There's not a clunker in this 10-dollar download.
Fans of videogame pinball know that Hungarian developer Zen Studios has been quietly stockpiling an impressive list of stone-cold awesome tables as part of the Zen Pinball series. Now that Zen has hooked up with Marvel Comics to unleash Marvel Pinball, a four-pack of new tables, they've gone from awesome to superheroic.
It all starts with the smart way Zen has embraced each hero's universe by sprinkling each table with cool, character-specific features. The Spider-Man table has a tangled web of ramps running up either side of the table and a ramp shaped like the Green Goblin's hat. The Wolverine table has bumpers that look like Sentinel heads and a feature that lets you use Wolvie's mutant healing powers to regenerate a lost ball -- assuming you're fast enough to hit the required targets, that is. The Blade table cycles through day and night, with Dracula and Deacon Frost popping up when the sun goes down.
All the tables have huge arrays of missions to tackle -- but the trick is trying to keep your eye on the chaos and figure out what you need to hit next.
Each table's little bells and whistles are great, and the life-size comic-book villains hovering on the edges of the tables are simply eye-popping. In some of Zen's previous licensed tables (like the one devoted to Ninja Gaiden Sigma II), characters on the table might slash a katana when the player smacked a target or a ramp. In Marvel Pinball, the villains move around and interact with the board -- the Green Goblin hops on his goblin glider and tries to obscure your view of the pumpkin-bomb ball he's just unleashed at your flippers, and Doc Ock strolls down the center of the table, nabbing your ball with his tentacles and dropping it into a ramp. Over on the Iron Man table, Whiplash is only too happy to use his powers to flick your ball away from targets and ramps.
There's not a clunker in this 10-dollar download, although I could have wished for a little more from the Iron Man table, which lacks the whoa! factor, the funky ramp structure and mini-tables found on the other three. Sorry, Tony Stark -- maybe you'll get a better shake on an Avengers table.
Speaking of which, Zen Studios is running an online poll for fans to pick the next downloadable Marvel table -- Captain America, Fantastic Four, Hulk or Ghost Rider. Uh, sorry, guys, not to diss your friendly exercise in democracy, but we need to have them all.