Marvel Pinball Rolls Into the PS3

The great thing about the Playstation Store is the amount of highly entertaining games that can be had for those frugal at heart.  With games usually topping out at a cost of $14.99 and most hovering around $9.99, you can build quite a library on your PS3’s hard drive in no time.  One of the most recent additions to store is Marvel Pinball, brought to us from Zen Studios, creators of Zen Pinball.  Pinball tends to focus on a specific audience and can easily fail in the transition from physical table to video game.  Does Marvel Pinball do the format any justice?


In a word, “beautifully.”  As of today, there are currently four tables to play, all of which have their own personality and challenges.  These themes include Wolverine, Spider-Man, Iron Man, and Blade.  Each features amazingly lush colors, character voice-overs, and enough flashing lights to rival any Vegas slot aisle, and to reiterate, the boards are not just rebadged copies of one another.  They truly are unique from one to the next. For instance, the Spider-Man board contains a more ramp and track-oriented playing experience than Blade, which focuses more on keeping the silver sphere on the board’s surface.  Iron Man’s table is very bright compared to the dark, vampiric overtones of Blade’s. 

Additionally, each board contains the standard two flippers at the bottom and sometimes one or two (depending on the table you’re playing) closer to the top and off to the side.  The special challenges are challenging indeed, conjuring a more repeat playability attribute.  You will often find that those side flippers can be paramount in encouraging the pinball to navigate to a certain pit or jump that ignites a challenge.  I’ve had Marvel Pinball a week now and have only completed one of the four boards’ small handful of challenges, that of which said I won some hidden treasure on the Blade table.  The game does have a trophy feature for accomplishments like Blade’s treasure find, with each table harboring a short range of possibilities.  Though the arsenal of competitive proposals is not a grand one (3 trophies per table), they are difficult to get to, making the game’s replay value quite high.

My only real complaint with this game stems from these challenges. Often times, it’s not very clear how you even get involved in the special task. The Iron Man board, which I felt was the only weak one of the four, is a clear offender of this. You may hear Tony Stark tell you he’s ready to fight or you may hear a nemesis of his taunt you, but neither really help clarify the task at hand. With all the flashing lights, it’s extremely easy to be distracted (or just plain confused) when figuring out which lit path is supposed to be the one you’re after.

Other features of the game include numerous viewing perspectives that range from a 3/4 overhead view of the table to a close-up that follows the ball as it maneuvers its way around the color-happy table top.  You can also go head to head with others online and the game will keep a running tally of your scoring records for each table as well as the scores of those on your PSN friends list. 

As for the four different boards currently offered, I’d have to say my favorite is the Blade board, with Spidey coming in a close second.  Wolverine is enjoyable as well, but Iron Man is a complete mess.  While it looks attractive, I still have no idea what I’m supposed to do when I’ve initiated a mission ball.  Stark dons the red and gold and then gets blasted by a flamethrower.  How do I fight back?  Is that even an option?  Whiplash is standing off to the side and who know when he gets involved. 

On that board, I often find myself hitting the ball into entry ways of one of the ramps, only to have it run flat into a post that doesn’t earn you any points.  How is it that I can score fifteen million points on Spidey, but only a fifth of that on Iron Man?  The layout is poor, whereas Spider-Man offers a clear cut path on where to go and what to do.  Blade and Wolverine provide the same positive experience.  Three out of four isn’t bad I guess.


There isn’t a whole lot to say here as it really is an accurate representation of a real pinball game.  Just like a real machine, your only options are to pump it full of quarters, activate the flippers, and bump the table.  Thankfully, the only money you have to put into this is the $9.99 price tag.  At first I thought that was a little steep for pinball, but I’ll come back to that argument a little later.  Outside of that, the other two actions remain.  The controls are responsive as the flippers instantly react to your L1/R1 button taps.  It can be a little tricky, but you’ll eventually need to time your ball hits just right to send it in specified areas that earn you more points or initiate challenges.  The game is pretty consistent with this so you won’t have to worry too much about, “Hey, why didn’t the ball go that way this time when it did before??”  Timing is key when the ball rolls onto your flipper.  There’s also a table nudge that can slightly alter the direction your ball is headed, sometimes enough to steer clear of flipperless corridors at the bottom of the table.  I haven’t found this feature too effective, though it’s nice to have as far as keeping the realism of an actual pinball table.

Graphics & Sound

Don’t expect Metal Gear Solid graphics here.  This is, after all, pinball mixed with comic book characters.  Nevertheless, this is an easy A for what we’re dealing with.  The colors are bright and vivid and do well in carrying the pages of Marvel over to the pinball tables, blending for a combination of cohesive themes.  There is no visible frame rate breakdown either, as the ball, and sometimes multiple balls, zip around from lane to lane while board animations come to life.  Whether it’s the Green Goblin flying around on his hoverboard or Tony Stark suiting up, these little nuances add atmosphere to an already attractive layout. 

The sound was a little surprising and that is meant entirely in a good way.  A few bings here and a whoop-whoop there, right?  How much can you do with pinball?  Let’s not forget those well-timed voice-overs on each board.  Sure they may get a little repetitive at times, but combine that with some instrumental hard rock, gunshots, growls, and the clanging of adamantium and you’ve got yourself a cool array of sound files that fit this game like a glove.  Not only that, but they all flow symphonically through both the front and rear channels, even giving the subwoofer a blistering workout.

Final Thoughts

So, back to the $9.99 being a bit steep for “just pinball,” think about how much we spend on disc-based games; $60.00 a piece, right?  Sure, they’re usually more in-depth than these downloadable titles but in-depth doesn’t always mean more fun.  A perfect example is Tron: Evolution.  I paid $40.00 for this game and it’s pretty close to garbage, save for a few fun moments in multi-player.  While the experience for Marvel Pinball is somewhat limited, it’s an absolute steal compared to the cost of other games out there. 

I’m looking forward to whatever add-on boards are on the horizon.  If you head over to www.ZenStudios.com, you will find a poll asking what the next one should be.  Currently, Ghost Rider is leading the tally followed by Captain American, Hulk and the Fantastic Four (I’m pulling for the Hulk).   There’s no word on their release date, if it will be in pairs, or what the cost will be, if any (though I doubt they’ll be free).   Future levels aside, Marvel Pinball gets a grade of a ‘B’ making it worth a buy.  It’s a great pick-up-and-play experience for those looking to pass a few minutes of time, as well as for those who want to indulge themselves in some pinball wizardry. 


Sure you can just skip the middle-man, but if you buy from the Amazon link below, a portion of the proceeds will go towards the St. Jude’s Children Hospital.  Get your game on and buy Marvel Pinball today!


1 Response to “Marvel Pinball Rolls Into the PS3”

  1. Brian White

    I’m not a gamer by trade, but this looks really cool. Pinball and Marvel superheroes!!! What could be better?