Marvel Pinball Review (PS3)

Pinball FX2 was released only a couple of months ago on Xbox Live, and to the delight of virtual pinball-table fanatics it was a roaring success, capturing the fast-paced, quick-fingered gameplay of its physical counterpart wonderfully. Now there are a new set of tables coming for the game - not one, but four Marvel-related playthroughs to ping your balls around. Not only that, but PSN gamers are getting Marvel Pinball as a standalone release too.

For Marvel fans who also happen to partake in a bit of pinballing, it's a dream come true - but even if you don't care too much for comic books, you'll still find a wholly enjoyable experience with plenty of depth and entertainment packed into each table. Note that if pinball isn't your thing then Marvel Pinball isn't going to sway you, but with that said, let's get this ball rolling.

Super Spider Ball?

Marvel Pinball provides four unique pinball tables, each sported by a popular Marvel character. Even if you don't follow Marvel, you'll know these heroes - Iron Man, Spider-Man, Blade and Wolverine each have their own colourful slopes for you to explore, and the rules are the same as always. Fire the ball up the board, hit targets, sweep around pathways, activate challenges and don't let the ball fall through the flippers.

These four boards really sort the casual players from the hardcore enthusiasts, while still providing fun no matter how skillful you are. Bounce the ball randomly around each arena and you'll rack up a decent enough score, and perhaps get a challenge or two going. Yet look a bit more closely, and you'll find special set-pieces that throw millions of points your way, hidden areas for scoring big and medals to unlocks.

We began with The Amazing Spider-Man table, as good old Spidey is the character we know the most about. Spider-Man fans will love all the little touches - you've got to take photos for The Daily Bugle by firing the ball down certain ramps, and battle The Green Goblin's pumpkin bombs, which fall down into the machine as extra balls.

It's the sprawling table layout that really makes the action shine however, with metal-caged pathways that send the ball into a spiral, and the ramp that fires the ball out of Spider-man's web-slinging wrist. Zoom out from the table, and you'll find that it is positioned in Peter Parker's apartment, with the city skyline right outside the window and his discarded suit nearby.

The Invincible Iron Man table is very neat too, with Tony Stark stood ready and waiting at the top. Hit the right areas and he'll suit up, before taking on the likes of Mandarin, Whiplash and Ultimo. Before becoming Iron Man, however, you can first boost Stark's popularity and listen to his witticisms. Again, lots to see and do for those players who are good enough.

There's a Stark contrast between each table

Blade is the character we personally know least about - we've seen the mediocre movies, but that's about it - hence we were pleasantly surprised to find that it was our favourite of the lot, with zombie hunting galore and characters such as Dracula and Deacon Frost giving the action a nice mix. We really liked the 'security breach' sections, in which the table is plunged into darkness, and the balls act as torches. It's a slick idea, and works very well indeed.

The final table - that of Wolverine - was the only real letdown, although it may be that we simply didn't find all the secrets it has to offer. There are Sentinels to bounce around and memory-related challenges, plus you get to scrap with Sabretooth in a fight to the death. Yet this table felt a lot plainer than the others, even with the characters jeering around the edges.

Overall, the quality of the tables is extremely high, and you'll most likely need to play for hours on end before you discover everything each has to offer. Each table also has special challenges that can be tracked on the main menu, and all involve playing exceptionally well. These are perhaps a little too difficult for the average pinball player, but veteran players will relish the challenge.

All the main elements seen in the rest of Pinball FX2 are present in these new tables, of course - you'll receive superscore depending on how big a score you manage to obtain during each playthrough, and your wizard score will also increase thanks to the additional four boards. Scoreboards rank your best efforts against your friends and the rest of the world, and are easily accessible and well set out. This is a game brimming with style and polish.

So if it's so damn good, why only an 8.5? Simply put, we need to take all gamers into consideration, and while this is a near-perfect experience for pinball fanatics, plenty of gamers won't find the action as exhilarating. Having said that, we wouldn't exactly call ourselves great pinball lovers, and yet we had a great time with Marvel Pinball - it's fast, it's exciting and it had us coming back time and time again.

The Wolverine board may look exciting, but in practice it's our least favourite

Marvel Pinball, as both an add-on and standalone title, is essential download-ware for pinball enthusiasts everywhere, and if you're a Marvel fan too, you may have just found your new addiction.

Marvel Pinball is available to download as DLC for Pinball FX2 on Xbox Live Arcade (the base Pinball FX2 game is free to download), or as a standalone title from the Playstation Store.

Top Game Moment: Getting Tony Stark suited up and ready for action.