Inside Pulse 12

Review: Marvel Pinball: Captain America (Sony PS3)

Marvel Pinball: Captain America
Developer: Zen Studios
Publisher: Zen Studios
Genre: Pinball
Release Date: 06/28/2011

I’m a huge Captain America fan. I own the CD-Rom Marvel put out containing most of his entire run, I have a ton of trades, and I have a ton of weird Captain America merchandise, from a cookie jar to the old Data East Captain America & the Avengers arcade cabinet which everyone and their mother wants to play whenever they come over to my home – even if they don’t like video games. So, of course, when Zen Studios offered me an early review code for the Captain America table for Marvel Pinball, I couldn’t say no. I’m a big fan of the game, although I spend most of my time on the Blade and Wolverine boards (I HATE the Iron Man one). Still, it had been a couple months since I had booted up the game and I knew I’d be rusty. Little did I know I’d not only set my highest score ever for a Zen Studios pinball game, but that I’d end up in the Top Five all time scores for the board amongst all of the reviewers out there with early access. At the end of the day, Captain America Pinball quickly became my favorite Marvel Pinball table yet, not just because of the character in question or my high score, but because it’s easily the most balanced.

The table has a WWII theme, which makes sense, as all the tables so far have focused on the movie elements of each of the feature characters. The table is primarily gold and brown, reflecting the war and, perhaps specifically, the Normandy Landing. Towards the bottom of the table is artwork of Captain America, Dum-Dum Duggan, Jacques Dernier and Bucky Barnes. Jacques looks well… ugly, and Bucky looks a lot older than he should be for the plucky teenager he was supposed to be at the time, but the art is still a nice touch. The back end of the table has large figures of Captain America and the Red Skull, both of which move around depending on missions that you have triggered. As well, the original Baron Zemo and the Skull’s Sleeper robot can show up depending on what (and how) you do. Between the Skull and Captain America is a Cosmic Cube that you can access if you hit the tiles surrounding it. It nets you 1.2 million points and a trophy, and it’s exceptionally easy to do so. You can do this repeatedly in a game to rack up some big points if you’re not very good at the missions.

Speaking of missions, these are little things that you can trigger based on where you sink the ball. There are multiple missions, ranging from getting hit by Zemo’s death ray and you have to hit the ball into certain areas to recover, a straight up fist fight with the Red Skull or a battle with the aforementioned sleeper. Missions all revolve around hitting certain spots on the board or getting them up ramps in a certain amount of time, so they all revolve around pinball skill shots, but with a nice little theme to them. All of the Marvel Pinball tables do this, but aside these are actually the most in-line with the character, aside from possibly the Blade table, which might win just for referencing the Wolfman/Colan Tomb of Dracula comics.

Sound effects are pretty good and the game sounds exactly like an actual pinball table. Voice acting is a bit wooden though. Red Skull and Zemo don’t sound very German for example. The accents are a little more vague, which I thought was odd. There’s also no references to Nazis at all in the game, even though that’s who we fought in WWII, and Skull and Zemo were comic book members of the Third Reich, so I’m not sure why they went that route. I guess I was hoping for a, “Punch Hitler in the face!” mission ala Captain America #1 from way back when.

There are three flippers – two at the bottom and one in the upper right side – very much like the Blade setup. There are five possible ramps that the ball can go up, but it doesn’t feel anywhere as chaotic or as cluttered as the Iron Man table. There are two bumpers on the upper left hand side of the table, but they are by far the hardest to access out of any Marvel Pinball table. It’s nice to get a weird little challenge there, as the rest of the board is pretty straightforward. I will say, I love the Bucky option that gives you a thirty percent chance of not losing your ball. Considering Marvel Pinball tables are infamous (at least amongst my friends and/or the people I know that play pinball) for the ball going straight down and tilting just not occurring, or the ball going down the far lane even though in a situation with a real pinball table physics would have had the ball go the other way, this is a godsend.

My only real criticism of the game is the same I have for all Marvel Pinball tables, and that’s that I hate how the game switches from one view to another when you launch a ball. You should be able to launch the ball from your preferred viewpoint, as that really takes one out of the game. Other than that, Captain America Pinball is easily the most balanced and solid of the tables put out so far. There are options for high scores if you can’t pull off a mission, enough going on to keep one interested, pretty diverse missions and a board that really feels like an authentic game of pinball that you could have played in an arcade or when eating out back in the day. It’s an amazingly addictive board and “just one game” quickly becomes six or seven.

In truth, Captain America Pinball looks and feels the most like an actual pinball machine – aside from the Adhesive X mission where the ball can encounter slowdown (It’s part of the mission, not a bug). I am kind of a stickler for realistic pinball play and physics and this alone made this table my favorite. It’s just a very solid pinball table across the board that anyone can enjoy – even if they aren’t comic book fans. It’s not Addams Family Pinball in its appeal value, but considering AFP is $1,250 on average and this is only $2.99, I’ll take the adventures of Steve Rogers over the Mamushka gladly.

The Scores
Modes: Decent
Graphics: Good
Sound: Enjoyable
Control and Gameplay: Good
Replayability: Enjoyable
Balance: Great
Originality: Bad
Addictiveness: Good
Appeal Factor: Good
Miscellaneous: Good
FINAL SCORE: ENJOYABLE GAME!

Short Attention Span Summary
For only $2.99, Captain America is the best of the six current Marvel Pinball tables. It’s exceedingly well balanced, it feels the most like an authentic pinball experience while keeping true to the Marvel Comics theme and the WWII-era Captain America as well. If you have Marvel Pinball or Pinball FX, there’s really no reason why you shouldn’t download this immediately. It’s by far the best table I’ve seen by Zen Studios, and my favorite appearance of Steve Rogers in a video game since he told Whirlwind, “You will be the one escaping!”