It’s important to look for the constants in this ever changing wave pool of life, and if anything has been both constant and positive in this ridiculously crazy 2016, it’s been Zen Studios and their pinball output. With three packs under my belt this year, I thought the trend should continue. The current release under attack by a simulated steel ball: Marvel’s Women of Power Pack
Made up of two tables, one featuring the alternate reality A-Force while the other showcases the young adult Champions, Women of Power is a step forward for Zen Studios and their on-table storytelling. Both start with small vignettes giving a brief setup for the table. A-Force stars Black Widow and Madame Masque fighting over the cosmic cube while skydiving. An errant shot from Black Widow destroys the cube, shunting the two women into an alternate reality where society is led by women instead of men. Instead of the Avengers, the two women run into the A-Force and proceed to complete missions to find their way back home.
The table itself plays fast, and is alive with bright colors that draw your eyes down to the play area. The main action happens on the three main ramps that form a perimeter around the center, which itself is dominated by flashing lights and the off center head of Titanium Man. The action is easy enough to sort out, but the table suffers from some placement issues. For example, the top of the table consists of two levels, your standard 4 gate table entrance on top, a bank of bumpers below. The main exit from the top funnels out to flipper, but if you don’t smack the ball in time, it has a very direct, and almost, unhittable path towards the exit. This wouldn’t be so bad if the ball didn’t have a real strong tendency to skip out on all of the bumpers, draining right past the top flipper and down into my rage center.
I also had some issues with two of the main side ramps. Many of the targets involve getting up these ramps with a quickness, and over the three to four hours I spent with A-Force, I never could quite get the aim right consistently. I could knock the crap out of Titanium Man, and fly nearly effortlessly through A-Force Tower to snag the secret skill shot, but hitting the two side ramps when it counted, or even when it didn’t, felt near impossible.
The Champions table feels like a Saturday morning cartoon come to life all thanks to its brilliant use of sounds and colors. The small vignette shows Kamala Khan, the current Ms. Marvel, opening the Kind Cafe in Jersey City, and Bombshell, fresh from robbing a bank, boosts the Cafe’s first day funds. Ms. Marvel sets off to get it back, and is joined by a cast of characters as colorful as the table. Chief among them is Squirrel Girl, who is far more heard than seen, which, depending on how much you like your high pitched squirrel speak, is either a plus or a big minus.
The table reminds me a lot of the Iron Man table, with the majority being taken up by ramps that use every bit of table real estate they can. Metal tubes propel the ball from the back of the table to the flippers, and there are plenty of nooks and crannies to aim. The best part of the table, by a fairly large margin, is the sound design. EVERYTHING beeps, boops, or whoops like some kind of living slapstick. There are slide whistles to represent Ms. Marvel’s stretching, thwips from Spider Gwen’s webbing, and whatever the hell pixie dusts sounds like (magic, flittering, harps, all that jazz). All these sounds give the table a real light, fun feeling, and the high scoring bent always makes you feel like you are doing something.
If there was a low point to this table, it would be the inner two ramps. Both meet at the top of the table in almost a heart shape, and they form a kind of axis of evil, a slippery slope that takes a perfect hit to climb, and more often than not ends with your ball coming back the exact same way it entered. It is, by far, the one shot I always miss when I need to keep a combo going, and more often than leads to a series of slope slips as I mistime the return shots. Yes, I am sure this is more my fault then the tables, but holy hell is it annoying.
All in all, though, the Women of Power pack are just fun, fast tables. They allow Zen to stretch a bit by setting up a small story arc, and provide something just a little different for the player then they are used to. Absolutely a worthy pick up if you are at all invested in the Zen Pinball platform.
Reviewer and Editor for Darkstation by day, probably not the best superhero by night. I mean, look at that costume. EEK!