Having already produced one of the strongest pinball games on the 3DS and also one of the strongest download games in general, Zen Studios take their established formula and game engine from Zen Pinball 3D, give it a lick of paint from the comic book company Marvel and re-package it for the 3DS. But is it a hero or a villain of a game?
For those of you who have downloaded and played Zen’s first 3DS pinball game, then there’s not much difference in what is offered here aside from the licenced branding. You get four tables once more, rendered in some of the most impressive 3D on Nintendo’s handheld with various missions to undertake and scores to beat.
Whereas the earlier game had four general themes, here we have The Invincible Iron Man, Fantastic Four, Captain America and Blade, four well known comic books from Marvel’s canon though not the four I’d necessarily choose. Though these four are popular primarily through their films – two in particular featured in The Avengers Assemble – Spider-man would seem a shoe-in for the game, and a Hulk-based table would be full of invention over the aging Blade, but perhaps rights have been involved. That said, the Blade table is my favourite of the four, though because of the layout and mission elements rather than the vampiric character.
The gameplay is fairly straightforward to get into. The A button launches the pinball and the shoulder buttons control the flippers. You can play in single player mode or hot-seat mode, where you can take turns in playing with up to three or four friends. There are a handful of options to tweak from the audio, to arcade style effects or slow-down, to the credits and checking out how you compare with online scoreboards, but that’s as far as the internet use of this game stretches. You can also check out the four awards you can unlock per table, which vary in difficulty as I unlocked two on the ‘Blade’ board in one game but not many in the others after many, many games of trying. There are also lots of statistics to immerse yourself in, if that’s your bag.
The boards themselves, like the non-Marvel game, look glorious with great depth shown using the 3D slider, but they’re still fine to play in your standard 2D. Each table is decorated in the colours of the characters with 3D models of heroes and villains standing, walking and flexing on the grids. The tables are well detailed with nice effects, such as Whiplash brandishing his whips on the Iron Man table, next to a centre piece of Tony Stark’s glowing chest reactor. It’s a shame this eye candy isn’t reflected in the sound effects which are repetitive and limited on some of the tables and detract from the feel which is otherwise well put together musically and visually over the four tables.
Whereas the top screen is devoted to a full overview of the table – with the view changeable using the X button – the bottom screen is home to a mock-up LCD screen showcasing mission details which help you score bonus points, and also adds to the feel of a retro, physical pinball table. However, going hand in hand with that, it can at times be a distraction or you just don’t have time to look at the screen when you’re too busy watching the top.
As with all pinball games, the aim is to get as high a score as possible by hitting bumpers, objects and lit-up areas, whilst also completing missions. In this game the first two tables – based around Iron Man and Fantastic Four – are a little blank in the gameplay, with the Captain America and Blade tables being the more interesting to play with extra areas for your pinball to visit to score extra points. Between plays of this Marvel version I looked back at the original and, I feel, there are less exciting areas to encounter in this new version, but there are still elements of missions and areas to get big scores from.
Marvell Pinball is an enjoyable, beautifully designed pinball game that takes the winning formula of the original 3DS download that really powers this game, just with a comic fanboy-pleasing makeover. If you already own Zen Pinball 3D then I’d suggest you stick with that as it has all the positives of this game but with more exciting tables. But, if you enjoy your Marvel branding, this is a must have for fans. Both games do share their weaknesses – unsurprising as they are the same game with different paint-jobs – in that four tables is a small amount and the missions and way of scoring big points can be confusing for newbies – but a table guide, accessible from the menu, showing where points can be earned does help – but as cheap downloadable games you get plenty of bang for your buck.
If you’re a fan of pinball you can’t go wrong with either game but your decision will be based on just how big a comic book fan you are. There’s plenty of lifespan in the game if you want to continue beating your high scores – even with just four tables – and graphically and musically the game excels, even if the sound effects let the game down alongside the lack of internet play, which could have been worked on in the period since the original was released.
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