Review

Review: Marvel Pinball: Civil War

Zen Studios has been releasing high-quality pinball tables on multiple systems for quite awhile now, and we’ve had the privilege to play a lot of them. While they are all generally very fun to play, the ones based on the Marvel universe are usually the best. Not only are these titles more difficult than some of the generic tables like Epic Quest and Sorcerer’s Lair, they’re also much grittier.

The latest entry in the Pinball FX2 stable is called Civil War and is taken from a 2006/2007 Marvel comic crossover that spanned seven issues.  The premise is that the United States government wants to force mutants to register themselves in a database; Captain America opposes this plan, saying heroes need freedom, whereas Iron Man believes that mutants should register to help keep people (and the mutants themselves) safe. The player gets to choose which side to play for.

The start of the game is unique. The player gets the choice of whether to start with the massacre at Stamford (the start of the mutant registration) or not. If you choose to play this part, two balls are thrown onto the table with the goal to rescue people from the attack. Once one ball drains, the mode is over. The twist is that the highest score you’ve received from this mode is automatically added to your base score. So if you score three million points, you’ll always start with at least three million points.

After this, you can listen to Iron Man and Captain America discuss their thoughts on the upcoming superhero division and choose your side. While the 3D models of the heroes looks great, for some reason Zen Studios decided to not animate Captain America’s mouth, making his speech look awkward. While it doesn’t impact game play, we were disappointed since Zen Studios usually has great attention to detail.

The goal of the game is to convert the eight undecided mutants (Spider-Man, Human Torch, and others) to your side by hitting various ramps and targets within a set amount of time. If you fail the mission, however, the mutant joins your opponent’s side. This is important when you begin a fight, because more allies gives you more time and more targets to hit to succeed in your mission, whereas if you have few allies, you have fewer targets and less time.

Game play, as expected, is fast and furious. Unlike some other tables, this one really can’t be won by mindlessly hitting the ball around the table. Each shot needs to be carefully aimed and timed or you will find all of the superheroes taking your opponent’s side. Hearing Spider-Man announce his real name is Peter Parker as he joined Iron Man’s side was especially heart breaking, as are announcements throughout the game that various mutants have killed other mutants, all because of your lack of skill.

It also takes time to get used to where the ball moves on the table. For example, the alleys on the side of the flippers aren’t used when the ball hits the ramp, unlike most traditional tables. Instead, the ball comes out just past the bumper, towards the flippers themselves. In addition, the flippers seem like they’re spaced further apart than on other tables, making ball drains more common and making it more difficult to know which flipper to use when the ball is hurtling towards the bottom. In our opinion, these are positives of the table – the game is challenging but not in a frustrating way. It’s clear that it will take many hours to even begin to master the nuances that Civil War offers.

The other highlight of this table is the soundtrack. The background music does a great job of providing a dark atmosphere, heightening the tension of the battle between heroes. In fact, Zen Studios is so happy with the music for this table that they’re letting everyone download the MP3s from their site, for free, and we highly recommend checking it out.

So do we recommend this table? If you couldn’t tell from the tone of the review, the answer is a resounding “Yes!” This table is on par with tables like The Avengers and World War Hulk and while it is definitely a difficult table, that doesn’t detract from the fun levels. Fans of Pinball FX2 or the Marvel universe will love this latest offering from Zen Studios.

The table is currently available on Xbox Live Arcade for 240 MS points. It's also available on PlayStation Network and the Mac Apple store for $2.99. It’s available on Google Play and iTunes for $1.99. The Windows 8 version is expected to be released in a few weeks.

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