Monday, April 27, 2015

Zen Pinball 2 - "Avengers: Age of Ultron" (PS3/PS4/PS VITA)

Throughout the Marvel timeline of events there have been numerous world changing conflicts. Some were so astronomical in delivery that they altered the Marvel universe forever, and others were so petty that the could best be described as quarrels amongst heroes, and heroines. When it comes to the "Age of Ultron" extinction event though a seemingly harmless creation grows inevitably difficult stop. Heroes come to the rescue only to realize that their present day fight for the sake of humankind is futile, and that a trip into an alternate version of their reality will be required to stop the villainous A.I. construct known as Ultron. Of course in the story arc mistakes are made, lives are lost, and eventually the reality of the Marvel universe's predicament is made known. Even though the damage is done at the hands of Earth's mightiest heroes, "The Avengers", and their comrades in arms they together try to sort out the sordid mess that they all have contributed to. For a little "FYI" info you'll find that the original story arc was done up in 2013 by 'Brian Michael Bendis', and was a 10 issue mini-series about the return of Ultron which was followed up by even more in-depth spin-offs involving multiple characters from the Marvel universe.

In regards to Zen studio's latest Marvel tribute table titled, "Avengers - Age of Ultron" you'll find that it closely mimics the Hollywood version of the cataclysmic event of the same name. It also houses similar character portrayals as those taken on by Hollywood actors, and actresses in an effort to obviously capitalize on the popularity of the comic's revival into a more visually appealing form. The table itself takes on a unique form in that it abandons Zen studio's usual comic book inspired art, and features character art as well as voice-overs similar to the one's found within the movie. The table art, which features a limited cast of characters has Ultron centered at the bottom of the table with the Hulk, and other supporting Avengers team members above, and beside him in a totem-pole style fashion. The art style used on these character depictions try to maintain a comic book appeal, but still harbor details similar to the actors, and actresses who portrayed them on the big screen. In all honesty the table art isn't the most impressive I've seen from Zen Studios, but it does get the point across well enough.

As far as the 3D models, and ramp themes go you'll find that the table incorporates a more futuristic appearance with bordering half-pipe lanes illuminated or accented by flashy blue lighting, a center loop-around tube with a center ball capture as well as hidden-from-view bumpers, and pinball aisles that are located in the usual upper table position. Ramp access, and routes are mainly to each side of the table with some connecting lanes at the top of the table. One set of half-pipe lanes in particular (the right) houses a third flipper that is used to send the pinball sailing for additional combo points. As far as the 3D models go various Avengers do make their appearance, but you'll mostly be seeing Black Widow walking back, and forth near the main set of flippers as well as Ultron himself standing like a Terminator cyborg at the very back end of the pinball table.

Events on the table are triggered as one might expect with the passing of the pinball through the half-pipe lanes, and ramps as well as through the center loop & capture mechanism. The goal in each case is to ultimately spell out an Avenger's name, or names with consecutive pinball passes, or pings to the sweet spot/s. Once each name, or set of names is spelled out in full it will trigger a table event ranging from a multi-ball event to a themed event that requires yet more passes through ramps, lanes, and even into targets or bumpers. I know from memory that the upper bumpers are tied to a battle between Iron Man, and the Hulk, and that once triggered you will get a multi-ball jackpot event in which the two balls are colored like Iron Man, and the Hulk. Speaking of the pinballs Zen Studios does good to once again incorporate the super hero's, and heroine's costume colors on the balls, but does so in a not so obvious way. The pinballs still have a silver-like overtone, but have a sort of costume colored reflection underneath. I particularly liked Captain America's ball in that it looked like a spherical waving flag.

As far as scoring goes this table it can be as difficult as you want it to be. For the first time that I can recall Zen Studios has implemented a difficulty setting option on-table at the beginning of your playthrough. This can be set to 'Easy', 'Medium', or 'Hard'. The noticeable differences between said difficulties comes in the form of a faster ball, and lesser tries that tie-in with the optional pre-table event. Like some previous Zen Pinball 2 tables the 'Avengers - Age of Ultron' table houses an optional prequel multi-ball event in which the player can rack up some extra points before using their official pinball stock on the main playthrough. I will always advise opting in for the prequel event in that it can afford you millions of extra points if played right, and can give you a proper scoring lead.

Differences between each console version of the table are definitely recognizable this time around. The art, for example does not look all that impressive on the PS vita version of the table. The multi-ball events, which pan out from the table making everything scale down in size also really does the table an injustice on the PS Vita. As far as functionality on the Vita goes I've found that it's a little harder to score on even with the difficulty setting set to 'Easy'. To be fair though scoring isn't all that easy in the first place across all consoles, because the pinball tends to gain a lot of momentum from ramp, and lane passes as well as through passes through the middle loop-around ball capture mechanism. If I had to choose a favorite console to play the table on it would be the PS4, and secondly the pS3 as it's always more enjoyable to play Zen Pinball 2 tables on a larger screen. Luckily for those who own all three, or at least two of the mentioned Playstation consoles you will find that it is a cross-buy deal, and can be added freely to your other consoles once you buy it on one. Be sure to first buy, and download it on the PS3, or PS Vita though as you can import to the other consoles in-game.

The Verdict ...

If I were to be honest I was a bit letdown by the art style used on this table. I get it that the Avengers movies are big right now, but I've always preferred Zen Studio's comic book inspired tables more. The ones that look as if Marvel artists drew them up. In fact I'd go so far as to say that I hate the Hulk's design, both in the movie, and on this table. He reminds me a lot of a certain preacher I see on television (Jentzen Franklin) every Sunday as I channel surf through the old boob tube. At least in the face he does. Even Ultron looks like a Terminator rip-off to me, and not really like he was shown in the comic books. As far as functionality goes the table is alright. It works, but will definitely give you a run for your money. Even set on 'Easy' it is hard to keep the pinball going, because of the speed at which the pinball approaches the main flippers. The middle loop-around tunnel, and capture mechanism does not make things easy for the gamer at all. On the positive side I liked the fact that there was a prequel event for additional scoring, and that Zen Studios 1up'd the former characters' pinball designs with a sort of chromed over costume version. In the end, considering all that I've said I'd only recommend buying this table so that you can complete your Zen Pinball 2 collection, and keep it up to date. It's not horrifically bad, but it's not exactly up to par with Zen Studio's more impressive Marvel tables.

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