After a week of banging my head against Zen Pinball 2′s Marvel Civil War DLC, my love for pinball has met its match. Despite the solid physics and presentation that developer Zen Studios has nailed throughout their rich catalog of pinball tables, the Marvel Civil War pinball table isn’t any fun.
The story in Marvel Civil War, a pinball table element that’s an unusual topic to discuss, is the strong point of the table. Civil War is based on the comic book story line of the same name, pitting Captain America and Iron Man against one another in a race to form a team of superheroes either against or for the registration of heroes, respectively. This story is played out on the pinball table through a lot of dialogue between the two opposing teams and is colored with a lot of background announcements from a news anchor. Heck, there’s even a prologue multi-ball mode that provides context for the story and asks you to choose sides afterwards.
The presentation is also fantastic. While it doesn’t have the wacky touches of other tables that Zen Studios is known for, such as hordes of zombies or a table that turns upside down, it’s still really effective. One mode has Captain America and Iron Man fighting on the table as you play it, with the fight going into slow motion until you move the fight to the next stage with a shot as time counts down.
Unfortunately, there’s a timed element to that fight mode and even to adding a member to your team. If you take too long in triggering one of the many timed game modes on the table, heroes are added to the opposing team, which makes the fight mode on the table increasingly difficult by forcing to you make even tougher shots to complete it.
A big part of what makes all of the timed elements on Civil War difficult is that the pinball table itself is cluttered with ramps and little else. Because of this clutter, even the most minute amount of space on your flipper (the little sticks you control that hit the ball) is the difference between whether your ball hits the desired ramp or ends up spiraling down a path while the timer counts down to zero – resulting in you losing the mode, possibly losing a team member, and increasing the difficulty of your game.
I’m no pinball slouch by any means, but placing so many time constraints on the game makes it tough for even experienced players to get a good feel for the table. It’s as if there is no learning curve in Civil War, just a big plateau. I was eventually able to do well in the table by resorting to the old trick of holding the ball still with an upheld flipper before every shot, but is this really how you want to spend your time? If you answered ‘no,’ as I did, you’ll be much better off with other Zen Pinball 2 tables such Street Fighter, Blade, or Tesla.
Marvel Civil War looks great and benefits from the same great ball physics and social features that developer Zen Studios is known for. It also does a good job of explaining how to play the table, thanks to the Table Guide feature prevalent in all Zen Pinball 2 tables. Even with all of the functionality and gloss that you’d want, Civil War suffers the most damnable trait of not being enjoyable to play, and that makes it impossible for me to recommend.