It’s been a big summer for the Guardians of the Galaxy, has it not? Thanks to the critical and commercial success of the motion picture, this ragtag team of superheroes has risen from utter obscurity to a common household name in what seems like the blink of an eye. That means comic books, action figures and other forms of merchandise are in high demand by those looking to further explore this newly discovered universe while waiting for the movie to release at retail. In comes the Guardians of the Galaxy table for Pinball FX2, which we think is a great way to calm the urge for more of Marvel's mouthiest misfits, and it's a downright engaging pinball table in general.
The interstellar adventures kick off with a frantic round of four-ball multiball action that requires nothing more than sending balls through marked lanes/ramps to increase scoring. Managing that many moving pieces is complete insanity at first, but once you learn that it doesn’t matter if the balls drop into the drain, some of the urgency is dulled and it’s easier to aim your shots. Although this sequence can be rather exhilarating, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a perfect implementation, as it’s not really possible to tally enough points during this minute-long frenzy to make a difference in how your final score turns out. So really, it’s loud and explosive but sort of lacks substance or significance. Luckily, what’s on the other side is business as usual, and it’s totally worth the wait.
The layout of the table is very straightforward, not offering the same degree of variety or intricacies as some other Pinball FX2 tables do. And that’s not really a shortcoming, because for what Guardians lacks in the finer details, it makes up for in brisk pacing and explosive action. Initiating missions is almost exclusively reliant on hitting a ramp or lane enough times to spell a character’s name, and once a mission has been triggered, the agenda still doesn’t deviate much from ramps, lanes, ramps. There might be the occasional sequence that rotates between two goals (like a battle between Star-Lord and Ronan the Accuser where drop targets will also need to be hit), but these aren’t all that complex in approach and shouldn’t throw anyone for a loop. This one-note gameplay will either be seen as a pro or con depending on your skill level and preferred style of play. In our case, we found it so satisfying that it was hard to put the controller down. And even though this is one of the more forgiving tables, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a stiff challenge for those looking to truly master it.
Visually, Guardians immediately gives off a Star Wars vibe. Not only can the obvious comparisons be made between the two properties because of their space themes, but the overall design and feel actually reminded us of a couple Pinball FX2 Star Wars tables. But worry not, Guardians still manages to feel like its own thing despite the similarities. The color pallet is primarily grey with orange accents, which is a combination that’s easy on the eyes – as opposed to the disorienting color pallets of a couple other Marvel Pinball tables (looking at you, Thor and World War Hulk). Plus, the lane indicators and graphics are tastefully spaced and placed throughout the landscape, so they don’t overwhelm or lend to any unneeded confusion when tracking the ball or determining mission objectives. These are just some of the many reasons why we believe Guardians makes for one of the most accessible tables of the Marvel Pinball lot.
As is the case with a majority of the licensed tables before it, it's the sound effects that really help bring the spectacle to life, even if there are some things to gripe about. For one, quotes are pulled directly from the movie but they’re not voiced by the actual actors. Most of the stand-in voice actors do a fantastic job delivering a performance that’s faithful to the characters, though we found Star-Lord (aka Peter Quill) to be a bit tough to stomach. There’s also an instrumental classic rock song that plays pretty much nonstop, with a tone that can occasionally contradict the weight of the events occurring on screen. But being that these minor niggles are superficial, they shouldn’t stand in the way of squeezing maximum enjoyment from what is an exhilarating romp sure to entertain fans of the film and lovers of pinball alike.
Because of the straightforward approach to play, Guardians of the Galaxy is a great table for newcomers and those that don't take their pinball too seriously. That's not to say that pinball wizards won't also find it satisfying, but there's a chance the higher level of forgiveness and the conservative design choices might not completely stimulate all types of players. There are a couple missteps that may annoy some — like an opening sequence sure to become a chore with repeat plays and a couple of questionable audio choices — but once standard play begins, the engagement is so action-packed and consistent that you'll likely forget about these flaws before you can spell "Groot." Long story short, the Guardians are a group worth signing up with, even if they haven't quite mastered introductions.