Review

Review: Avengers Chronicles for Pinball FX2

We love our pinball here at Neowin, and nobody does the game better on a console than our friends over at Zen Studios. Today they’ve released a new four-pack of tables that relate to the recently released Joss Whedon blockbuster movie, The Avengers. How do these tables hold up and how do they compare to the other tables available on the Pinball FX2 platform?

Avengers

The first table we tried was the collection’s namesake: Avengers. The table looks great with 3D renderings of Thor, Iron Man, and the antagonist Loki, while the table itself has pictures of Nick Fury, Hawkeye, Black Widow and Captain America. Loki stands in the middle and is where various missions are started, while there are ramps on either side of him, each related to one of the six Avengers.

In order to simulate the disparate characters that make up the team, the player gets to select which Avenger they want to play by selecting a ball that corresponds with the superhero. For example, the green ball represents the Hulk while Captain America’s ball looks like his classic red, white, and blue shield. At first I thought this was going to be a gimmick and not add much to the gameplay, but I quickly learned that the different balls are tied to different powers. For example, Hulk is straight forward: Simply hit the tiles below Loki and you’ll hear Hulk SMASH as your points rack up. Other characters, like Captain America, keep the ball save light active longer, and you gain bonus points for hitting the ramp that relates to the hero you choose.

The game itself is difficult, but a lot of fun. The ball can start moving very quickly and it takes a lot of skill to hit the targets and ramps although as with any pinball game, this will get easier with practice. Although we were able to unlock several missions, we were unable to complete any of them – in stark contrast to some of the previous tables that have been released such as Epic Quest and Sorcerer’s Lair. That said, the challenge definitely keeps the game interesting and we appreciate not scoring 100M points in our first few playthroughs. The only negative is that the playfield is rather sparse at the bottom and, similar to Iron Man, the main goal is to hit a lot of ramps, something that doesn't appeal to everyone.

Overall, the Avengers table is a lot of fun and is definitely the best of the bunch. If you’re a fan of Marvel, superheroes, or the Avengers movie, then you’ll love this table.

Fear Itself

When I first saw the table, I had no idea what it was. Since I’m only a minor comic book fan, I had never heard of this crossover storyline that was released in 2011. Apparently it focuses on Thor and Captain America and this is accurately portrayed in the table: The bottom bumpers are a broken Captain America shield and the Norse mythology is actively referenced.

The graphics on this table also look amazing as the playfield is very detailed and the atmosphere is exciting. The table looks different than most other regular pinball tables. Instead of it being a rectangle, the bottom is a semi-circle and hitting certain targets pushes the ball quickly through the bottom section (that’s aptly named, “Fear Itself”) and back up into the play area. There’s a spring-mounted spinner on the left of the table that wobbles when hit and is a big piece of the gameplay.

Unlike traditional tables, this one seems to frequently violate the laws of physics. As mentioned previously, the way the ball swoops around the playfield below the flippers is strange and some missions have a ball that sits in the middle of the table. This adds some interesting play capabilities, but we didn’t feel like it was implemented very well. Combined with the oddly shaped table, and we just weren’t drawn to this table like we are with some others. It’s ok to play, but we feel that there are far better choices, even within this pack alone.

Infinity Gauntlet

The third table we explored was another one that we had never heard of in the past: Infinity Gauntlet. According to Wikipedia, this was a six-issue series written back in 1991. For this table, the enemy is Thanos, and he has mounted the six Infinity Gems into his glove and killed half of the human population with the snap of his fingers, something that is frequently referenced with the dialog during gameplay.

Missions are related to the six different gems - Time, Space, Mind, Soul, Reality, and Power - and each of them does weird things to the board. For example, Reality flips the board upside down so that the ball falls up towards the flippers. It's a bit disorientating, but that's the point as you're fighting, in essence, a god. This is also the first table I've noticed that breaks the fourth wall as a character in the game tells the player to help save everyone.

The table pays homage to the look of the original comics, which is in stark contrast to the slick polished look of the other tables in this set. At first I didn't like the retro look as it felt out of place, but my opinion changed once I saw why they picked that style. The audio on the table is also not up to the standards of the other tables in the Avengers pack and it sounds like a bunch of dolphins are making noises when you hit one of the ramps, something that gets annoying pretty quickly.

This was, by far, my least favorite table in the pack and actually one of my least favorite tables that Zen Studios has released. The missions are somewhat interesting, but overall it's lacking the fun of other tables.

World War Hulk

Rounding out the Avengers Chronicles collection is a table called World War Hulk. Taking place after Hulk's return to Earth after being banished to another planet by the other superheroes, his mission is simple: destroy everyone and everything. Your job is to try and stop him, something that proves to be a very difficult task.


 

This table, like the Avengers table, consists of a variety of different ramps that span across the entire table. While it’s difficult to determine exactly how to start most of the missions (we were only able to unlock the battle between Hulk and Wolverine during our limited gameplay), the action is still very fast and extremely fun.

There’s a target at the top-middle of the table that you hit five times to spell out ARENA, and hitting it a sixth time pulls the ball into a basketball court where you have to  hit various ramps to win. Another mission has Hulk giving you 24 hours to rescue as many civilians as you can before he destroys the city. Hitting the ramps and targets loads them up into trucks and helps them make their escape.

Overall we really enjoyed this table. The graphics are top notch, the gameplay is fast and exciting, and the voice acting is decent, although we would’ve preferred to see more targets and less ramps.

Conclusion

So the question remains: Is this pack worth 800 MS points (or $10)? Two of the tables, Avengers and World War Hulk, are definitely excellent and worthy of any collection. Unfortunately, we didn’t really enjoy Infinity Gauntlet or Fear Itself. Part of it might be that we had no familiarity with the concept and therefore fans of these crossovers may enjoy them more.

We’d definitely rank this Marvel pack as less impressive than the original, so if you’re new to Pinball FX2, pick up the original four pack (Spider-Man, Blade, Iron Man, and Wolverine). If you already have the original, this pack is a toss-up compared to the Vengeance and Virtue pack. In our opinion, the Avengers and World War Hulk tables are both better than anything in the V&V pack, but Infinity Guantlet and Fear Itself are far below.

Giving an overall rating for this pack is difficult. If we had to rate the tables individually, we'd give Avengers a 9 and World War Hulk an 8, but we'd give Infinity Gauntlet and Fear Itself a 4. So it comes down to whether you think paying 800 MS points ($10) for two great tables is a worthwhile investment or if you’d rather have four decent-to-good tables for the same price from the Vengeance and Virtue pack. It's unfortunate that you can't purchase the tables individually since it's a no-brainer to buy the Avengers and Hulk tables.

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