For a generation of video game players who grew up when arcades were still a thriving business, they’ll probably remembering the alluring lights, eye-catching displays of franchises from everything from The Addams Family to Doctor Who, and of course the unforgettable sounds of pinball machines. Unless you live in certain cities around the world, it’s near impossible to play pinball as it was originally intended in a public arcade, but Zen Studios through the use of its Zen Pinball 2 and Pinball FX 2 platforms has done a remarkable job of recreating the experience on home consoles, PC’s and mobile devices.
Over the years Zen Studios has turned various Marvel characters, movies and story lines into pinball tables and for the first time with the help of Nighthawk Interactive has collected ten tables into one budget price retail package for both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One dubbed Marvel Pinball: Epic Collection Vol 1.. For anyone who has missed what Zen Studios has been doing over the years with pinball in the digital space, especially those who are Marvel Comics fans, consider Marvel Pinball a must buy as either a treat to yourself, or for a loved one for this upcoming holiday season, and prepare to lose hours of your life as you play “just one more time!” to try to beat your high score.
All the tables found within the Epic Collection Vol. 1 package that Nighthawk has published have been available digitally to purchase on your preferred store front of choice, but for those unfamiliar with Zen Studios work, they’ve basically captured the sights, sounds and tactile feel of pinball in the comfort of your own home. The ball physics as the silver orb is launched onto ramps, into bumpers and other devices feels exactly like you remember, or an approximation of how you think it should feel if you’re a younger gamer who has only read about pinball. The controls are incredibly simple: they default to the triggers on your controller acting as the right and left flippers, the left analog stick simulates the ability tilt the table to help save your ball when it counts, and you can cycle through eight viewpoints of the table by hitting square. It might take a while for your to find your ideal viewpoint, but the flexibility in how you view the table: everything from seeing the whole table zoomed out or tracking the ball with camera precision as it bounces around, will make it so there’s a way for everyone to feel comfortable by playing enough, and play you shall.
Featured in this volume are ten tables: World War Hulk; The Amazing Spider-Man; Venom, Doctor Strange, Fear Itself; Civil War (the comic, not the film); Ant-Man; Blade; Marvel’s The Avengers and Invincible Iron Man and while you may spend more time with certain tables over others, you can lose yourself in anyone of them for hours. A tremendous amount of credit has to go to Zen Studios for not only creating the platform in which all of these tables can be played from, but how they managed to nail what makes each of the tables so great through the medium of pinball. The Venom table for example, one of the highlights of the package, largely pays tribute to what is known by most people when they think of the original symbiote, but also touches on things like other hosts of Venom, the Superior Venom story during Dan Slott’s Superior Spider-Man story line, Mania, and it even features Agent Venom’s machine gun as a feature you can activate. Other attention to detail grabbing tables are found in Civil War, where you can influence either the Pro or Anti-registration sides of the argument and being able to select the Avenger of your choice via a neat design on a pinball in the table inspired by Marvel’s The Avengers.
As this is digital pinball, Zen was also able to do things that standalone tables could never do and they do so with great effect. Playing long enough in the Doctor Strange table and you’ll see things like the Sorcerer Supreme getting his body taken over by the dread Dormammu; Blade, being a vampire hunter and all, sees the table inspired by that character transition from day-to-night with a giant vampire god emerge in the top-left corner and activating the right parts of the Iron Man content will see the red-and-gold suit form over Tony Stark who then battles with the Mandarin and Whiplash. What’s also great about how Zen takes advantage of digital pinball as that by playing well enough, players can activate a sub-table in every property. In World War Hulk you’ll move to a smaller table that’s inspired by the Hulk’s makeshift gladitorial arena he retrofitted from Madison Square Garden and Venom’s sub-table will require you to break Eddie Brock and Cletus Cassidy out of Ravencroft.
Though these tables are also available digitally to download, the advantage of investing into the physical Marvel Pinball: Epic Collection Vol. 1 other than its low price ($29.99 in the US/$39.99 in Canada*) is how clean and well presented the overall package is. Marvel Pinball takes up very little space on your consoles hard drive (around 600 or so MB on the PlayStation 4) so the second you put the disc in, you’re playing. Moving to and from the ten tables is also very easy thanks to a simple to navigate menu and is much more user-friendly than trying to dig into the digital store fronts of either the PS4 or Xbox One.
To share the Marvel Pinball experience with a friend, Zen Studios used methods that are both nostalgic to arcade goers yet also modern. If you only have one controller, you can pass it back and forth to compete for high scores in the same way you would “quarter up” in an arcade, and if you have a second controller you can play split-screen simultaneously as well. Should you want to compete on a global scale, each table supports a leader board where you can promote and boast your highest scores.
There are very few games that offer as much value as Marvel Pinball: Epic Collection Vol. 1 at such a low-cost. Whether you want to compete to become the top score holder in Doctor Strange or just have a little bit of time to kill, there’s something for about every player to enjoy with the ten featured tables in what is hopefully only the first Epic Collection. Zen Studios not only shows a clear passion for the game of pinball, but for the Marvel tables they selectively chose to craft and fans of either or both could easily spend hours bask in the sights and sounds of pinball like they did in the heyday of the medium. Treat yourself, or surprise a loved one, whichever you slice it, Marvel Pinball: Epic Collection Vol.1 easily earns a place in anyone’s collection.
*The price of Marvel Pinball: Epic Collection Vol 1. is $29.99 for both platforms (PS4/Xbox One) at Gamestop in the US, however in Canada at EB Games, the only mass market retailer that carries the game, the PS4 version is inexplicably $10 more on the PS4.