Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Zen Pinball 2: Guardians of the Galaxy (PS4/PS3/PS VITA)

Like many of Marvel's reinvented comic book series the "Guardians of the Galaxy" storyline was rebooted years after the original was printed, and was named after the origin story which debuted many years before it (1969). Taking heed of the comic book's, and the film's growing popularity Zen Studios chose a design that was ultimately centered around the 2008 "Guardians of the Galaxy" lore. At the core, the 2008 comic book reboot tied into the previous "Annihilation: Conflict" storyline, and included a newly comprised cast of  known villains, and superheroes which you'll also see, and recognize within the film as well as on the table itself.

On the flip side the movie which also seems to have given Zen Studio developers some inspiration took only a portion of the tale that was being told. It included characters that would more, or less capture the audience's attention as well as a portion of the story that was more action packed. While the character offerings are somewhat limited on Zen Studio's pinball table rendition of the movie's events the oddly paired heroes of the story that are included still hold their places as important pieces of the story being told. Characters on the table, and within the movie include "Star-Lord", "Drax the Destroyer", "Gamora", "Rocket Raccoon", "Groot", "Yondu and the Ravagers", "Nebula", and "Ronan the Accuser". As far as the story goes the tale being told incorporates the heroes' escape from Kyln prison, and their rise to fame as the fabled "Guardians of the Galaxy". As you can probably imagine the heroes face off against many foes, and perils as they try to make a name for themselves in one of Marvel's most unique settings.

When it comes to comic book plot material you'll find that Star-Lord (aka, Peter Jason Quill) convinced his misfit team of heroes to follow his lead (through psychic suggestion via the Mantis) as he tried to implement a more proactive approach at dealing with Marvel's universal threats. The team which featured an on, and off again crew of unusually paired characters ended up finding refuge in a space station known as 'Knowhere'. It is there that they conducted their business due to the availability of it's teleportation device. Throughout the comic book storyline various Guardians (heroes) were eventually killed off, or died as they fought the good fight against some of the most dastardly villains Marvel comics has ever seen. Some of the team members even disbanded from Peter Quill's (Star-Lord) crew after learning of his earlier manipulation. At one point rocket Raccoon even took control of the "Guardians of the Galaxy" team, and recruited other members. As you'll find out (assuming you've read, or are going to read the comic book series) the comic lore goes into greater detail than what the Zen Pinball 2 tribute table shows, and what the movie seems to hint at.


The Zen Pinball 2 tribute table of "Guardians of the Galaxy", as it were closely follows Peter Quill, and his select crew as they escape from the notorious Kyln prison, and make themselves known as the "Guardians of the Galaxy". It's an on-table plot that closely follows the goings on of the movie, and doesn't really stay wholly true to the canon comic book origins. You'll find that when it comes to characters Peter Quill, who goes by the moniker "Star-Lord' is both the leader of the team as well as a wanted outlaw. Gamora is the green female of the group, and acts as Peter's right-hand girl on many of his mission outings. Drax the Destroyer (the knife wielding guy) has his own reasons for following along, but ultimately wants to put an end to "Ronan the Accuser's" reign of terror. Rocket Raccoon, and Groot (Tree Bark Dude) work closely together as a team with RR being the brains, and Groot being the muscle. All of the characters' in-game personality traits are ultimately reflected in their tribute based design. Whether they are speaking their part, or engaging in combat their actions, and reactions all coincide with who they are in the overlapping, and often times episodic plot.

About the Table ...

When you first start the 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Zen Pinball 2 table you will be immediately greeted by a "inmate escape" multi-ball event where each of the character oriented pinballs are released onto the playing field for a scoring advantage. The initial multi-ball event will last only 60 seconds, but will give you ample time to get some significant starting points. After the multi-ball event ends, and your inmate defeats, and earned credits are tallied up you will have yet another opportunity for a significant score boost. This time it'll be a one-shot deal where you must flip the speeding pinball through the upper arched ramp using the right upper flipper. You definitely have to time the flip right, but if done correctly you'll earn an extra 5 million points on top of what you've already earned.

In the way of scoring opportunities you will find that the table is mostly geared towards repeat ramp entries. The ramps on the playing field have most of the Guardians' names spelled out in large letters. The letters will each light up as you repeatedly pass the pinball through the respective ramp letting you know that a new event is getting closer to occurring. All of the hero characters from the "Guardians of the Galaxy" comics get their own main table event that ties in with the spelling of their names, or some other trigger mechanism. The only exception to the ramp rule would be Star-Lord's longshot duel with "Ronan the Accuser". To trigger it you need to hit the three rounded targets lined up underneath the 3D Ronan model. This in turn will open up a rectangular hole underneath Ronan for the pinball to enter. Once the Star-Lord event is triggered you'll need to follow-up by flipping the pinball up the ramps that have a flashing character icon before them. They appear at random, so you'll need to access the ramps as soon as possible. You can also hit the circle targets that reappear once the event is triggered in order to blast Ronan with Star-lord's gun. The Star-lord event will end as many of the other events do when the character's displayed health percentage goes down to zero, or when you have entered all the required ramps.

In the way of ramp spelling events 'Drax the Destroyer' faces off with Ronan in a fashion where ramp passes act as a trigger as well as a way of scoring. In Drax's case as well as the case of many of the character oriented events passing the pinball through the ramp that has a flashing character face icon will score you points in the millions after you have spelled out the characters' name, and triggered the event. Along with the previous character battles you'll also find that "Rocket Raccoon', and 'Groot' fight collectively against Ronan in a multi-ball event of their own. In this case "Rocket" is the only word you'll have to spell out in order to trigger the event. After that you'll need to send the two pinballs through the appropriate lanes that are highlighted with flashing icons of RR's (Rocket Raccoon's), and Groot's faces. It can be a daunting task considering you have multiple balls to tend to, but it is manageable if you don't get too hasty. Other on-table events include a sparring one-on-one sessions associated with Gamora in which a separate mini-playing field appears, and requires you to flip the ball with the provided flippers while trying to avoid letting it slip past the flippers.This event is made difficult, because the right and left flippers are spaced further apart than they are on the main table. One thing to note when it comes to any of the events is that Zen Studios did not design the events to be selectable like they usually are. Once you spell out a characters' name with repeated ramp passes, or trigger an event by hitting the required targets you will immediately begin the event that corresponds with that character. 

Aside from the main events you'll find that the "Guardians of the Galaxy" table offers more scoring options in the form of the "Collector's" sinkhole awards, and the spell "COL-LEC-TOR" multi-ball event. By flipping the pinball repeatedly into the right sinkhole you will gain different perks ranging from a starting ball save to point value increases, and multiplier improvements. There's even a "EXTRA ball hurry up" bonus which will grant you an extra ball if completed. In a completely unrelated event sporting a similar namesake you'll earn extra scoring opportunities by spelling "COL-LEC-TOR' via the required ramp passes, and ball locks.Once you lock enough balls in the spell "COL-LEC-TOR" event you'll trigger a multi-ball event with a newly introduced Jackpot lane for scoring even more points. Along with each completed on-table event also comes an "Orb Bonus" that will greatly increase the points earned further expanding on your high score potential. If all six Orb Bonuses are earned you'll get plenty of additional perks including an extra ball, more time, and even points that relate to the highest score that was earned during any of the Orb Bonuses assuming you enter "Wizard Mode". In the final "Wizard Mode", once all events have been completed, you will face off against Ronan one final time in a four ball multi-ball event.

Table Features ...

Visually the "Guardians of the Galaxy" table has a lot going on. There are multiple ramps that range from simple curves to ramps that are spiraled in design. The ramps are spread across the top portion of the playing field, and are organized in a way the slightly complicates gameplay, but doesn't overly invade the pinball flipping space. Each ramp has a characters' name placed upon it, and for the most part have a uniformed look that coincides with the Knowhere space station's oranges, and greys. In the way of 3D models you'll find that Star-lord, Rocket Raccoon, Drax, Ronan the Accuser, and Groot make themselves known. Star-lord, Rocket Raccoon, Drax, and Ronan specifically appear in full-scale 3D models that act, and react to events, and event triggers. The 3D character models all look as if they were inspired by the movie designs, and sport similar costumes as were seen in the movie. When it comes to Groot's contribution he plays the roll of the kickback, and save ball guard. His bark encrusted hand will spawn up out of the ground between the man flippers if a pinball passes through when you have the "Save Ball" function activated. A bark emblem also lights up when the right and left kickbacks are active.

In the way of table art you'll find a modest yet effective display that features some of the "Guardians of the Galaxy" crew. Star-lord, Gamora, and Drax stand at attention in the upper center of the playing field, Star-lord is sporting his mask, and the other characters are sporting their weapons respectively. Beneath these three images are an action posed Rocket Raccoon, and Groot seemingly escaping from a massive explosion. The art definitely compliments the other features on the playing field, and ties into the movie theme that the table was modeled after.

When it comes to voice-overs all character's contribute including "Ronan the Accuser". From what I gathered during my playthrough the provided voices are similar to the movie actor's voices. They aren't a perfect match, but they are close enough for players who have seen the movie trailers to recognize. In the way of music Zen Studios seems to have went with a 70's style rock. I find that kind of humorous in itself since the original comic book series was created in 1969, and continued on into the 70's. As with any Zen Pinball 2 table experience there are also sound effects that tie-in with what's going on. Explosions, laser blasts, and other scifi oriented sound effects help to bring the table to life.

Details I forgot to mention ...

Like some other features on this table the pinball launcher stands in a class of it's own. Designed like a space age targeting system you will have to try, and hit the launch button (X) as the crosshairs line up with the head of the visualized target. If hit spot on you'll be able to follow up for a target elimination (aka, Skillshot). After the pinball leaves the launcher, assuming you hit the target directly it will near the top right flipper (there are a total of 3 flippers). If you flip the ball towards the opposite side of the playing field, and get it to successfully pass through the upper arched ramp you will score the usual 500,000 points that's associated with skillshots. It's not a million points, but it will boost your score well enough.

Conclusion ...

The "Guardians of the Galaxy" table is good for a variety of different reasons. One thing in particular is the two initial scoring opportunities that were included at the start of the table playthrough. The special events not only take the player by surprise, but if played right they can give the player a significant boost in score early on. If you choose to play on this table you'll find that scoring isn't exactly the easiest thing to do, so having those initial scoring opportunities really makes a difference in any high score attempt. On top of that the overall design, including the many features, and the applied soundtrack truly compliment the theme at hand. As far as a tribute table goes this one definitely ranks up there with Zen Studio's best Marvel tribute tables. Since it is a single table, and it will only set you back a few bucks at most. I'd definitely say go for it! If you get it on the PS3, or PS Vita first you can import it to your PS4 or other Playstation consoles free of charge.

As far as console comparisons go I'm gonna have to say the PS Vita version paled in comparison to the others due to it's oddly scaled down size. Everything on the PS Vita looks smaller than normal, and makes scoring more difficult, especially with the dark colored pinballs traveling across the playing field. One thing that I forgot to go in detail about earlier on in my review is that each of the event pinballs, or character pinballs as I call them are designed with some sort of detail from the corresponding character upon it. Rocket Raccoon's pinball, for example has a Raccoon footprint, and Star-lord's has a star image on it. The other character based pinballs offer character specific similarities as well.

Getting back to the console comparison ...

If I were to be honest I'd have to say that the best version of this latest table release is definitely the PS4 version. Not only do you get HD quality graphics (assuming you have an HDTV), but playing on the table is a lot easier to do due to the larger screen size. The PS3 version of "Guardians of the Galaxy" comes in at a close second place though. I say this only, because it's graphics are slightly downscaled. It still plays as good as the PS4 version, and is graphically impressive enough as it is regardless of it's graphic presentation. If you are interested in buying this particular Zen Pinball 2 table definitely go for the PS3, or PS4 version. If you have both a PS4, and a PS3 be sure to get the PS3 version first as it can be imported.

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