Developer: Zen Studios
Publisher: Nighthawk Interactive
Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4
When I was growing up during childhood, every Friday evening was our family’s special time to do something fun. Mom and dad would pick us up from school, take us to get dinner in the mall, swing by KB Toys a bit, then stop by Pocket Change, our mall’s arcade. It was there, as a youngster with a fresh slice greasy Sbarro in my belly, that I first experienced the likes of Street Fighter, Ridge Racer, and ski ball, but it was my father’s love for the paddles and bumpers that drew me in. Now, Zen Studios has put that whole experience together with 10 Marvel-themed tables (Sbarro optional).
Spiritual Content: None
Violence: Some cartoon violence is implied, but the game is really just pinball.
Language/Crude Humor: There is nothing crude or crass, but there is some mild name-calling (especially from our friendly neighborhood web-slinger), but nothing outside of a Saturday morning cartoon. Per the ESRB, the word “H*LL* appears on some of the stages, though you’d have to be really paying attention to the stage design to notice it.
Sexual Themes: There’s a scene of Peter Parker and Mary Jane kissing when you can get the ball to his home.
Positive Themes: Marvel-themed pinball fun.
Zen Studios have been putting out their lauded pinball games for just under a decade at this point. With the meteoric rise of the Marvel cinematic universe since Iron Man hit theaters in 2008 and the recent release of the Doctor Strange film, now seems like the perfect time to drop their Marvel Pinball collection, but how does it stack up?
As I’ve mentioned, prior to firing up Marvel Pinball: Epic Collection Vol 1, I hadn’t played a pinball video game in years. Though I poured hours into Full Tilt! Pinball on Windows and Midnight Magic on the Atari 2600, not much has really released in the last few years that’s drawn my attention. Sadly, the world of pinball seems to be in its twilight, but there are still enthusiasts out there that keep the dream alive. I’m happy to report that Zen Studios latest collection is a great time for anyone that’s a fan of pinball or just the Marvel universe in general.
First, let’s talk about what all is in the collection. Most of the company’s major properties are represented here. There are tables for Ant-Man, Venom, Doctor Strange, Iron Man, Spider-Man, and yes, even Blade (which I didn’t even realize was a Marvel property until this game!). There are even tables built on The Avengers and Marvel’s Civil War!
Each table is unique, with totally different lane and bumper layouts. What’s even more impressive, though, is that each table features the represented series’ iconic heroes and villains, including voice acting and music pertinent to the series. It does an incredible job getting fans into each table while conjuring a little nostalgia. They look great and the thematic material feels completely on-point.
With pinball, often the devil is in the details. To that effect, Zen Studios has hit it out of the park. You can shrink on the Ant-Man table, take on Doc Oc and the Hobgoblin on the Spider-Man table, and the Avengers table even lets you pick the ball of whichever hero you want to play as. Yep, you can take on Loki with a green Hulk ball, a red Iron Man ball, or one designed for any of the others Avengers. It’s wonderfully engrossing and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
To speak to the gameplay beyond thematic content, the game feels spot on. Zen Studios has their pinball physics figured out perfectly. Whether you’re giving a quick flip, holding the ball for more control, or bumping the table for some extra action, everything feels fantastic. They even replicated the feeling of bumpers racking up points with the rumble of the controller. While some of the additional flourishes they’ve added clearly couldn’t be done on a real table (Iron Man taking to the sky, etc), I feel like every one of these tables could actually exist in an arcade…and I desperately want them to.
As with pinball anywhere, your score is ultimately the goal. That’s no different here, but now you can post your high scores to online leaderboards. There’s a separate leaderboard for each table, and I can tell you the community is clearly active. Early on, I earned the high scores three separate tables: Doctor Strange, Venom, and Iron Man (I have screenshots to prove it!). Within 24 hours, not only was I knocked off the top score table, but my record was often obliterated by 3-4 times my score. It keeps everything competitive, giving players a constant goal to chase for and, in this case, I’m still enjoying the chase after several days with the game. You can even play split-screen or hotseat to get your buddies involved.
On top of individual table scores, there’s also a “Hero Score,” which is an aggregate of your score across all 10 tables. You can compare this worldwide too. Each table also features a couple unique achievements to unlock. The game gives players loads of replay value and variety that are sure to keep pinheads around the world chasing the pinball wizards out there.
Overall, I’m pleasantly surprised and impressed with Marvel Pinball: Epic Collection Vol 1. There’s an excellent variety to the collection to keep fans engaged. The game’s pinball physics are on-point. The visuals make you feel like you’re consuming part of the Marvel universe – whether comic, cartoon, or film – and the game’s soundtrack and sound effects immerse you further into both worlds. When you add cooperative play and online leaderboards for each table, you’ve got an addicting collection fans will come back to again and again. With its budget price point, Marvel Pinball: Epic Collection Vol 1 feels like a no-brainer for any pinball or Marvel fan out there.
Physical review copy of Marvel Pinball: Epic Collection Vol 1 provided by Wonacott Communications
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The Bottom Line
Marvel Pinball: Epic Collection Vol 1 is a fantastic pinball collection at a reasonable price. Every table is a blast from the themed content to all the little flourishes craftily designed into each table. The game looks and sounds excellent, is family-friendly, and you can play split-screen or hotseat with a friend! Fans of pinball or Marvel properties should definitely consider picking this one up.