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Marvel Pinball 3D (3DS eShop)

Game Review

Marvel Pinball 3D Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Jon Wahlgren

Dat Mahvel

Unlike video games based on movies or popular comics, licensed pinball tables have a reputation of being pretty great — The Twilight Zone, The Addams Family, Indiana Jones and Monster Bash are but a sampling of the rich properties that have yielded some of the most popular pins of the past 20 years. Marvel Comic's iconic characters are plenty mighty to carry a mean table, and Zen Studios does right by four of their books with Marvel Pinball 3D.

Zen has released about a dozen Marvel tables on consoles, and the four packaged with Marvel Pinball 3D include early tables Blade and The Invincible Iron Man as well as the more recent — and more complicated — Fantastic Four and Captain America. Each table has its own feel and personality, requiring a certain play style to excel: Blade's tight quarters are quick and brutal, contrasting Iron Man's deliberate navigation and powering up of copious ramps and Fantastic Four's and Captain America's larger, exploratory play fields.

There is an evident maturation in Zen's work, with the studio appearing far more daring and confident in newer tables Fantastic Four and Captain America than the somewhat more restrained feel to Iron Man and Blade. Despite the leap in scope there isn't a bad pin in the bunch, and as each one is packed with missions and handles like a charm it's easy to fall into the loop of "just one more game." With the promise of additional downloadable tables coming sometime this year, we already fear for our spare moments.

Unless you are a die-hard pinball purist, that is, because Zen's handling of physics is more of a "truthiness" simulation than "true." Whereas that might pose a problem for a digital adaptation of a real-world table, changing how the table may actually play in its new form, Zen has the privilege of crafting the design around how the ball handles. The pace is generally faster, with the ball able to seemingly stop on a dime; its "game-y" handling can certainly feel jarring for those used to getting their pinball on in a dimly lit location with a sticky floor. If you can get over that hump, though, Marvel Pinball 3D plays just as well as, if not better than, any other strictly digital pin. And since these tables are designed for the digital realm, Zen is able to craft obstacles and challenges that would be otherwise impossible, put to good use with friction-altering hazards, alternate areas and animated characters that help lend a certain charm and let the licenses flex their comically oversized muscles.

Playing in stereoscopic 3D really opens up the playing field to provide a sense of place and height, helping distinguish obstacles that otherwise appear flat in 2D. However, it's obvious that these tables were designed with larger monitors in mind than the 3DS has to offer, making it more difficult up front to decipher a table. It's near impossible to make out on your own what any of the flashy doodads mean or why they are flashing, although you can eventually figure it out with a lot of trial and error and judicious use of the handy table guides. Perhaps this issue will be less troublesome when playing on a 3DS XL, but the matter of crummy audio cues will remain.

Instead of the table helpfully blurting out how to advance or provide some kind of clue as to what you just did, characters just kind of say the same stuff over and over — it's great that Tony Stark is a wealthy playboy genius, but we'd prefer Jarvis or Pepper Potts tell us which ramp to hit rather than hear him extol how amazing he is over and over. Most mission information is displayed via the dot matrix display on the lower screen, which requires you to divert your eyes away from the action to decipher small text and animations in a short amount of time, typically between hitting a sink hole and the ball jetting out somewhere quickly. With enough practice you eventually can put the pieces together in your head, but it seems as if teaching the ins and outs of a table could be handled with more elegance.

Marvel Pinball 3D does enjoy the same online features as its portable predecessor, Zen Pinball 3D, providing worldwide leaderboards and deft use of your friend list. The lower screen notifies and eggs you on as you approach a friend's high score, and the signature individual Hero Score, a number based on your tally for all tables, and friend-cumulative Team Force give both a competitive and cooperative spirit to your flipping about. Even with a small number of people on your friends list playing, high score and Hero Score races can get heated and addictive. For true heads-up competition, you can slam your digital tokens on the proverbial glass by passing the 3DS back and forth in a local tournament mode.

Conclusion

Zen Studios has gone from strength to strength with its digital tables, and some of the ones included in Marvel Pinball 3D are quite possibly the pinnacle of their work so far. These four tables are dense enough to continually find something fun to do, and their sense of reward and sharp high score implementation overshadow our few quibbles about an uneven learning curve and occasionally annoying presentation. As comics legend Stan Lee would say: Excelsior!

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User Comments (30)

LordJumpMad

#1

LordJumpMad said:

Great review Jon, sounds like alot of fun.
I would have wish to see a Hulk Table, or X-Men, but I guess Blade would do.
Poor wesley snipes.

Karakato

#3

Karakato said:

Got both the Zen and Marvel tables and I definitely couldn't recommend both of them enough. But if you had to choose only one get Marvel. Even if its a dollar more, it has better challenge, a little more objectives and definitely more superhero power.

47drift

#4

47drift said:

Played the heck out of the Fantastic Four table on the XBLA version. Will probably snag this if it ever goes on sale!

XXITheWorld

#5

XXITheWorld said:

Same here, I played Zen Pinball 3d a lot so it's definitely really cool to have 4 new tables to play with. Zen tables seem to always seem fresh and I can never tire of them

Spoony_Tech

#6

Spoony_Tech said:

Great review Jon! Excellent game and well worth the price of admission. Iron Man does seem to be the weakest of the four. Hard to keep the ball in play. I would stay away from that one if I were you but I'm not you LOL! As for the rest. They are all exceptional tables however The Fantastic Four has a game breaking glitch that really sucks the life out of that table. You spend a good deal of your time hoping the glitch doesn't happen to your game. From what I hear Zen is aware of the problems but no one ever hears if they will fix the problems. From what I hear they have never fix any of the other systems problem tables either which doesn't give me much hope.

As for Blade?! It really has to be seen to be believed. Its the most awesome looking of the four IMO and does things that make it look so cool.

Capital American Is the best all around table and easiest to get a good score and get into!

Tethers

#7

Tethers said:

For me it seems that sometimes the ball/physic detection is a little bit worse in comparison to Zen Pinball 3D.

SilentHunter382

#8

SilentHunter382 said:

To me I never really liked licensed pinball tables. I prefer ones that they can just create there own without having a license attached to it.

Dbchuck

#11

Dbchuck said:

Blade is my favourite Table. But dont won't help wesley pay his taxes..lol.. Hope they will add Spidey. Would also love to see Zen do a Megaman. After they make some Ninty Tables...:-P

Shotgunryugan

#12

Shotgunryugan said:

I am definitely getting it now,i am a casual fan of marvel and i haven't played pinball in years so...I'll be purchasing this soon :D

bezerker99

#14

bezerker99 said:

Blade is the best table to play, imo. Fun game!!! This is the only game I have played where there seems to be an advantage to playing in 3D - (mainly cuz 2D looks really bland and it's hard to differentiate between all bumpers and stuff on the table). the 3D really makes everything "stand out" making for better gameplay decisions.

RR529

#15

RR529 said:

I'm loving the game! Yeah, some tables are better than others, but I think they've all got their own unique charms that make them all very fun.

SamuraiShyGuy

#18

SamuraiShyGuy said:

Nice review Jon. You really nailed the issues I had with Zen Pinball: the physics and the lack of detailed table explanations.

The best way I can explain Zen's physics is the ball feels like a ping pong ball when going up the table and it feels like it's made of uranium when it's going down the table.

jhuhn

#19

jhuhn said:

There are a few glitches in the game though, including the Negative Zone Ball Saved glitch in Fantastic Four.

MeWario

#22

MeWario said:

Love the game and love that it has online leader boards. I've never been much of a pin baller but this is very fun. Ironman table is a bit weak but the others are great! Honestly I'm not a huge fan of Blade but his table is a blast!!! 8/10 is right on the money

MeloMan

#25

MeloMan said:

Gonna get this, don't even care what the score was :) I love pinball, like Marvel, liked the first one from Zen, nuff said.

Extremist

#26

Extremist said:

Stan Lee is the biggest joke in comics ever! Stealing & living off the work of others and giving no credit! It makes me sick everytime someone praises him! Excelsior my a$$!

SonicTheBluBlur

#29

SonicTheBluBlur said:

@Game0ver_Gavin Neither am I, but I still bought and love the game (I love pinball in general). Speaking of which, a skating rink in my city has an actual Super Mario Bros. 3-based pinball table.

SonicTheBluBlur

#30

SonicTheBluBlur said:

@Dbchuck If they do make a video game-based pinball, I'd choose third-party tables from games like Sonic or Castlevania so I can play them on my PC without trying to duplicate them. Mario already has a real pinball machine based on Super Mario Bros. 3 at one of the roller rinks in my city, and that's good enough for me.

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