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Marvel Pinball 3D - 3DS Download Review

Game Info
Marvel Pinball 3D

3DS Download | Zen Studios | 1-4 Players (local multiplayer) | Out Now | $7.99 / £6.30
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10th August 2012; By KnucklesSonic8

To the unacquainted,
Marvel Pinball 3D could be accused of doing what so many other games do -- relying on an outside source to make up for its weaknesses. But knowing that Zen Studios has built up a reputation of embellishing their pinball titles with quality design, such claims would be (and are) unwarranted. That's something even those who are only just getting to hear of the company can appreciate. Moreover, when you can jump into a new effort from an established team and not have any worry whatsoever that what you are about to play could run in the other direction, it sure sends a positive message about the work ethic of the persons responsible. After allowing myself sufficient time to see the ins and outs of what this new title has to offer, I don't feel in the slightest that I've seen everything there is to see, which says a lot, not about my skills as a player, but how effective Marvel Pinball 3D is in its delivery. Extending beyond initial periods of heightened interest and curiousity, the experience on offer here is far from short-lived. It is one that pushes refined delivery through sustained means, in many ways serving as an example for the genre it belongs to.

    Borrowing from one of the most recognized brands in nerd culture, Marvel Pinball 3D features four tables, each based off of a different property. A mix of familiar and obscure, they are as follows: Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Captain America, and Blade. Not to be overlooked is that some of the main villains seen in these respective universes also serve as contributing elements, something fans will love. Upon further inspection of the designed tables, you'll find plenty to do and comment on as they each offer their own takes on discovery by way of unlockable mission objectives. These are more than just flashy components to the appropriately-catered table designs in that they solidly build upon core foundations with the clear intent of making the player feel like a hero themselves.

    But first, for the benefit of those who did not play Zen Pinball 3D, Zen Studios' debut title on the service, you should know that the repeated control scheme is sensible and not at all complicated. A light press of the Circle Pad will tilt the board in a given direction, the A Button is used to launch the ball at the beginning, and the L and R Triggers control both your flipper as well as the digital screen -- only when called upon to make a selection. Gameplay takes place on the 3D Screen while the Touch Screen acts as your HUD of sorts, containing the digital screen just mentioned to display scoring details as well as brief, event-triggered cutscenes. That's about all you really need to know on a control level.

The pinball mechanics seen here feel nicely massaged to the end of not only offering flexibility but really delivering in the way of an atmosphere that shapes the way players react to what's around them. It's not a deep realization per se, but it is intelligibly motivating, hence the need to ensure that this remains a constant throughout. With the standard systems and features in place, advancement has been made towards defined population of spaces that speak to the relevance of each respective entity or group. What this means in specific terms includes, but is not limited to, the following: rises in a shifting stock market; the ability to influence fights against arch-rivals so the disadvantaged hero comes out victorious; the clearing of traps and contraptions designed to simulate the destruction of a world (in part or in full); involvement in search-and-rescue parties, and more. By lining the ball up with ramps, sockets, and other entry points, you can trigger and affect these temporary changes in gameplay to put your reflexes to the test. Of course, your skills won't always measure up. But the stimulation of both offensive and defensive structures is part of the reason why you're not left feeling overly despondent when the game calls the mission a failure.

    With there always being a great assortment of goals you can set for yourself, players are never lost or in any need of direction. Maybe you could use a puppeteer to manually stick the ball in a slot you've been diligently shooting for, but that's a whole other thing. You're often required to do things in sequential order, so before you can even do anything substantial, there's a transition process that must first be respected and followed. Completion and at times even activation of the included mission objectives isn't always limited to that of a single route that you must scale. Multiple chances are afforded, and that does go a long way in minimizing whatever frustration that can come about from narrow misses or having a considerable accomplishment not count because it was done in the wrong order. This becomes an especially vital point after sensing that much of your time is being spent hitting bumpers and side slots. Determination is a big part of what goes on here, and in line with that, some missions do a good job of allotting a reasonable time frame to help players feel, "Yes, I can do this." Manipulation of the board can be tricky, but the processes as they've been organized here lend themselves to the locating of an impelling drive from which users can find enjoyment.

As with any pinball game, there are always going to be attributes that you appreciate about certain tables over others, and that remains true here. Of them all, I found Iron Man's table to be a tad underwhelming and not to the same level of impressiveness as the others as the excitement only really begins when you have a series of missions going almost back-to-back. Compare this with the other tables where a distinctiveness is immediately felt whether or not you have a mission on your plate, and in those cases you'll find the heroic aesthetic to be driven in a much stronger manner. I have to say also that even though it wasn't to my personal tastes, I admired what was done design-wise on Blade's table and the way it makes players feel like mercenaries. So even with tables you may not be as fond of, there are still qualities to them that make you want to commit yourself to the housed quests.

    One minor criticism I'd like to point out on the entire package is that in terms of the pace that's been set (which, to be clear, is fluid and well-considered) and the gimmicks seen in the table designs, nothing here will make your head spin. The game does not produce the effect of dizziness that would knock your senses and induce a chemical addiction. And I feel that had there been an even deeper awareness to drawing that out, the output would have been less stabilized and resulted in adding to the genre in even more notable degrees. On the other hand, you simply cannot say that Marvel Pinball 3D is static either. At every corner, there's always something for the metal ball to show its love for in the only way it knows how: by ramming into them. Also, by having the iconic characters present as actual figures instead of pieces of artwork plastered onto the boards (although there's some of that as well), there's a subdued stride towards player empowerment where even amateurs who don't put a great deal of forethought into their strategy can feel encouraged to set benchmarks for themselves.

    Granted, this should not be taken as an indication that by attempting to immerse yourself in the variety of tasks they've laid out that you'll feel incredibly fulfilled afterwards. You're never whisked away into a space where you feel the environments transcend reality to such a point where you're so deeply involved that the experience is elevated to a whole new level of what the genre typically stands for. But by the same token, the approaches are such that you don't feel like you're just killing time, but being productive all the while. Ultimately, it's that very joint that not only connects the table features together in their mapping of a more purposeful use of time, but, perhaps more importantly, it serves as something tangible that players of different skill and experience levels can latch onto and feel motivated by.

Though not entirely diverse,
Marvel Pinball 3D has a nice range going for it when it comes to its various character and event renderings. You'll see Captain America throwing his shield in his signature attack style, changes in setting occurring on Blade's table to transform the digital environment into one with slightly diverging overtones, as well as different ball effects such as when Dr. Doom's powers are absorbed on the Fantastic Four table, or when a whirlwind appears in the center of Iron Man's table to precede a multiball event. As with Zen Pinball 3D, the game offers a number of camera angles (changed by pressing the X Button) that often leave you better prepared depending on how you prefer to hone in on things. And in conjunction with that, the graphics themselves really deliver a console-like experience with the aid of the 3D Slider. With the exception of the Iron Man table for reasons previously considered, all other tables perform admirably in their goals of cementing you in the different spaces, whether they appear familiar to you or not.

    The harnessed themes are kept alive and well, which has a direct bearing on just how much time the average player will be willing to sink into the game. And on all accounts, Marvel Pinball 3D shows itself to offer much more than that of an ordinary pinball-based time passer. It is thus in good spirits that pinball aficionados will draw extended enjoyment from the game as the aspiring for invested manipulation of the space has resulted in some crafty, even unique approaches. Guarding quite nicely against the long-term build-up of defeat that can well within less experienced players, players both young and old will sense the pursuit of thoroughness seen in the refined, skill-building principles. And although there may not be a full-fledged treasure trove of secrets, there's still much to discover over a longer period. With all this in mind, it is by no means a stretch to say that Marvel Pinball 3D is a success on multiple fronts and is a worthy way to spend your time and money.

26/30 - Very Good

Gameplay 9/10 - Mechanics are fluid and refined, noteworthy table designs, a variety of fun missions to take on, plenty of secrets to uncover
Presentation 9/10 - Harnesses its themes in a commendable way, plenty of special effects aided by 3D, graphics help deliver a console-like experience
Enjoyment 4/5 - Great motivation to be seen in accomplishing directives and reaching player-set goals, not just killing time but being productive
Extra Content 4/5 - Four tables in all with plenty of secrets to uncover, rankings and achievements, can compare stats with friends and global leaders

Equivalent to a score of 87% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System

Review by KnucklesSonic8

Marvel Pinball 3D
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