ZEN Studios is back with another four-pack of add-on tables for their smash hit game Pinball FX 2! They’ve been unleashing new tables for their digital pinball game steadily since its launch, and the new releases have alternated between tables inspired by Marvel super heroes and ZEN’s own original creations. This newest batch delves back into the Marvel mythos for a group of tables inspired not by individual superheroes or teams but by specific stories from the comic book and movie lore.
The first table of the foursome comes not from the comics but from this summer’s blockbuster movie adaptation of The Avengers. The pinball table sets the action on board the SHIELD Helicarrier, with Loki imprisoned at the center. The Avengers’ quinjet is stationed to the left of the table, and all the ramps and passageways represent areas within and around the flying SHIELD base. 3D characters appearing on this table include Thor, Iron Man, the Hulk, and Loki, but the rest of the Avengers make appearances through table graphics, cameos on the score screen, and sound bites.
The central mechanic of the table is a pretty brilliant one. At the start of your pinball round, you’ll choose your pinball from a selection of six. Each different pinball is deco’d to represent a different Avenger, including Captain America, Thor, Hawkeye, Iron Man, Black Widow, and the Hulk. When you pick a ball, the behavior of certain elements of the table will change, depending on which Avenger you’re using. Missions and minigames abound, all fitting perfectly into the story and theme of the movie. There’s even a triggered mode that puts the Helicarrier into a crisis mode with red lights flashing and klaxons sounding. The Iron Man and Captain America pinballs both activate, and you must keep them working together in order to repair the blown engines.
The Avengers table really plays to the strengths of the movie and will be a favorite for fans of both the film and the individual characters.
World War Hulk
The second table in this bundle is World War Hulk, based on the 2007 crossover storyline from the comics. In the comic mythology, the Illuminati is not a shadowy and faceless agency but rather an assembly of some of Marvel’s most important and powerful leaders, all secretly joined to guide the fate and future of the Marvel Universe. After the rampaging Hulk destroys Las Vegas, Iron Man presents him as a problem to the rest of the Illuminati, consisting of Namor, Black Bolt, Mr. Fantastic, and Dr. Strange. Professor X, the sixth member, is absent from the meeting, and the group decides without his counsel to shoot the Hulk into space. The Hulk ends up on a remote planet called Sakaar, where he is enslaved as a gladiator. While there, he becomes a leader among the other gladiators, a group that becomes known as the Warbound, and he incites them to break free and overthrow their keepers. The Hulk takes a wife on Sakaar, and everything appears to be going well. Of course, everything falls apart when the Illuminati’s ship that brough the Hulk to the planet explodes, and the Hulk swears vengeance on Earth. Joined by his Warbound, the Hulk travels back to his home planet to destroy the Illuminati.
That’s where the pinball table picks up, and it does an admirable job of filling in a lot of that backstory through voice clips and table events. The table itself has New York City as its setting, with construction equipment, traffic lights, and city structures decorating the playing field that is backed by a crumbling skyline. Sporting eleven lanes, World War Hulk is one of the more twisty and varied tables in the game, allowing for many paths to the different triggered events and missions. There’s even a minigame that drops your ball into the middle of Madison Square Garden for a momentary showdown. The Hulk, Iron Man, Wolverine, and The Thing make return appearances as 3D characters on this table. Dr. Strange also shows up in his first ever appearance on a ZEN pinball table.
The most recent comic storyline represented in this newest set of pinball tables is Fear Itself, a crossover tale from 2011. The story finds a previously unknown Asgardian called the Serpent emerging to cause trouble for all of Asgard and, by extension, Earth. The Serpent is Odin’s brother, long ago defeated and believed to be no longer a threat. He returns when the Red Skull’s daughter, Sin, finds and lifts a fallen Asgardian hammer not unlike Thor’s own Mjolnir. She transforms into Skaldi, the herald of the Serpent, and then frees the Serpent from his prison. Being the Asgardian god of fear, he sows terror onto the Earth as he strives to defeat Odin and claim Asgard as his own.
It’s interesting that ZEN chose Fear Itself as a story to adapt, because it is one of the less popular recent Marvel crossovers, and it was not a commercially successful storyline. They know what they were doing, though, because it ended up as a completely enjoyable table that just might be even better than the miniseries it adapts. Odin, Skaldi, and the Serpent appear as animated characters on the table, and the table itself features some really cool elements that haven’t been used to this extent in any of ZEN’s prior releases. The chief mechanic that sets the Fear Itself table apart is magnetism, and there are multiple opportunities for you to use magnetic energy to sling your ball around the table, to build momentum with it, and to complete table circuits for bonus modes. Fear Itself also includes some awesome minigames that unlock as you proceed through the table’s missions, making it one of the deepest play experiences of these four.
The Infinity Gauntlet
The final table in the Avengers Chronicles set brings one of Marvel’s classic stories to the pinball arena. The Infinity Gauntlet is a key tale in Marvel’s cosmic universe, focusing on the conquests of Thanos, the mad Titan. Infatuated with a female incarnation of Death, Thanos seeks ultimate power in the form of a jeweled glove called the Infinity Gauntlet. The gems adorning the gauntlet each represent one element of power, and collecting the full set will empower the glove to immense capabilities. Marvel’s space heroes join forces to fight Thanos and prevent him from seizing this ultimate power.
Adam Warlock and the Silver Surfer are the heroic characters who show up on this table, and they are represented in 3D alongside Thanos himself. The overall goal of the table is to recover each of the six gems before Thanos can horde them for his glove. All of the gems are accompanied by specific tasks and missions suitable to the elements to which they are connected – Time, Space, Reality, Power, Mind, and Soul. The effects generated by the gems can result in bizarre play conditions, such as the whole pinball table turning upside down. It’s a gorgeously colorful and well represented adaptation to one of Marvel’s most beloved stories.
All four tables released as a set for PlayStation 3 on June 19, 2012, and on Xbox Live Arcade on June 20. Priced at $9.99 (800 Microsoft Points), the four tables integrate seamlessly into ZEN’s established pinball platforms on both systems. Each of the new tables comes with one achievement or trophy, adding a total of 200 new Gamerscore to the Xbox version. Pinball FX 2 fans will enjoy the new game styles and experimentation done on these tables, and Marvel fans will love the clever ways in which their comics have been adapted into full storylines on pinball tables. This is one of the most fun Marvel table packs released, and it’s definitely worth a try.