Judging the quality of a pinball table relies quite a bit on preference: what features do you enjoy the most? We like ramps. There’s just something about launching a ball up a sweeping chute and watching it zoom down along swirling tracks that satisfies some reptilian part of our brains. As such, our enjoyment of a pinball table depends on the quantity and quality of the ramps, to some extent. We don’t base our assessment on ramps alone, as that would be silly. No, the main quality of play that is most important to us is flow. Can you get a proper groove going on a particular table?
Above: Like a network of webs, Spider-man's ramps and tracks twist and turn all over the table
Out of the four tables provided in the Marvel Pinball pack for Pinball FX 2 (a game we love), Spider-man is the best. Iron Man, Blade, and Wolverine all come in way below the loveliness of Spider-man’s table design. In fact, we’re a bit disappointed with the designs of the other three tables, even in comparison with the core tables that come with Pinball FX 2. We just had a lot of trouble getting the groove going.
Above: Blade shifts from day to night, which is a cool idea, but presents visibility problems in practice
Still, all of the tables are wonderful exercises in appreciative aesthetics: the designers clearly did their research on the comics. Spider-man faces off against the Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, and Mysterio, and amazingly battling with each villain actually fits with their themes. The Green Goblin flies over the table and drops “bombs” – orange balls that behave like normal balls but will explode eventually. Mysterio, once “attacked,” teleports around the table and taunts you to find him. And Doc Ock emerges from the top of the table, stalking menacingly toward you and actually snatching the ball with his arms and tossing it around the table.
Iron man fights against the Mandarin and Whiplash, although these battles are not so inspired, simply requiring certain ramps to be hit. Blade has an especially cool (on paper) mechanic where it turns to night time and the table darkens so the vampires can come out. The problem, though, is that it makes things less visible and just kind of annoys. And Wolverine faces of with Sabertooth and has cool features like the “Weapon X tank.”
Above: We also dig the Sentinel head bumpers
The three tables other than Spider-man all have great art styles and neat little details, but they just don’t flow as well (that, or the flow is much harder to feel out). We spent a lot of time bumping off uninteresting parts of the table and getting a lot of cheap ball losses – especially annoying is the Wolverine table, where a main feature, the fight against Sabertooth, can drop the ball right between your flippers – essentially punishing you for doing the right thing. Blade’s table suffers from visibility problems on top of the night-time gimmick: the secondary flipper is obscured by a character’s gun, making its use frustrating, and objects emerge from the table in cool ways but blend too much with the art and so are hard to see.
Above: Iron Man certainly gets the color scheme right. It actually doesn't look this jumbled in play, and is the second best table
We must stress that none of these tables are bad. They all provided some very cool moments for us, and they're certainly better than the tables from the first Pinball FX. For 800 points, this pack is still probably worth it to Pinball FX 2 junkies. The Spider-man table alone is amazing, and it’s possible that with time the clunkiness of the other tables can be worked through out of sheer perseverance. Or, some players may find these tables to be sublime – they just didn’t work so well for us in comparison to the core FX 2 tables. But damn, Spider-man really sweetens the package.
Dec 7, 2010