- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 4, 2011

One of the stranger ways to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s famed comic book superhero team gives pinball wizards a robust simulation in Marvel Pinball: Fantastic Four (Zen Studios, reviewed for Xbox 360, rated E for everyone, 240 Microsoft Points, $2.99).

Reed (Mr. Fantastic) Richards, Sue (Invisible Girl) Storm, Ben (Thing) Grimm, Johnny (Human Torch) Storm and the evil Dr. Doom all hang out as 3-D models on a dynamic tabletop as players shoot a pinball at ramps, blast through spinners, light areas, bounce off bumpers and complete objectives to open memories from the heroic quartet’s mythology.

Shoot at an entrance to the Baxter Building (an elevator takes the pinball up and deposits it on a ramp) and plant a ball in a sinkhole to watch an impressive Dr. Doom come to life. He then launches laser beams at Invisible Girl, who shields herself with a force field.

Or, watch Johnny Storm “flame on” and attack a ramp and pinball, causing them to burst into flames.

Better yet, enjoy the Thing pummeling Doombots after setting off a mission and targeting one of the Latverian leader’s minions with a pinball.

Even the planet-consuming Galactus stops by to try and cause destruction when the proficient player triggers the correct combination of pinball feats.

Each character also can influence ball movement, such as Mr. Fantastic using his stretching abilities to grab a pinball out of a hole, Dr. Doom capturing a pinball and disintegrating it or the Thing lifting the silver orb and smacking it back in play.

All of the pinball sounds help sell the virtual action as well as lots of character dialogue. The Thing offers “Sweet Aunt Petunia” along with many other signature phrases.

Of course, the three-ball matches also include an online multiplayer option, local trade-off matches (pass the controller after each lost pinball) and leader boards.

The incredibly low price point makes it a welcome addition for the pinball fan in the family, but requires a player already have the free download of Pinball FX2 activated in the Xbox 360 before using the Fantastic Four board.

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