Zen Studios released another wave of Marvel-based pinball tables for Marvel Pinball on the PS3 and Pinball FX 2 on the Xbox 360 this week. The four tables include silverball-based adventures featuring Thor, Moon Knight, the X-Men, and Ghost Rider. How do they rate? Check out our impressions.

If you like variety, Ghost Rider is for you. In my time with the table, I've played a traffic-dodging video mode, blasted targets with a swiveling shotgun, and narrowly avoided death by hitting ramps and performing other stunts. In an interesting play on Johnny Blaze's supernatural themes, there's a demonic mode that give's players a choice: wager a shot for 500,000 points or a cool 5 million. Simply catch the flaming ball with your flippers, and the points are yours. This being a deal with the devil, there's a catch. The lower-scoring shots activate a ball-save, so you don't have much to lose if you aren't quick enough. If you want the big points, however, you have to play for keeps.

I'm a little torn about the X-Men table. The license is probably the strongest, but the table doesn't seem to be doing it justice. I do like the way Magneto's powers work in the game (using his powers of magnetism, he can block specific shots), and one of the villains is able to slowly tilt the entire table as his mode proceeds. Cool gimmicks? Sure. Maybe I need to get better at it, but right now I'm just not getting that satisfying sense that my shots are flowing into one another.

Of the four new tables, I'd say Thor is probably the most accessible. It's fairly simple to get a four-ball multiball mode going by defeating four elementals. Start out by hitting the volcanic bumpers on the left side of the table 25 times, and then pick off the three remaining monsters by dumping the ball into a pair of holes immediately in front of the bumpers. Missions are activated by hitting URU targets at the top center, and then blasting the ball onto the Rainbow Bridge to Asgard. Most of these serve as an excuse to get Thor's animated figure off his southwest perch so he can knock Loki and a few other clowns around with his hammer. I'm still trying to work my way through this one, but I'm having a great time with it so far. There's a whole lot of over-the-top Norse action, with Thor constantly blabbering on about how great Asgard is. He's kind of like a Texan in that regard.


Moon Knight is my favorite of the new tables. Marvel gets a little defensive when people compare the character to Batman, but the version of the hero presented in this pinball game sure has a lot of similarities. You battle a Scarecrow, fight against a clownish Midnight Man, and generally brood about crime. I'll take it. Overall, it reminds me a lot of the Iron Man table, in both the way the ball glides across the table (it's pretty fast!), and how players have a nice little upgrade path for their gadgets. I've unlocked a multiball mode that bathes the balls in what I'm assuming is a moon-based glow. It's a cool effect, and the ball-saving is generous enough to encourage risky shots.

All told, Marvel Pinball: Vengeance and Virtue is another great compilation from Zen. As with the first batch, these Marvel-themed tables are exciting and accessible enough for fans of comics who are just casual pinball players (if they play at all). Each one offers enough variety to keep you interested and challenged for a long time, but they're also a solid introduction to Zen's other pinball offerings. A quick warning: With full access to real-time competitive leaderboards, it's tough not to get caught up in the series. Good luck.