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The Marvel Chronicles

Say what you will about games based on movies, but it’s kind of odd that nobody made an Avengers game. Or, rather, made one for consoles that actually came out and didn’t end up on the scrap heap. But now we’ve actually got something better: a quartet of new tables for Zen Studio’s Pinball FX 2 on XBLA and the new Zen Pinball 2 on the PSN that not only celebrates the supergroup, but some of their biggest adventures as well.

As with all of the tables Zen have made for their pinball games, Chronicles employs the same realistic physics that have made the previous tables play like something you’d find in your local arcade…had your local arcade not closed thirty years ago and been replaced by a yoga studio, a coffee house, or a frozen yogurt place. But all four are far more elaborate than anything you would’ve found back in the day, as they have characters that move, and sometimes even fight.

Take the Avengers table, which is based on the new movie. Well, as much as a pinball table could be based on a film. Not only does it features both lines of dialog and in-game challenges loosely based on the movie’s plot, but it even has characters like Thor and The Hulk getting into a bit of a scuffle. Granted, for a table based on the film, it’s a little odd that none of the characters look or sound like their cinematic counterparts, though that could explain why this only costs $10 and not $6,145.50.

This is not to say that Zen skimped when it came to R&D for these tables. On the contrary, the Avengers table, like some of the others, actually does something different, something you couldn’t do with a real pinball machine: mess with the balls. Instead of some silver spheres, there are balls for the different Avengers, with each having their own in-game challenges and bonuses. They even gave The Hulk’s balls some added oomph, making them slam into the bumpers like a bowling ball shot out of a cannon.

What’s interesting is that the depth added with the multiple balls seems to be countermanded by the table, which has fewer ramps and bumpers than most. But it’s a deceptive simplicity, as the table reveals little secrets, even hidden areas, the more you play it.

The misleading simplicity and ball manipulation carries over into two of the other tables in this collection: The Infinity Gauntlet, which is based on 1991 series written by Jim Starlin and drawn by George Pérez and Ron Lim, and Fear Itself, which takes inspiration from last year’s multi-character crossover event. Both tables have fewer bumpers, ramps, and other knick-knacks that Zen’s usual tables but, like Avengers, have a depth that isn’t obvious from just looking at them. They also screw around with the ball, with Infinity occasionally messing with the physics in a way that fits its space setting, while Fear occasionally turns it into stone that can only take so much punishment.

The exception to the deceptive simplicity motif is the World War Hulk table, which is based on the 2007-2008 comic of the same name. It has a more elaborate ramp system that, coupled with a dominance of yellow and a small crane in the corner, makes it look like a construction site built by a former Hot Wheels fanatic. But this doesn’t take away from the fun of the table, it just makes it less like an onion you have to peel…by hitting it with a metal ball.

In the end, these new tables are as engaging as, well, all the other comic-inspired ones Zen has made the last couple of years. Which is not only good news for pinball fans, but also for those into the classic comics that inspired three of these tables. That it’s also the best movie-inspired game since 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine is, well, you can say whatever you want about that.

SUMMARY: Yet another great collection of pinball tables, Marvel Pinball: Avengers Chronicles is a delight for comic book fans and pinball lovers alike.

  • THE GOOD: Has the same great realistic physics as Zen’s other Marvel-inspired tables.
  • THE BAD: The Hulk in World War Hulk sounds like Nick Nolte from The Hulk movie.
  • THE UGLY: The inevitable humiliation that will occur when my pal Abbie wipes out all of my high scores with her first game.

SCORE: 8.5

Pinball FX 2: Marvel Pinball: Avengers Chronicles  is available on Xbox 360 (XBLA), PS3, and PS Vita (PSN). Version reviewed was on XBLA.