Pinball FX2’s transition from XBLA to the 3DS, in the form of Zen Pinball 3D, was quite a change given the smaller screen as well as the 3D properties to the gameplay and graphics. Most recently Zen Studios has added Marvel Pinball 3D, a collection of four new tables (to the handheld) to play on Nintendo’s portable console.
To expect the gameplay to be as a great as the highly rated Pinball FX 2 might be placing my expectations too high, but fortunately my expectations were met in January when I reviewed Zen Pinball 3D as Zen Studios continued their reign as the pinball masters. The gameplay mechanics and physics are what make Zen Studios pinball games so amazing, challenging, and ultimately exciting to play. The charm that one encounters while using a classic pinball machine translates well to this simulator and the love that the developers have put into their tables clearly comes out.
The four tables included in Marvel Pinball 3D are The Invincible Iron Man, Fantastic Four, Captain America and Blade. Each of these tables are from previous installments in the pinball series, which does make one wonder if there is much need to get the portable version, especially if you are already a fan and most likely an owner of the tables on consoles already. That being said, the one advantage that instantly crops to mind is the fact that you can take the title on the go and play it anywhere you please to pass the time, be it from the comfort of your own bed, to sitting on local transit, to sitting in a car or airplane while enduring a long trip. On top of this, unlike any of the other versions of Zen Pinball that you may have played, you get to play the game in 3D that adds a whole new dimension to the overall gameplay experience.
The Iron Man table will pit you against Mandarin, Ultimo and Whiplash. Of course you also have the chance to become Iron Man’s true identity, Tony Stark. The Blade table has the famed vampire facing Deacon Frost once again, with help from an old friend, Hannibal. Captain America battles Red Skull and Baron Zemo with the support of his close friend Bucky. Finally, the Fantastic Four duke it out with their perennial nemesis, Doctor Viktor Von Doom.
Each table offers their own unique themes, mini-games and gameplay moments that are identical to their Xbox LIVE Arcade counterparts; however, Marvel Pinball 3D comes up quite short due to the limitations of a smaller screen. The smaller screen affects gameplay in such ways as reading the movement of the pinball, seeing where you want the ball to go, and the overall ability to take the table in. In the end the tables work really well on the bigger screen but didn’t transition as well as I had hoped to the handheld as well as other tables.
Like all of the other tables in bigger console version of Pinball FX2 there is a great multiplayer portion of the game where you can take turns with three other players in Hotseat to compete for the local highscore. Along with competing locally for highscores you compete with those online as well for highscores, truly showing if you reign supreme in the pinball world.
Visually speaking, Marvel Pinball 3D is a great looking pinball game, especially given the relatively small screen that they had to work with. Like my review of Zen Pinball 3D, I will wish there was an option to turn off the 3D functionality so that both screens on the 3DS could be utilized to make an even larger viewing area. Regardless, like all of the Zen Studio’s pinball tables on home consoles, you are left with a great impression of the work that went into Marvel Pinball 3D. With all the lights, animations, realistic bumpers, ramps and the overall presence of the table, it’s hard not to be impressed that they were able to get these Marvel tables on the 3DS fairly intact from the home consoles. The 3D option really pulls you into the game visually too making everything jump out and come to life in greater detail. The tables and their surroundings have a greater depth to them with the 3D slider on it’s fairly impressive.
In regards to the sound, from the familiar dings, bings, and whistles, to the distinctive metallic travelling noise of the pinball and thump as the ball hits the various bumpers and targets, everything is accurately recreated here. To add further gusto, there is specifically themed music for each table too. All of the sound effects and music sound pretty good coming out of the 3DS speakers and I think most will be happy here.
Marvel Pinball 3D is a good set of tables and a good addition to the world of pinball on the go. The tables are fairly detailed and the 3D effects are solid. The smaller screen of the 3DS does hurt the game’s ability to see everything at times, but still, it’s amazing how Zen Studios continues to show they know how to make a good pinball game. I have to admit though, if you own these tables on your home console,you may want to question whether or not these are indeed worth the investment.