Marvel Pinball: Avengers Chronicles (XBLA) Review

When I first purchased tables for Pinball FX2 I never imagined that I would have 30+ tables just a few years later.  The franchise has something for almost any pinball enthusiast, and if you are a Marvel fan you are in for a real treat with the release of the newest group of tables.  Avengers Chronicles is a four-pack bundle of new tables including The Avengers, The Infinity Gauntlet, World War Hulk and Fear Itself.  Pinball FX2 continues to improve and expand our ideas of what a pinball game is by amplifying the action and excitement as well as releasing tables that feature increased dialogue to provide a deeper narrative experience.

The Avengers

The Avengers table’s storyline is pulled from this year’s feature film of the same name which has the Avengers battling Loki and his new found army.  The table is set on the S.H.I.E.L.D Heli-carrier with what we can only assume are the night time lights of New York City below.  One of the most unique features of the The Avengers table is that there are individual balls modelled after the characters and identifying by a symbol.  Each ball has unique abilities as well as specific missions that must be completed for each one.  The voice-overs also change up based on which character ball you are using, which adds another level of immersion.   For those curious about the abilities and bonuses for each character specific ball, here is a quick list.

  • Black Widow: Mission Bonus + Quin Jet Boost
  • Iron Man: Bonus Multiplier + Shield
  • Thor: Odin Force + Spinner
  • Hawkeye: Kickbacks + Skill Shots
  • Captain America: Ball Save + Combos
  • Hulk: Bumper Slings + Power Shots

Along with themed balls there is an overall theme that is reminiscent of the theatrical movie present in the table along with 3D representations of Loki, Thor, Iron Man, Hulk and even a Quin Jet.  Like all of Zen Studios pinball tables this one is a beauty with plenty of detail and a great representation of The Avengers franchise.

What is a pinball game without mini-games?  The Avengers table has quite a few.  For example, one of the mini-games involves the Quin Jet where you have to tilt the jet back and forth much like those old marble games where you had to navigate the marble around a maze while avoiding the holes and traversing towards the finish.  In this case your marble is your pinball.

As mentioned above, each ball has their own objective.  Black Widow, for example, has you interrogating Loki just like she had to do in the movie.  When this mini-game is activated you have to launch the ball up certain ramps to ask specific questions, and if you happened to catch one of the best movies to come out so far this year, you should recognize the questions, as they are right from the movie if my memory serves me correctly.   Another great mini-game that is reflective of the movie is when the heli-carrier is attacked and everything is on fire and falling apart.  Iron Man and Captain America team up to repair the ship during a multi-ball frenzy where everything falls into chaos.  I just tried to keep the balls moving throughout the table.  Hitting key areas on the table assists in your effort to repair the carrier.

There is plenty more story that comes from the movie into the table, but I think I’ve spoiled enough for those who may not have seen the blockbuster film yet.  This table brings so many unique elements to it, including the character specific themed balls, making it by far one of the most unique things seen in a pinball table in awhile.  I found that this is the most innovative table of the four and one of the best tables in the Avengers Chronicles right next to the World War Hulk table, also offered in this table pack.

Infinity Gauntlet

The Infinity Gauntlet table features the characters of Thanos the Titan, Silver Surfer and Adam Warlock. The table tells a story of Thanos’ exploits revolving around the Infinity Gauntlet and his love of Mistress Death.  The table uses quite a bit of dialogue to achieve this so make sure to pay attention.  Zen Studios is quite proud of the achievement of having 139 lines of dialogue to reach a new pinnacle of story telling in the pinball genre.  The voice acting had great inflection, and not being overly familiar with this storyline it was amazing how much was actually conveyed through the dialogue after learning more about the story outside of the game.

The table begins with Thanos being so enchanted by Mistress Death that he has built a monument for her, and as the hero your first objective is to destroy the monument he is building for his love.  Throughout gameplay you must try to prevent Thanos from extinguishing souls while also trying to collect the six Infinity Gems (Time, Space, Reality, Power, Mind, Soul) that are used within the Infinity Gauntlet.  Each gem has its own unique effect on the table such as the Soul Gem that thrusts Adam Warlock into the Soul World, a table within a table with its own objectives to accomplish.  There is also a gem that flips the table upside down and you must restore order to bring it right side up again.

The Infinity Gauntlet table is designed with vibrant colours, great 3D models of the main characters, and some decent scenery albeit crammed mostly at the back of the table.  Gameplay consists of both the basic shooting of lighted ramps and hitting specific targets such as the center of the table, which activates most of the Infinity Gem modes.  These special game modes offer a variety of objectives and effects that add most of the excitement and uniqueness to the table.

World War Hulk

As a comic book fan World War Hulk is one of my favourite story arcs that has come out of the Marvel Universe, so my excitement for the table was heightened probably more a bit more over any of the other tables.  If you are not too familiar with the story here is the short version: Hulk was banished to space by heroes of Earth and he has come back madder than ever in a attempt to gain revenge on the X-Men, Iron Man, the Fantastic Four and Dr. Strange.  It is noted that Dr. Strange is making his first appearance in a Marvel Pinball table.

Visually the World War Hulk table is a war zone with Manhattan in ruins with burning buildings, flooded areas and the head from the Statue of Liberty in the water.  In the distance it seems you can see the clock from Time Square as well, which makes a nice visual.  On top of table is Hulk watching as the war ravages on and ultimately giving direction to his Warbound to enact his revenge.  Due to some colour choices some of the table’s ramps are not clearly outlined and this can make it a bit difficult to aim the pinball to the right area without a clear target.

One of my favourite features of this table is that throughout the story Hulk constructs an arena from Madison Square Garden where he forces the heroes to battle against each other.  To trigger this to occur you must hit a certain target.  When the arena is completed you shoot the pinball into the opening and it opens up into a completely brand new table within the World War Hulk table.  Here you simply launch the pinball up the four different ramps to score points; however, this new table’s paddles are much smaller and it creates quite a huge hole to make it much easier to fail at the mini-game.

A few of the other mini-games consist of mainly battling other heroes like The Thing, Iron Man in one of his massive suits, and another personal favourite Wolverine.  During these battles the basic objective is to hit flashing targets to land some attacks against the big green brute.

Overall World War Hulk is a table I quite enjoyed due to the fast paced movements throughout and the ability to get big scores really quick. The table tells a great story and has some great mini-games to unlock and explore.  In the end this is a great table and literally a toss-up with The Avengers as the best of the bunch.

Fear Itself

In regards to Thor and his family, aside from what I’ve learned through The Avengers movie I don’t know a whole lot about the story arcs that involve Asgard, and honestly haven’t found much interest in it during my comic reading years.  From what I can tell though is there is a forgotten Asgardian God known only as the Serpent who, along with his minions, is about to devastate Earth.

Opening up on the table is the shattered shield of Captain America that acts as bumpers leading down towards the flippers.  This symbol alone shows you how much power is being tossed around if Cap’s shield has been destroyed, and it sets a tone I wasn’t quite expecting.  Along with the destruction there is a neat pinball launching area that is performed by what I guess to be an Asgardian with a huge hammer that oddly looks like a bell.  Throughout the table there are different Asgardian names, which happen to be the names of the enemies you encounter when playing on this table.

The Fear Itself table uniquely uses magnetic energy.  In a few cases you have to use a circle that is part of the table to launch the pinball around by using this energy.  The mini-games that involve this circle will ask you to either make a half circle or a full circle and the magnetic energy is controlled by the flippers within this circle.  To do full circles I just hammered away on the flippers to keep the ball rolling around the circle, which resulted in successfully completing the mini-game.  The half circles are a bit harder though as you need to have a bit of finesse to complete them as it isn’t all about powering through.

The whole point of this table is to battle the Serpent, and I eventually did end up fighting him but how I entered the battle is something I still can’t quite figure out at the time of this review.  When I did get into the battle it was like an Asgardian themed game of Arkanoid with the ball being represented by a hammer, and instead of knocking out some bricks you have to bounce the hammer off the wall and hit the Serpent in the back to damage him.  It was definitely a great game within a game to mix things up.

Although not my favourite of the four new tables Fear Itself does have a lot of potential.   More than likely the introduction of some lesser-known characters in this table makes it a bit harder for casual Marvel fans to get into.  Although the magnetic properties of the table were intriguing it seemed to take away from the pinball physics that we have become accustomed to from Pinball FX 2.

Marvel Pinball: Avengers Chronicles is a 4-table DLC pack worth the asking price and any virtual pinball fan will be content with the addition of the four included tables as they all offer some very unique elements in each one.  You can tell that innovation, creativity and plenty of hard work went into the creation of these tables to craft some of the best stories and gameplay elements that I have personally seen in the pinball genre over the past couple years.

The Good


The Bad