Marvel Pinball: Avenger’s Chronicles review for XBLA, PSN

Platform: XBLA
Also On: PSN
Publisher: Zen Studios
Developer: Zen Studios
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: Leaderboards

Zen Studios really knows how to create pinball games for the virtual world.  These guys take ideas, and from scratch develop machines that never ?really? existed, creating a true to life experience, and then for the 21st Century have taken it to places that actual machines could never think of going. This includes animated characters who are not only on the side lines commentating, but actually jumping into the machine and becoming part of the game itself.  What?s more none of it ever seems showy or forced and leaving every pinball gamer that experiences one or more of their creations completely satisfied.

Not only are they masters of their craft, but their timing is impeccable too, as now, coinciding with the hoopla surrounding the new Avengers picture that has promotions from Under-roos to drink cups at your local fast food pig-out, Zen Studios has created 4 new tables to fit the Avengers model called Avenger?s Chronicles, and it is one spectacular set of machines that set the bar even higher for this team of pinball wizards.

The first of the 4 new tables is aptly titled, The Avengers, and is easily the hardest to score of the bunch, but it?s the visual flare and ability to incorporate all the Avengers in one shiny table that makes this a hit.  First off you begin by choosing your Avenger (Black Widow, Capt. America, Thor, Hawkeye, Iron Man, and The Hulk) to utilize, this is done by choosing one of 6 colored balls that have special markings and insignias that pertain to each individual character, a blue ball with a star for Capt. America, a yellow and red ball that resembles Iron Man?s armor for Iron Man, etc.

It?s not just a flashy exception to a silver nostalgic ball either as each character has their own unique Mission Bonus to help you rack up those tough to get points.  Black Widow opens up a Quinjet mini game, Capt. America focuses on team work and gathering Avengers through ball lock to help defeat Loki, Hawkeye is all about the big bonus skill shots, Hulk smashes his way through targets, bumpers, and slingshots, Iron Man manipulates circuit boards to increase multipliers and gain S.H.I.E.L.D targets for high scores, and Thor grants the power of storms to give him double points for 30 seconds and controls the Mjolnir spinner to boost scores as well.

Each team member takes time to master their abilities, but once you get into their particular rhythms, expect that score to climb high.  Other scoring extras include S.H.I.E.L.D HQ sink holes, Trick Arrow kickbacks, character specific lanes that will unlock each character?s special mode, while Loki stands front and center and has unique ways of unlocking his battles for each character.  Of course if you are honed enough in your pinball craft, you can spell ASSEMBLE to reach the game?s pinnacle point of a 4 ball wizard mode that will have you hitting super jackpots, swapping character pallets with the aid of S.H.I.E.L.D HQ, and racking up as many points you can muster in this all or nothing mode till only one ball remains.  The table is small, but there is so much crammed into it that finding the game?s little intricacies is the biggest and best challenge that will appeal to mainly hardcore pinball fanatics.

Fear Itself is a table that brings out the metal head of my teenage years with its dark and sinister appearance and Goth/metal soundtrack.  Not since Blade have I seen a table that appeals to the horror fan within me and for a comic series that isn?t what you?d call mainstream, I?m happy this one is part of the collection to appease the hardcore comic fans.  This dark Asgardian tale finds ways to bring not only Thor, but other Avengers along for the ride as you strive to beat the vanguard of the Serpent and summon the Worthy and defeat each of them one by one.  This game does nothing spectacular to draw the skilled veteran in, but the game?s art work, characters, and dark charm make this the sleeper hit of the bunch.  The casual gamer will find the unusual number of scoring and multi-ball modes appealing to increase their score to heights they many never reach numerically in any of the other tables offered.

The Infinity Gauntlet has been around for quite some time featuring Warlock and Silver Surfer mainly, but the Avengers of course find their way into this tale as well.  This table is without a doubt the flashiest of the bunch offering alternate boards, and even alternate play views including playing upside down in the alternate reality.  Thanos uses the powers of the gems to alter game play in this table with unique modes for each of the gems including reality, power, space, soul, and mind gems that will all test your ability. Also, if you embark on the biggest mode called Warlock?s Frenzy, which contains a 120 second, 4 ball throw down for ultimate point totals, you?ll need to unlock each gem and each mode that comes with them.  Infinity Gauntlet definitely ends up being an extremely tough challenge, especially when it comes to seeing everything the table has to offer.

Lastly, in World War Hulk, this table provides a little bit of everything from multi-ball challenges, ramp combos, skill shots, mini missions, and multipliers that will challenge everyone, but still offer enough scoring opportunities as to not put off the casual fans.  What?s more you?ll get appearances from Iron Man, Wolverine, and even Doctor Strange (who is due for a movie if you ask me) that will add to the value in this futuristic and angry story featuring the Hulk.  While the table offers enough to be fun, it just isn?t what I would call addicting and quite frankly feels weak compared to the rest of the set, and this is sad considering the Hulk is such an icon in the comic universe.  This is not to say the table is bad or unplayable, but of the 4 offered, it?s the one that I found lacking for multiple reasons.

All in all, for ten bucks you have 4 new tables to add to your already extensive collection of Zen Studio?s created tables, featuring at least three stellar entries in an already excellent collection.  For me, I couldn?t think of a better way to waste the days away.  This collection not only offers 4 new and engaging tables, but a couple are so good that they reinvent the way you?ll play the game of pinball going forward.  Pinball and comic fans unite and assemble with this Avengers collection of pinball tables, it?s all you could want and so much more for a long lasting and rewarding pinball experience.

Grade: A+