PSN Review – Marvel Pinball

If you’re a pinball fan, then you are no doubt familiar with Zen Studios’ handiwork with titles such as Zen Pinball for the PS3. Well, the developers are at it again, but this time they have teamed up with Marvel Comics to produce themed pinball tables in a standalone PSN title. Does Zen Studios do the comics justice?

$9.99 will give you access to four highly-detailed tables: Wolverine, Spider-Man, Iron Man, and Blade. These are obviously big enough names in the Marvel universe that you do not need to be a diehard comic book fan to recognize the characters on the table (though a lot of the dialogue may be lost on you). The tables look immaculate, and behave as they would if they were actual pinball tables. There is at least one extra flipper on every table, with most having at least two full sets on the playfield. The ball itself feels a bit heavy when on ramps, as it does in Zen Pinball, but it does feel a bit lighter on the rest of the playfields, which is an improvement.

Much like Zen Pinball, you are given full access to each table’s “Operator Menu,” which allows you to adjust how easy or how hard the table is, with timers for combos, ball saves, kickbacks, etc. Changing difficulty or altering settings does disqualify your scores from being submitted to the online leaderboards until you change them back, however.

Night mode: not so easy to do in real-life.

Each of the four tables are very different from one another, not only in looks and sound effects, but also in how the tables are laid out. They all seem to be fairly wide-open, with the Blade table looking the busiest. That table also has a unique feature where time shifts from day to night, altering the layout and allowing you to try to attack Dracula and Deacon Frost with some help from Hannibal King. This, combined with the characters’ animations, provides for great pinball that really could not be achieved in real-life, such as Wolverine’s hand bursting through the back of the machine to give you an extra ball, or pyrotechnic effects.

The audio here adds to each table, with music that would sound perfect in an actual Marvel-themed pinball table. There are also multiple characters on every table, and the voice acting fits nicely to the themes. Of course, if you do get bored of the music custom soundtracks are supported via the in-game XMB music player. The audio is presented in full 7.1 surround sound, a nice surprise.

Multiplayer is here, as is nice community support. You can play a local, hotseat-based multiplayer for up to four people. This is done in much the same way as you would compete in real pinball: you switch to the next player once the current player loses their ball. Online play is supported as well, with full video chat just like in Zen Pinball.

An added community feature is new to this Zen Studios creation. For every table you play, you earn “Hero Score” based on your performance. You are notified of earning “Hero Score” while playing a table, with notifications that drop in on the upper-right hand portion of the screen, almost like trophies. The goal is to obtain the highest “Team Force,” which is a combination of your “Hero Score” along with your friends’ on your PSN friends list. You can earn more “Team Force” quicker as people on your friends list play the game. Everything that you do helps them, and vice versa. It’s yet another way to keep players coming back, and tournaments also help boost your score. This is an innovative feature and is something that would be welcome in other pinball games.

For pinball fans, this is a must-buy. The tables are extremely detailed, the framerate rarely falters, the tables and missions are challenging, and tilting with the SIXAXIS/DualShock 3 controller is more rewarding than just using a stick. Custom soundtracks are supported, and there are nice multiplayer and community features. Marvel fans will also get a kick out of this highly-polished, well-themed game. This, alongside Zen Pinball, is as close to the real thing as you can get, while in some aspects it’s even better.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

+ Great pinball table layouts, realistic physics.

+ Extremely detailed tables with truly unique features.

+ Custom soundtracks, video chat and strong community features round out an impressive list of features.

9 out of 10