Pinball FX2

Platform(s): PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Genre: Casual
Developer: Zen Studios
Release Date: Aug. 14, 2014

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


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Xbox One Review - 'Pinball FX2' - Ant-Man

by Brian Dumlao on July 17, 2015 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

Pinball FX2 takes the pinball genre to another level with the most advanced ball physics and social features to date, along with a new collection of beautifully designed tables.

So far, every character that has a movie named after them in the Marvel Cinematic Universe also has a representative table in Pinball FX 2. From individuals like Thor and Captain America to teams like The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy, everyone has come away with a table. It was inevitable that Ant-Man would also get his own table just in time for the movie's release.

The table goes back to some of the early Zen designs, where the areas of interest have a bias toward the upper half of the table — so much so that there isn't much in the lower half except for bumpers, drop chutes, flippers and lots of indication lights. The top half contains at least five ramps and pathways, each one used to build up the letters needed for a quest and to trigger them once the associated letters are collected. The top left side contains three bumpers, which are used to build up one of the jackpot bonuses, and a flipper that is used to hit a ramp and trigger the skill shot. The right side is a bit more fascinating, as you deal with a giant particle that bounces around when you hit it. It also gradually shrinks the more times you hit it and eventually becomes small enough to get loose and act as a second ball for multiball. Keep hitting that side after you free the particle, and a much smaller one come out that acts as a tiny third ball; it's difficult to see but still very useful to have.

The special minigame sections of the table have been hallmarks of the series thus far, but the ones on the Ant-Man board are certainly different from past tables. The first section is in the middle, below the table itself. Get into this area, and you'll be given rubber bouncers instead of flippers, and your job is to keep the ball alive for as long as possible. More points are scored the longer the ball stays here, and while you aren't given the best view of the action, the wide movements of the bouncers and decent amount of space make it visible enough for players. The second minigame section lies below the left drop chute, where you're given a chance to keep the ball alive for more points and a chance to return to the field before succumbing to a lost ball. Unlike the other section, you're actually tilting the small section between static bumpers. It makes it a very tough section to deal with, but at least it is a change of pace from what's been offered in the past.

One of the advantages of Pinball FX 2 is that it embraces the freedom of the video game format, and this table showcases that in spades. The usual set of digital figures is there, so you'll see Ant-Man and Hank Pym stand in their respective spots and moving around. Some missions have Yellowjacket come into the field, forcing Ant-Man to move to the lower corner so you can have an unobstructed view. The different particle sizes mentioned earlier have their own weight, and their velocities are much different than the regular ball. Perhaps the best example of the advantage of the format is in a minigame, where you see Ant-Man shrink and jump around the field. As he does so, your control switches to a paintball turret that sits between the flippers. Your job is to shoot him with a paintball gun, and while the task seems rather out of place for a pinball game, it's quite fun.

The combination of these elements leads to a less crowded but fun table. The amount of breathing room on the table may seem like it cuts down on the points, but the tremendous amount of bonus opportunities in easy-to-reach places means that this is a table where high scores can easily be attained. The same distance also gives you a better chance of planning shots instead of just tossing the ball haphazardly since too many targets are available at once. The length of the table isn't compensated with wider pits or a higher tendency to fall down ball chutes, so the table is pretty fair. There also aren't too many big things that devalue the fun of the game. The indicator for getting bonus points from a shot is very hard to see, for example, so you need to rely more on guesswork than skill. Overall, it's a good design.

The presentation for the table is solid. The mostly gray lab setting can seem drab, but the various red accents, the lighting and the big glowing particle in the upper right provide some flavor. The sound-alikes for the actors are good enough, and the table backgrounds are done nicely to the point where you can't lose the ball unless you really aren't paying attention. The music is also good, going for the modern superhero vibe that fits well with the action on the table. There was a strange choice made with some of the effects. For some reason, hitting bouncers and doing screen transitions result in old-timey sound effects and cartoon effects being pumped out of the speakers. Old teleport sounds and cartoon bounces are a few examples of what you'll hear throughout the game, and for a table that isn't going for a comedic slant, it seems rather out of place.

Like the other Marvel-related tables before it, Ant-Man is pretty solid. The table has a nice design that lets players do some careful planning instead of relying on flipper mashing, and the generous rewards ensure that some high scores can be obtained rather easily. The various side activities are different enough from past tables to be enjoyable, and the presentation lives up to the company's standard. As long as you can ignore the odd choice in sound effects, Ant-Man is another table that digital pinball aficionados will want in their collections.

Score: 8.0/10

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