Zen & Marvel Pinball DLC
In our review of Marvel Pinball published back in January, we said that it was the ‘the sort of game you may still be playing for months to come’; it’s heartening to see then that developer Zen Studios has similar faith in the game and is doing a admirable job in supporting it post release with DLC. Marvel Pinball’s predecessor – Zen Pinball – has been similarly well supported. With this in mind, we felt it was a prime moment to take a look at the two latest tables to hit PSN and Xbox Live arcade to see if Zen Studios has managed to maintain the quality that oozed from the original releases, or if the series given in to the law of diminishing returns.
Sorcerer’s Lair (£1.59, PSN)
The first virtual pinball table to have our virtual coins inserted into it is ‘Sorcerer’s Lair’. Before you’ve even glanced at the screenshots on this page, the table’s title alone no doubt conjures up (ahem…) images of the usual dragons, fairies, old men in pointy hats with over-sized sleeves and daring young heroes on quests for adventure…and the table adheres to this formula almost to a fault. A gnarled tree oversees the proceedings while a cackling wizard towards the back of the table taunts you and the young sorcerer nestlings down by your flippers.
Despite having a slightly hackneyed setting, the Sorcerer’s Lair table feels right at home alongside Zen Studios other offerings, with a pleasing theme park feel to it. There is also plenty to do on the table, with ghosts popping up and hidden book cases to slide your ball along. While we suspect that thus table has been pitched as a lure for younger gamers, there’s plenty here for Zen Pinball veterans to enjoy.
Fantastic Four (£1.99, PSN; 240 MS Point, XBLA)
Aside from doing an excellent job of simulating real life pinball, one of the most impressive aspects of Marvel Pinball was in how well it paid homage to its source material, with each table lovingly reflecting the traits, characters and appearance of its respective Marvel character. The Fantastic Four table continues this trend, and does much to further cement our belief that the marriage between Marvel and Pinball is one if the more inspired videogame pairings of recent memory.
Smothered in the Fantastic Four’s trademark royal blue, the table resembles Reed Richard’s lab, albeit with numerous sweeping ball-rails criss-crossing it and the sinister figure of Dr Doom occupying the upper reaches. The Fantastic Four themselves are present and correct, and playing the table opens up some rather nice animations, from The Thing smacking the ball with his rocky fists, Mr Fantastic stretching limbs from one side the table to the other and the Human Torch bursting into flame. Once again, the combination of sharp visuals, great sound effects (the team’s banter captures the comic book vibe perfectly) combine to make an experience that’s sure to be appreciated by pinball and Marvel fans alike.
As we’ve noted before, Zen Pinball and Marvel Pinball have set their shop up in a very specific niche; but it’s a niche they continue to occupy with an enviable confidence. While we are intrigued to see how far Zen Studios are willing to push the more fantastical element of its videogame pinball (and whether or not this would lose the support of pinball fans drawn to the series’ realism), for now the developer is balancing the two elements beautifully. If the studio can continue to support the games with DLC tables of this quality (and affordability), there’s little reason to believe it will lose its position as this gen’s Pinball Wizard anytime soon.
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