Over the years, some of Spider-Man’s adversaries have been accused of plagiarism by comic book fans who think, for instance, that Sandman is a bit too much like Batman’s bad guy Clayface or that The Green Goblin is a rip-off of The Joker. But one (of many) exceptions to this is Venom, since Batman never fought an alien symbiote who used to be his suit. Which makes it fitting that the new Venom pinball table — which Zen Studios have released for Pinball FX2 (Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC), Zen Pinball 2 (PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, WiiU, Mac), and Zen Pinball (iOS, Android, Amazon Fire) — is also pretty unique.
Based on the Eddie Brock version of the character — i.e., the bad guy he became after Spidey threw away the alien suit — the Venom table utilizes a two-tiered structure. But unlike a lot of pinball tables that have a split-level design, when you first launch the ball onto the Venom one, it doesn’t shoot out onto the top part, but on the bottom.
The table is also designed to keep the ball on the lower level as much as possible, which makes for some rather fast action, since the ball is constantly heading for the exit but doesn’t have far to go. In fact, half the time when it does make it to the upper level, it ends up coming straight back down.
Well, most of the time. While the top part, like the bottom, is also half the size of a regular table, it has its own set of flippers. But what sets this table further apart, though, is that the upper deck doesn’t just have two parallel flippers, it has a third flipper just above the one on the right side as well. There are even times when the ball will shoot between these two right-side flippers if they’re in the up position. Which, of course, leads the ball back to the lower level.
It’s just too bad you can’t control the two upper right flipper independently like you can the right and left flippers, though seeing as you can’t control the upper and lower flippers independently…
What’s surprising — well, to me anyway — is that this two-tiered structure makes the Venom table work even better on a small screen than it does a big one. While you might think the small screen would make it harder to follow the ball in such a tight space, it actually makes it a lot easier, especially when the ball gets to the upper level. In playing the Vita version after several games on PlayStation 4, I found I was able to keep the ball on the upper deck a lot more when playing the portable version. Which is why it took me several games on the PS4 edition to get a multi-million high score, but I got one in my first game on the Vita. Too bad you can’t sync your high scores, even just between related systems (i.e., PS4, PS4, and Vita; or Xbox 360 and One).
Otherwise, though, the Venom table is similar to the other tables Zen Studios have made based on other Marvel Comics characters…and Star Wars…and South Park…. While the realistic physics make the ball move like it would on a real table, many of the things the table does when you meet certain conditions — like when Venom does his best Gene Simmons impression, or his friends show up for a picnic — would be physically impossible on a real table. Or at least financially irresponsible.
That said, the uniqueness of the Venom table doesn’t put it on par with the best tables Zen Studios put out this year: The Walking Dead and South Park ones. Though not by much. In fact, the Venom table is so much fun that the difference between it and those others is pretty negligible. Like the difference between, say, Sandman and Clayface.