Review: Marvel Pinball Avengers Chronicles (360/PS3)

Marvel Pinball Avengers Chronicles Review

A Tentative Partnership

Avengers fever is currently gripping the globe, and rightfully so. In the wake of the movie’s financial success, get ready for the slew of novelizations, animated features, board games and McDonald’s Happy Meal toy lines to all cash in on this hot franchise. Quite unsurprisingly, the video game world is reacting with its own Avengers-themed content, with Zen Studios’ Pinball FX2 title being one of the first to receive heaps of new goodness. Adding to its already existing Marvel Pinball and Vengeance and Virtue tables (which we reviewed here), the Avengers Chronicles content brings four all-new tables to the…table…, each based on a separate Avengers comic book storyline.

There’s little point reiterating the colorful and intricate look of Zen Studios’ tables; the accurate ball physics; the over-the-top design elements including secrets, puzzles, boss fights, and mini games; or the limitless potential for fun and challenge in beating your and friends’ high scores. We’ve covered all of that before, in great detail. Instead, let’s take a few moments to explore each of the tables in Avengers Chronicles and explore what they have to offer, and how they stack up to each other (and the rest); the first two being explored in the movie and its (likely) sequel, the second two being lesser known to anyone who hasn’t closely followed the comic books.

Marvel Pinball Avengers Chronicles ReviewThe Avengers

Nick Fury has gathered some of the strongest of Earth’s defenders for the elite group known as The Avengers. Together, they must combat the evil Asgardian outcast, Loki, brother of Thor, as he makes a mad bid for supreme power.

This table literally lets you take on the role of all six of the Avengers – Iron Man, Black Widow, Captain America, Thor, Hawkeye, and the Hulk – by choosing from six personalized balls each round. The balls are designed according to which hero they represent, and each Avenger has certain bonuses that come with his ball; the Hulk’s ball oozes raw power, and thus carries with it a Powershot bonus, while Thor’s ball is granted an Odin Sphere bonus.

Marvel Pinball Avengers Chronicles ReviewSend in different Avengers each round, assist Thor in battling his brother, and participate in the classic tug-of-war rivalry between Thor and the Hulk – you’ll even be able to pilot the Quinjet if you can shoot the ball into the right section at the right moment!

This table makes it easy to see the ball, as its color scheme and layout rarely obscure your vision. Moreover, almost every single volley of the ball uncovers a collectible or earns points in some way, though the ball also moves at a fast clip much of the time, requiring astute reflexes.

The Infinity Gauntlet

Warlock and Silver Surfer bid you join the fight, as Earth’s mightiest heroes attempt to save the galaxy; even though most super-villains freely make this claim on a regular basis, this favorite comic book storyline actually sees Thanos – stricken by madness and love for Death – acquire the Infinity Gauntlet, which literally lets him snuff out lives by the billions.

Marvel Pinball Avengers Chronicles Review

Being a story from a more classic era of comics, this table reflects the proper time period with bright neon colors, vintage costumes in the artwork, and a more pastel, washed-out look to it. The playing field also seems a bit on the more restricted side, with much of the ball’s travels happening behind the scenes. The color scheme used throughout this table also makes it difficult to focus on the ball occasionally. As a trade-off, the ball appears to be traveling just a hair slower than the other tables.

Whether you’re helping Silver Surfer directly as he stands his ground against Thanos, following Warlock into a secret mission, attacking the Infinity Gauntlet directly as it floats in the upper left-hand corner, or demolishing Thanos’s memorial to his muse, Death, there is still plenty to do on this table. Be forewarned, though: as you break down a few of the table’s barriers, you may go through several volleys of the ball without scoring any points whatsoever as the round goes on, meaning players will have a harder time proving their mettle on this one.

World War Hulk

Marvel Pinball Avengers Chronicles Review

The first of the two tables not alluded to in the movie, World War Hulk is all about the green machine smashing his way through Manhattan and New York Harbor in a revenge-fueled campaign of destruction. Having been deceived and sent to a distant planet by what he perceived to be the Illuminati (a group including Captain America, Iron Man, and Professor X) and Nick Fury, Hulk has returned to Earth after a trip that cost him the life of his wife, and has sworn vengeance on those who’ve misled him. Along with his new allies, the Warbound, Hulk proceeds to smash up Manhattan, laying waste to landmarks like the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan Bridge, all cosmetically represented on the pinball table.

Visually, the table is littered with the remnants of architecture and streets strewn with rubble, while Hulk is perched regally atop the pile. Well-aimed shots will help Hulk build his gladiatorial arena in Madison Square Garden, where he plans on forcing Earth’s defenders fight amongst each other to the death, and even enter the stadium to direct the spectacle for bonus points. Otherwise, you’ll be busy defeating Hivelings by the score, building up Hulk’s rage meter, and furthering the island’s evacuation efforts of hapless civilians.

In many ways, World War Hulk is the most user-friendly table out of the bunch, especially for players new to virtual pinball. The layout expertly facilitates racking up a high score, with nearly every shot finding a scoring lane, and point bonuses seemingly at higher values than on other tables. Additionally, World War Hulk made it easy to catch up on the story for players coming just off the movie, with many of the important plot set-ups provided in the in-game narration.

Fear Itself

Marvel Pinball Avengers Chronicles Review

Ah, those Asgardians with their petty quibbles. Thor’s family tree offers up yet another embarrassing dispute; this time, it’s Thor’s dear old uncle, brother to Odin, the Serpent, who’s been freed from his underwater prison to wreak destruction upon an (once again) unprepared populace. The ensuing struggle sees several superhumans armed with celestial hammers that turn them into unwitting agents for the Serpent. As Iron Man races to construct weapons capable of toppling his god-like foes, the final conflict drawn multiple heroes into the fray, and (temporarily) costs both Captain America and Thor their lives. Pretty bleak stuff.

Unfortunately, playing on the Fear Itself table is almost as bleak as the heroes’ chances of success in the comic book story. The table features a large open area in the center, with most of the scoring occurring in the upper portion of the screen only. Points and objectives aren’t clearly designed, and many of the available actions on the table don’t seem to have a common sense tie-in to the comic’s plot. Furthermore, the plot itself is difficult to glean, as the table doesn’t feature the same bullet-point synopsis that made World War Hulk so easy to jump into story-wise.

The Final Verdict

It’s really pretty much a no-brainer: if you like pinball and Marvel comics, then Avengers Chronicles is a further addition to your virtual pinball collection that you need to get. The two movie-focused tales have been covered, and Zen Studios can be lauded for including two lesser-known, grand-scale Avengers conflicts, each with its own table. And while the tables are all beautifully realized, some are more of a joy to play than others.

A big consideration (which I’m personally shocked continues to be ignored) is the fact that the digital display in the top left corner of the screen simply displays too much information; I found sneaking a peek at the displayed images and objectives almost always led to an instant fatal error on my part, costing me a ball or even the game. But since some objectives are hard to guess at, players are simply forced to take their chances and throw dangerous glances up there anyway. I would like to start seeing tables designed without the digital display in mind, as it’s virtually impossible to keep an eye on it during heated gameplay.

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