers. The best use of shoulder buttons, alongside shooting things, of course mainstream game fans. The circle pad whacks the table, which is a bit too easy to do by accident, given where your thumb goes on the 3DS. X changes the view, and you’ll probably want to do that. I’ll get to why later.

So that’s it. Not very involved as far as the gameplay, so why play a pinball game? Why do people play it in real life? Or pachinko? Or Peggle? Remember when we all loved Peggle?
It looks pretty, and is addictive to keep playing. Your fingers keep tapping away at the flippers, trying to get that bastard ball over to the catacomb, or up Stark Tower, but the sodding thing keeps coming back, or throwing itself enthusiastically right between the flippers, so you can’t do anything. Why, ball? What did I do to you? Come back. I didn’t mean what I said. I really didn’t.

So that’s pinball on a 3DS. Fairly standard, but this is MARVEL PINBALL! You get a selection of four tables for your cash, frankly, a 50% weird selection. Relevant to current Marvel properties are Iron Man and Captain America, but then there’s also Blade and the Fantastic Four. It’s not quite Avengers themed, or Spider-Man themed, or X-Men themed (tables for all three exist and I assume will be to follow in the near future). Each one has a plethora of little tricks, sub-games, ‘achievements’ and action-figure like versions of the characters dotted around the table.

The table is red and yellow, like Iron Man, with holographic blue sections representing Stark Tower and acting as gates for certain parts. Tony Stark is in the top centre, his voice acting as the drunk party animal Tony, able to change into his Iron Man duds, but not his homeless alcoholic wardrobe. Whiplash and a very racially-insensitively-voiced Mandarin try to screw things up for you. It’s a clean level, and annoyingly easy to get Iron Man in his suit, then lose it a second later.

The table I’ve had least experience with. It’s quite nice, with sub-missions involving each of the team, who are dotted around the board. The Thing throws your balls (oo er), and Doctor Doom lurks in the back, like he does.

I admit, I’m not a fan of Cap. The film was good fun and his turn in Civil War (also soon to be a theme for a Marvel Pinball table, apparently) was good. You’ve got Cap and his enemies on the table, World War Two themes, plane noises and even Cap getting shot with a death ray. With the near random chance of the pinballs, you must save him from Baron Zemo and build your military squad.

The weirdest choice, given the fame of this monster hunter from Soho peaked about a decade ago. One of the easier tables, and a good one to get started with, it has a day & night cycle and a little sub-area with its own flippers where you’re smashing bits of a tomb apart. There’s a little sewer bit and a ‘hunt the vampire’ minigame using the fake LED graphics on the lower screen, played with the flippers.

The games look sexy, especially in 3D, where the lights, the balls and the little action figures all seem grounded in the fake reality of the pinball tables Zen have created. My only issue is that as they’re exact replicas of the big console versions, they’re also crazy detailed and busy on the eye. On a tiny screen, there’s a lot to keep up with, especially as the balls are whizzing around the place so much. I used the X button to rotate views until I had the closest one to the ball, which has a few risks, but gives you a better view of all the details. There are a ton of nice little references to the comics and everything’s thematically interesting, it’s just a shame it gets lost when you’re at such a distance. This will definitely be improved when the 3DS XL comes out.

Zen have also added a couple of features to make the game more appealing for continuous play. There are four ‘achievements’ to unlock in each table, such as completing each of the Fantastic Four’s personal missions, defeating Ultimo on Iron Man’s table, or Dracula on Blade’s. There are also the standard leaderboards which would be great if any other people had Marvel Pinball. On the 360 I’ve seen how it works. You have your normal score and metascore which is increased by how well you did on each table and how well each of your friends have done on the table.

If you like Marvel, it’s one of the less egregious Marvel Comics tie-ins and the 3D does make a pretty game prettier. There are certainly better experiences in the current selection of 3DSware, but for the budget price, you get a lot of mileage. Now if only I could keep Iron Man in that suit and blasting his enemies for more than five seconds. That’s what happens when you trust a drunk superhero.

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