Review: Marvel’s Venom Pinball

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Spider-Man took the spotlight in the initial Marvel Pinball pack, and now, over four years later, Zen Studios finally brings the series full circle with a table dedicated to Spidey’s archenemy, Venom.

Although Venom gets top billing in the latest addition to the Marvel Pinball collection for Zen Pinball 2 and Pinball FX2, the table prominently features storylines and mechanics highlighting not only Venom himself, but also Spider-Man and Carnage. The Symbiote storylines of other characters like Ann Weying, Mac Gargan, and Flash Thompson even factor into certain mini-game events. And, to complete the saga, Spider-Man’s days inside the Black Suit unfold during multi-ball phase.

As depicted by the table art, the bottom half is Spidey’s territory while Venom rules the top half, with Carnage jailed inside a glassy prison located in the dead space directly above the bottom flippers. Webs of black goo stretching from the outer table walls to surrounding city buildings make sure the Symbiote’s presence looms large.

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Launching the ball up into Venom’s neck of the woods, a second set of flippers opens the chance to flick the ball around a wall-crawler quarter pipe. Doing so enough times to spell out “Venom vs. Spider-Man” across a neon sign and then hitting a nearby hole triggers a showdown between the two rivals. This upper area also hosts a series of three targets which, when hit in quick succession, spell out “GOO,” transforming the ball into a blob of symbiotic goo that moves around on the table how you would expect a gooey substance to.

Getting Carnage to come out to play is a whole lot trickier. A ramp beginning roughly halfway up the table on the right side swoops all the way down underneath the flippers and then back up to an exit point along the table’s left side. If you’re able to hit the ball with enough force to make it the full length of the ramp, a letter in Carnage’s name is lit up. Once his full name is complete, Carnage breaks through the glass ceiling and tosses the ball into his former cell where a separate mini-table event is triggered. If you manage to hit all the blinking targets and break the ball out of jail, Carnage Frenzy mode kicks in, during which hitting any of the flashing ramps scores an instant one million points. This is the time to wrack up some serious pointage, but the frenzy doesn’t last long so you better make every hit count.

Therein lies the one issue I have with this table. The ramps can be very difficult to hit on a consistent basis. Even when you begin to feel like you have the timing and trajectory down, the ramps will spit balls back your way at an alarming rate. Carnage tauntingly letting loose a maniacal laugh every time you hit his ramp only rubs it in. I can’t think of any other Zen table in which I’ve had balls deflect off of a ramp’s lip or go up a ramp, start to round the loop, then lose steam at the last moment, and roll backwards out of the ramp and back down to the flippers with such high frequency. Long stretches of just keeping the ball in play without actually accomplishing anything are pretty common, and it hurts the overall flow of the table.

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This is made all the more noticeable when going back to play the original Spider-Man table, which has such smooth-flowing ramps that create the sensation of web-swinging between skyscrapers as the neighborhood’s friendliest superhero. Then again, Venom isn’t as graceful as Spidey, so I guess there is some logical method to this ramp madness.

In a weird way, the Venom table has moments of being one of the more frustrating tables in Zen’s digital collection, and yet overall it’s actually one of the easiest to pile up super high scores on. Opportunities to secure ball saves are plentiful–a capture plate in the upper area saves a ball that Venom will fling into play with his long tongue should the active ball become lost, one-way “Spidey Sense” hatches on both of the outlanes allow you to nudge the table to bounce the ball out of the gutter to game over and back into play, and an anti-venom auto ball save can also be activated for the outlanes. Once you get the timing and rhythm down, it becomes fairly easy to extend a round by two or three extra balls, which helps to overcome any bouts of ramp-induced rage. My top 10 scores are all over 31 million, and my highest score is currently up to 129 million. I don’t have scores like that on any other table, and I own almost the full Zen Pinball 2 set.

Venom’s table may not measure up to Spider-Man’s in terms of flow, but the well integrated Symbiote mini-game storylines and abundant ball save chances make up for it through the sheer joys of frequent high score output and Marvel fan service. Even with the ramp headaches, Venom has earned a spot alongside Marvel Pinball‘s finest.

BuyIt

Pros:
+ Mini-games, art, and sounds nail the Venom vs. Spider-Man vs. Carnage storyline
+ Offers many chances to pump out some seriously high scores

Cons:
– Frustratingly tricky ramp flow

Game Info:
Platform: Reviewed on Vita, also available on Android, iOS, PC/Mac, PS3, PS4, Wii U, Xbox 360 and Xbox One
Publisher: Zen Studios
Developer: Zen Studios
Release Date: 12/8/2014
Genre: Pinball
ESRB Rating: E10+
Players: 1
Source: Review code provided by publisher

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!