Game Review: Captain America DLC Table for Marvel Pinball/Pinball FX2.
Release: June 28th (PS3), June 29th (Xbox 360)
Developer: Zen Studios
Available Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone
Captain America is the newest superhero to join the collection in Marvel Pinball for the PS3 (and Pinball FX2 for the Xbox 360). The table is inspired by Ed Brubaker’s Captain America 65th Anniversary Special (from 2006) and is World War II themed. The table itself sits in the rear of a cargo plane, which you can see by looking at the edges of your screen, which is just a finishing touch on the excellent art style. Barbed wire and tank traps line the borders of the table, and bomb shells and rifle shots will erupt from the table as you hit the bumpers and kickers. Authentic looking art of Captain America and the Howlers lies on the background of the playfield, and gives it a very classic look. Its design is simply fantastic, but that’s no surprise: Zen Studios always nails the visuals and sounds on their tables, and this newest DLC is no exception.
Captain America stands proudly at the rear of the table, wrapped head to toe in the American flag, and bearing his signature shield. As you play, Captain America will pose, flex, and do other typical superhero actions, but once you begin the game missions he will really get active. In most of the missions, Captain America will get personally involved, acting out what your ball is doing on the playfield. For instance in one mission, called Adhesive X, where you send your ball through the main ramps to destroy canisters of Zemo’s newest creation, Captain America will throw his shield and shatter the canisters after each successful ramp shot.
Captain America’s foes also make appearances on the playfield. The Red Skull sits in the top right and paces, awaiting his fight with Captain America in the mission called “Sparring,” where you hit certain targets to make the two duke it out. Zemo will also walk onto the table from the bottom right occasionally, and will also show up while you are doing missions to defeat him. The Sleeper will become activated when you disturb the Cosmic Cube too much, and try to pummel Cap to the ground.
Like the other Marvel Pinball tables, these 3D characters make a very large appearance on the table, and interact with most of the missions. With the other tables in Marvel Pinball, I often found the characters distracting and out of place, however this time I must congratulate Zen. They have done a much better job integrating the characters and giving them more subtle animations, so it doesn’t look like midgets are dancing around the table while you are trying to play. There are also major improvements in the character models, which in previous Marvel Pinball tables, looked closer to something you would see in a PS2 title and not a PS3 one. Captain America and his foes look vastly better and have smooth animations to back up the detailed models.
The table contains 10 missions containing the standard pinball objectives; hit these targets, shoot this ramp, etc. However Zen Studios always impresses with a few unique touches. When Zemo deploys his Adhesive X, green goop is sprayed onto certain parts of the table and will slow your ball if you roll through it; and once you destroy the canisters in that area the goop will disappear.
However the best feature of this table is the Cosmic Cube. Sitting next to Captain America is his version of the magic genie, the Cosmic Cube. If you hit the barriers shielding it, you can activate the cube and it will grant Cap a “wish” and help you out. If you are in the middle of a mission, you can hit the cube and it will teleport the ball to a certain location on the field and complete an objective automatically. It is very useful when you are having trouble with a certain mission and need a freebie. I really love the addition of this feature because it takes advantage of the fact that you are playing a pinball videogame. On a real table it would be impossible, but this is one of the unique advantages of a videogame, and is an innovation you rarely see in the pinball genre – which usually just tries to emulate the classic experience as closely as possible.
But I think there is a reason you get a helping hand on this table – it is damn hard! You have to finish the missions to move on (you cant just start them like on the Sorcerer’s Lair table) and they are pretty strictly timed. Some modes place the targets in pretty obscure places, which even after repeated attempts still proved fairly hard to hit. It is the same problems that you have on any pinball table, and it causes you to lose interest because it feels like you are simply flicking a ball around randomly and not actually playing a game. I’m disappointed that Zen doesn’t bring their innovation a little farther and really capitalize on the possibilities of videogames.
For example, let’s take the Adhesive X mission that I mentioned earlier , which requires you to make six ramp shots in a set amount of time – and to even get to that point you had to hit a series of targets and ramps to start the mission. So the player is playing against the clock, against the out-lanes, and against the outhole. Running out of time or losing the ball causes you to fail and you have to start over, so you have to complete six successful shots but are not even allowed one mistake. I believe for many players this is just too difficult, especially when its not just one mission you have to complete but nine missions if you want to finish the table.
It would be great to see some sort of easy mode where the equivalent of pinball safety lanes are put up, preventing the ball from falling into the outhole, or giving very generous time bonuses as you play so you don’t have to worry about lining shots up so quickly. In the operators menu you can set the game to “Easy” and “Extra Easy” but that just gives you a few additional balls and seconds on the clock. I would bet most players don’t ever see the end missions on most tables, and it would be nice to be given the chance to have safety wheels just for the fun of it.
It’s obvious that this table is targeted to the hardcore fans of Zen Studio’s titles, and if you don’t get too frustrated by losing more often than you would like to, then I really recommend this table. It’s the best Marvel Pinball table yet, and is one of the prettiest tables to date, blending modern effects with the classic Captain America look. For $2.99/240msp it will be available for Marvel Pinball tomorrow, June 28th for the PlayStation 3, and June 29th for Pinball FX2 on Xbox 360.
+ Amazing art design and sound
+ Unique features
– A bit hard for my taste
8 out of 10