Bumping the "Marvel Pinball" Table with ZEN Studios

Developer ZEN Studios has this whole console-based pinball thing down to a science. No quarters necessary to enjoy all the action of old-time arcade pinball, though the the big difference is the games are presented with animations on top of the boards, giving them a vibrant three-dimensional effect.The latest pinball collection from ZEN is based on the Marvel Universe and its iconic library of characters. Four tables are available to start (Iron Man, Spider-Man, Blade and Wolverine) and each comes with dialogue lifted from movies, the release of multiple balls within the context of the table played -- as in the Green Goblin tossing one of his patented pumpkin grenades as another ball on the Spidey table -- and frenetic fun. Gamers and Marvel fans without a PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 are apt to miss out as "Marvel Pinball" is available for download exclusively on the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade.CBR News recently caught up with Mel Kirk, VP of Marketing of ZEN Studios, to chat about all things ZEN, the game of pinball and what it means to bring the Marvel Universe into this space.

CBR News: The superhero genre has enjoyed a major resurgence the past several years as many titles received film and TV adaptations. What took so long to get a pinball version of the game into the mix?

Mel Kirk: I hear ya! Movies, games, shows -- there are a ton of superhero related media that have been on the scene for a long time -- where was pinball? It was really just a matter of time. ZEN Studios really matured over the past few years into what is now regarded as the leading video-game pinball design studio. We have had a relationship with Marvel for a few years, so we decided to marry what each company does best, and it's been magic.

How did you integrate the Marvel theme into the pinball setting?

The first thing you need to understand is that ZEN Studios are fanatical Marvel fans. The studio is full of Marvel paraphernalia and comics, so the team is very knowledgeable in all aspects of the Marvel Universe. Our main goal in creating "Marvel Pinball" was to capture the personality and essence of each character in every table we created. Each table is designed from the ground up with specific elements unique to each character, from enemies, weapons, rails, music, etc. Spending just a few seconds on each table will immediately pull you into four distinct experiences.

What is new or unique about this pinball version that separates it from the other pinball games that ZEN Studios has made?

We've taken greater liberties with freedoms afforded to us being in the video-game space. In real world machines you cannot have interactive 3D models and ball effects, but we've taken these elements to a new level in "Marvel Pinball." We started touching the surface of what was possible in previous ZEN tables, but this time we really went for it. There is a very fine line between keeping a formula that works for the classic player, while at the same time creating an experience that is in line with today's gamer and their expectations.

What continues to bring your dev team the greatest joy in making pinball games after making them for so long?

It's no secret that we have a deep love -- some call it an obsession -- with pinball. You could talk to a number of the guys in the studio and they would all tell you stories about pockets full of change being spent in the old arcades on pinball. Some claim to have lost a small fortune, some took money from grandparents -- it's pretty comical. All that said, we all get up excited to come in everyday and make pinball games (and other games soon). One of the biggest things happening at the moment is the birth of a new generation of pinball fans. Pinball is a game that transcends generations and it's easy for anyone to play. We decided to try and make it relevant for today's gamer, while at the same time maintain the formula that has kept pinball alive for decades.

The Marvel Universe is home to the most iconic superheroes and supervillains and has some of the richest stories and histories. We just had to do it! There is a deep roadmap of content that is currently in development to support the initial release of "Marvel Pinball." I wish I could spill all the beans now, but everyone will just have to wait and see what comes next. I can say that some tables may take on storyline roles and events -- there are a lot of cool things planned.

Who are your favorite Marvel characters, and why?

This is a funny question because it will clear up some speculation on why we made a Blade table. Many out there think we just went after the big movie licenses, but then here is Blade released with Spider-Man, Iron Man and Wolverine. He's kind of the odd man out so to speak. Blade was chosen because he is one of our favorite characters. His dark personality, vampires and weapons are just really awesome and we wanted to get him into the first batch of tables released. Other favorites include Hulk, my childhood hero. I think I still have my Hulk Halloween costume from when I was 5 years old, which I wore even when it was not Halloween. Hulk is such a badass, I always dreamed of being a real-life Hulk.

"Marvel Pinball" is available now for 800 MSP on XBLA and for $9.99 on the PlayStation Network.

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