Marvel Pinball

Pinball Wizards

ZEN Studios has cranked out an oddly quarantined but nevertheless engaging pinball experience with Marvel Pinball.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: December 31, 2010
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The state of downloadable titles on the PlayStation Network vs. Xbox Live Arcade is... interesting to say the least. Microsoft has quite smartly taken moves to lock off some of the content they have on XBLA -- at least for a generous amount of time, and it means that while the PlayStation 3 is indeed getting some of the best downloadable games of the generation, it's getting them as much as a year or more later.

That's not a huge deal, of course, provided the games are good, and unlike many of the early disc-based timed exclusives, it seems the extra time taken to bring the games over means they're usually 1:1 with their 360 counterparts (for the most part). This isn't entirely the case with the scarcely week-old PS3 release of Marvel Pinball, which takes the fantastic visuals and physics of ZEN Pinball and applies them to some of the House of Ideas' more famous icons, namely Blade (just go with me on this), Spider-Man, Wolverine and Iron Man.

What's odd here is that Marvel Pinball's genuinely addictive mechanic of incorporating the scores of people on your Friends List isn't quite as all-encompassing for their products on the PS3. On the 360, the scores you earned in ZEN's other pinball games (Pinball FX and [/i]FX 2[/i], for those wondering) are folded into your Marvel Pinball score to make a kind of combined super-score that's pooled with friends.

On the PS3, however, your Friends (yes, with a capital!) are still included when determining your game-wide Hero Force Score, but not ZEN Pinball tables, which is something of a shame as the total score tabulation does a great job of making you want to go back and play more tables to get a higher combined score. The way things work now, your score is totaled up among all four tables and turned into a cumulative Hero Score, multiplied against the Hero Score of your Friends List buddies and presto, you have your Hero Force Score.

Hero Points are doled out for racking up a million points on any of the tables; score multi-million-point results and you'll rake in a higher Hero Score. Easy, right? Better still, the game tries (with mixed success) to update you as you're playing when you're about to beat a Friend's score or are about to gain another Hero Point. It's a surprisingly effective motivator, and whereas in other pinball games I may have given up, just seeing the scores Friends and other TPS staffers has gotten made me play more in the hopes of besting them.

That's a very, very good thing, as like all good pinball tables, Marvel Pinball's are deceptively simple. All of them have the usual set of gates and ramps for notching scores, but they also have multiple missions against various character-specific villains that add some much-needed depth. Literally hours can be spent on each table learning the various combos, mission objectives and hidden bonuses -- to say nothing of actually being able to hit them consistently. Add in multiple "phases" to some of the tables like Blade's day/night cycle and you have even more complexity.
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