THE AVENGERS PRO
Hello and welcome to our In-Depth Review of Stern's latest game - The Avengers.
This In-Depth Review marks a change from our previous format in a couple of ways.
First of all, it's all in one part instead of the customary two parts we did in the past. The aim here was to make it easier to read and more practical to write, since previous reviews got a little out of hand and took up far too much time to write. So we're hoping to keep it more focused and a little more concise.
The other difference is that we'll only be reviewing one model - the one we got our hands on - and won't try to review all the variants of the same title. If you own one of these Limited Edition or Premium models, please tell us all about it in our comments section at the end.
So welcome to this new, leaner, easier-to-swallow-but-just-as-detailed In-Depth Review.
The Avengers is George Gomez's latest creation, following his testing of numerous new design features and ideas in Transformers. One of those ideas was the marketing of Transformers in several versions of Limited Editions alongside a regular Pro model.
That marketing model was then adopted across subsequent games, and The Avengers continues the pattern with two Limited Edition models - Hulk and Avengers - and a Premium model joining the Pro model we are reviewing here. There is also a home version of The Avengers which is produced as part of Stern's The Pin range.
For the uninitiated, The Avengers are a grouping of characters with assorted super powers who are brought together to face a foe so powerful they could not defeat it by themselves.
The original Marvel comics version of The Avengers has included nearly two dozen members over the years. However, The Avengers pinball follows the story line, character set and visualizations of the 2012 movie The Avengers, bringing together six superheroes to form the team - Black Widow, Hulk, Captain America, Iron Man, Thor and Hawkeye. These are all depicted on the translite image above from left to right.
As in the movie, their task is to battle and defeat the evil Loki - Thor's estranged younger brother - who wants nothing more than to take over the Earth and enslave humanity. The six Avengers members join forces to try to thwart his plans, but their united front is not without its own internal conflicts, as we shall discover.
The translite image depicts a nighttime montage of the six Avengers members, but the cabinet artwork has a much lighter feel to it.
As you can see, the two sides are mirror images of each other with the exception of the logos, which is a little disappointing. No doubt dedicated fans will be able to point out how Thor always carries his hammer in his right hand and Hawkeye always pulls arrows from his quiver with his left hand, so the right-side cabinet art is wrong, but not us. Oh no.
The jagged edging to the montage is carried over to some of the artwork on the playfield plastics as we'll see later.
The cabinet front continues the same light grey background and manages to squeeze in the six Avengers members along the bottom edge, complete with more 3D-style cutouts.
This is probably a good point to remind you that the model we are reviewing here is a European version, and so it has just a single multi-coin mechanism in the coin door and no cutout for a bill acceptor. It is encouraging to see the tournament start button is included as standard.
The sticker on the coin door again features the six Avengers, but in a different arrangement and joined by a larger Avengers 'A' logo. That logo features again on the backbox side artwork.
While the cabinet's sides and front have a lighter appearance, the darker tones return as we move up to look at the backbox sides, which feature three members of the S.H.I.E.L.D. law-enforcement agency (the acronym for which was originally from Supreme Headquarters, International Espionage, Law-Enforcement Division, but later became Strategic Hazard Intervention Espionage Logistics Directorate).
The left side shows S.H.I.E.L.D. agents Phil Coulson and Maria Hill, with the right side featuring the agency's Executive Director, Nick Fury.
The dark backbox and light cabinet almost makes the full machine look like it is made up from two separate games. Or maybe it's a metaphor for the light and dark sides of the character's personalities. Or perhaps they were just done by two different artists.
With the machine comes an assortment of spare parts, but the contents seem to have received an upgrade since we last ripped apart the plastic bag inside a brand new game.
Alongside the regular spare lamps, a fuse and the pricing cards, we find spare flipper rubbers, slingshot rubbers and post rubbers. There are also some coloured lamps and flashers, and there was room on the butyrate sheet to fit in an Avengers key fob too. Missing from the selection are sets of replacement decals for the standup and drop targets, and for the spinner. Let's hope they get added before too long.
On the left side of the apron sits the instruction card, which for The Avengers contains a lot of information in quite small type, making it difficult to read in all but the most brightly-lit locations.
The QR code on the instruction card links to the sternpinball5.com URL which currently shows four videos about The Avengers pinball.
Along with the plastic apron, this Pro model comes with the lock bar catches and the next-to-useless playfield support posts.
The eagle-eyed amongst you might have noticed the sticker on the underside of the playfield, printed with the words 'PEEL 164'. 'Peel' was the project name for The Avengers pinball, and it comes from the British TV series of the same name from the 1960s, featuring the characters John Steed and Emma Peel.
The 'Peel' name is also printed on a label inside the main cabinet as the game identifier. As this was an early Pro model, this may change later in the production run.
There is nothing else unusual inside the cabinet, just the regular transformer, speaker, power box, manual bag and - because this is a machine built for the English market - a coin meter.
The backbox holds no surprises either.
Perhaps the only item of interest here is the amount of memory fitted to the processor board. AC/DC used two 512Mb RAM chips to hold all the songs used in that game. The Avengers clearly doesn't need that extra memory, so there is just one 256Mb memory chip installed on the CPU board, making it incompatible with AC/DC.
That's give us a good look inside and outside the cabinet and backbox, so now let's look at the most interesting part of all - and the only one we get to play - the playfield.
We will make our tour of the playfield in the usual way - starting at the flippers and working clockwise, looking at each feature in turn.
As this is a George Gomez-designed game we can expect highly stylised playfield elements, and this starts right here with the flippers, where the red rubbers match the strong red playfield and plastics artwork, and the red illuminated ball guides.
The psuedo-3D horizontal slats design runs the width of the playfield, and continues onto the inlane ball guides, while in front sit the Avengers logo, the shoot again insert and three decorative picture panels which look like they should light up when certain features are completed.
In fact, those decorative picture panels are just that - decorative. They have no lamps behind them and are actually located above the part of the playfield where the flipper mechanisms are mounted.
The game doesn't feature a centre post, nor is there a mounting hole for one.
Sending the ball to the flippers is the left inlane, and it continues the red theme with a continuation of the playfield artwork on the top surface and an illuminated transparent red ball guide below.
Up the playfield from the left inlane is the left slingshot. This would be a regular single-level design were it not for the Black Widow ramp which terminates here and so sits on top, alongside a red flasher dome and a spotlight to help illuminate the central playfield area.
The end of the Black Widow ramp is constructed from two layers of plastic - one above the other - with the upper one forming a channel in which the ball rolls.
Both layers have copious amounts of artwork on them which would be much harder to achieve with a regular vacuum-formed ramp.
When the ramp comes to an end, a blue rubber pad stops the ball and a hole in the lower layer allows it to drop into the left inlane. Unfortunately this blue pad and the surrounding artwork completely blocks the view of the inlane and the 'O' insert which sits there. It also makes it difficult to see what the ball is doing when it's deciding whether to roll into the inlane or the outlane.
Even worse, the right side is just the same, and this in a game where lighting all four inserts is required to qualify one of the multiball modes. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde; to obscure one inlane insert might be seen as unfortunate, but to obscure two smacks of carelessness. The artwork is very attractive though, and marks the transition from the reds around the flippers to the deeper blue tones in the centre of the playfield.
But back to the left inlane and outlane. There's one of each in The Avengers, along with a matching pair on the right side. Each one has an insert to spell out L-O-K-I who, if you remember back to the start of this article, is the main bad guy in the movie.
As usual, the lit L-O-K-I inserts can be cycled using the flipper buttons and lighting all four advances towards Loki Multiball. Their green colour is replicated on the Loki Multiball lock lights at the top left of the playfield.
At the top of the left outlane is the usual outlane adjuster post. It only has two positions but, more importantly, some thought has actually gone into making this the first game for a long time where it possible to move the post without totally dismantling the playfield.
Above the inlane and outlane is a slight protrusion made from star posts surrounded by a rubber ring. This deflects the ball as it rolls down the playfield and encourages any balls kicked by the slingshots to explore the option of an outlane drain.
There is a similar arrangement on the right which is much more dangerous, and can send the ball down the right outlane before you've even had the opportunity to flip it once. Over here on the left it's not so hazardous and can even be helpful at times, but these protrusions do make the lower part of the playfield very bouncy and the ball quite difficult to bring under control.
Moving up the playfield we come to our first major feature of the game - the Thor target bank.
Each of the six Avengers characters have their own shot in the game, as does arch-villain, Loki. This is Thor's shot - or rather four shots.
The four standup targets in this bank light corresponding inserts in the playfield in front of them. The artwork is a little obscure, but it shows Thor's hammer four times. Beneath each hammer is a rectangular insert, and lighting all four advances towards completing Thor.
We travel up the playfield a little, and find ourselves at the entrance to the Hawkeye lane.
The long, perforated metal ball guide acts like an orbit, sending the ball to the back of the playfield and curving around to run across the back of the game.
The Hawkeye lane feeds the ball onto the Loki ramp at the back of the game which then runs down the right side of the playfield to a lock area above the right outlane.
Like most of the major shots in the game, the entrance to the Hawkeye lane features five inserts which show the progress towards collecting the character.
In a game full of tight shots, the long lead-in on the Hawkeye lane ball guide makes this one of the easier shots to make - something helped by having the switch to detect a successful shot only part-way up the lane.
To the right of the entrance to the Hawkeye lane is the first of three blue standup targets in the game.
Each target lights up it's associated insert when hit and when all three are lit, the feature is completed and the inserts reset. We'll see what that achieves later in this review.
Moving slightly right, the next major shot is the left inner orbit, which is the Captain America shot.
On most modern Stern games it is the outer orbit shot which feeds the ball to the top rollover lanes and the pop bumpers, but with the outer left shot feeding the Loki ramp in The Avengers, it is the Captain America left inner loop which sends the ball to the top of the playfield.
At the top there is a controlled gate which has no effect on shots to the Captain America lane, but can either allow reverse shots to exit through the lane, or block them and force the ball into the rollover lanes.
We'll come back to the rollover lanes shortly, but continuing on our sweep around the playfield, the next Avengers character we come to is The Hulk.
The Hulk's feature can be divided into four connected parts. First of all there is the four bank of drop targets which spell out H-U-L-K. Positioned in front of them is a saucer, while behind is the Hulk model and the Hulk Smash standup target.
The four Hulk drop targets each have a corresponding round green insert, but unfortunately - due to the position of the saucer - they have been offset and ended up in exactly one target's width away. This means they don't correspond to the target behind, but the one behind and one place to the left which is very confusing, especially as the last insert can sometimes be hidden.
The cause of all this confusion - the saucer - can be accessed two ways. The ball can be shot directly in , or it can be dropped in from above if a diverter on the Black Widow ramps activates.
The ball is then kicked out against the H drop target (if it is up) or towards the hulk. The kickout solenoid is not especially strong -presumably not to break the drop target - so it may take a couple of attempts if the ball rebounds from the target back in.
When the H-U-L-K targets are down, the shot to The Hulk is available.
The ball can be shot at The Hulk to help complete his feature or to score Jackpots. Shots are registered not by switches in The Hulk himself, but by a microswitch under the flap in front, which looks like it should be a ramp.
When the ball rolls over the flap, a hit is detected and a magnet in front of the flap is activated to throw the ball back at the player.
When a ball hits The Hulk, he reacts by swivelling left and right to push the ball away, and then raising his arms.
This is particularly useful because when his arms are in the down position they become quite effective ball traps. As a result, moving The Hulk left and right and lifting his arms up is the first stage of the ball search when no switch activity is detected.
The final part of the Hulk feature is hidden behind his right arm but is an important shot during Hulk Multiball.
This is another shot where the relevant inserts are difficult to see thanks to other playfield objects blocking your view. It's also hard to see when you've hit it too, as the playfield is quite dark in that area. We've brightened it up quite a bit in the picture below.
Although it can seem almost impossible to hit due to The Hulk's arm blocking the shot, in real life it's actually easier to make than it looks, and The Hulk can even help you occasionally by throwing the ball at the target as he swivels.
If a ball should get stuck behind the H-U-L-K drop targets, they are angled such that the ball can roll to the right and escape through a gap to the right of the target bank.
Illumination for The Hulk is provided by a pair of spot lamps mounted to the right in the pop bumper area. One is a green general illumination lamp while the other is one of those green #906 flasher lamps provided in the goodie bag.
Just a little further to the right of the H-U-L-K drop targets is the games other moving feature - the Tesseract.
This feature sees the return of our old friend the All-Spark Cube from Transformers. Only this time it comes mounted on a spinning turntable, much like the lamp in Tales of the Arabian Nights.
Each shot to the Tesseract which causes it to spin lights one of the C-O-S-M-I-C letters, shown on six inserts at the front of the turntable. When completed, a Tesseract scoring mode begins.
Rotations of the Tesseract are detected by an opto pair and an interrupter disc with slots cut in it, which is mounted on the shaft and spins with the turntable.
There is a red flasher underneath the rear of the Tesseract turntable which should draw attention to it at specific times during the game, although we never saw it in action and the positioning and cabling did seem a little odd, so maybe it was a late addition and not yet fully implemented yet.
Behind the Tesseract spinning cube are two more blue standup targets which group together with the skinnier version between the Hawkeye and Captain America lanes.
While the smaller target is easy to hit, the Tesseract's support posts can make these hard to get. As before, hitting one of them lights its round insert in front, and completing all three resets them.
The next major shot gives us the second ramp of the game, named after Natalia Romanov, a.k.a. Natasha Romanov, a.k.a. Black Widow.
This ramp has an unusual construction, starting with a sharp incline and turning nearly 90 degrees as it heads across the playfield, running above the H-U-L-K drop targets until it reaches the left side of the game.
This first section is made mostly from steel with a herringbone pattern of cutouts, and clear plastic sides for part of its length. It begins next to the Tesseract, where the game's only spinner also lives.
Normally whenever we find a spinner we show you the decals on both sides, but in this case the artwork is the same on the front and the back.
There is no lead-in on the ramp, so only accurate shots will impart enough momentum to carry the ball up the ramp and across the playfield.
As the ramp reaches the end of its journey to the left side of the playfield, it turns another 90 degrees and starts to run down the left side of the game. At this point though, it becomes a plastic construction and immediately encounters a diverter blade.
This diverter allows the game to send the ball to a short side ramp, which ends with a cutout through which the ball drops into the Hulk saucer.
There is an opto pair just before the end of the metal part of the ramp which registers a successful shot, so the ball doesn't have to make it all the way up the ramp, just most of the way.
If the ball isn't diverted to the Hulk saucer, it rolls down the left of the playfield, above the Thor targets and down to the left inlane, as we saw earlier.
Passing by a blue rubber pad which divides the two shots, we move from the Black Widow ramp to the right inner orbit lane which is allocated to Iron Man.
As with Black Widow, there are four character inserts topped off with a red arrow insert bearing the Avenger's name, and like the ramp there is very little in terms of help to make the shot. As a result it is one of the harder shots in the game to shoot consistently.
The Iron Man inner orbit leads to the top rollover lanes, and any ball shot up here will be confronted with a closed controlled gate unless the current gameplay mode decides to open it and let the ball exit through the Captain America lane.
If the gate is closed, it's the top rollover lanes instead, and in The Avengers there are three of them to represent the six Avengers members. As you may have surmised, to get six Avengers in three lanes means you need two per lane, and that's exactly what we have.
In what is becoming a recurring theme of form over function, much of this area is hidden by hardware and artworked plastic pieces. We couldn't get a clear photo of the lanes from directly overhead, and the view from the player's perspective is much worse with only about three of the inserts visible.
Two Avengers are allocated to each of the lanes; Hulk and Iron Man on the left lane, Thor and Captain America in the centre, and Black Widow and Hawkeye on the right. Rolling through a lane lights one of the two character's inserts. If one is already lit, it will light the other.
The aim is the same as usual - to light all six, which you use lane change to achieve. One of the inserts is also flashing at the start of each ball for a skill shot award.
Directly below the three rollover lanes are the pop bumpers.
As the Captain America lane feeds the top rollovers and the pop bumpers, this is a continuation of Captain America's section of the playfield. In keeping with that theme, the three pop bumper LEDs are red, white and blue, while the round flasher insert in the centre has been over-printed to create a star shaped window for the single #89 flasher lamp below to shine through.
While the bumpers are pretty active, there are very few opportunities to light additional rollover lanes, with the ball confined to the bumper area until it finally escapes altogether.
When it does exit the pop bumper area there is only one route, and that is to the bottom-right and into the Iron Man lane, from where it rolls down towards the flippers.
Following the ball's path out of the pop bumpers, the next feature we come to is the S.H.I.E.L.D. mystery award which comprises three standup targets and their associated inserts.
The lower two targets feature S.H.I.E.L.D. agents Phil Coulson and Maria Hill, while the upper standup belongs to Nick Fury.
The lower two inserts need to both be lit before the upper target's insert flashes to indicate a mystery award is available.
Just below agents Coulson and Hill's targets is another of those protrusions made from red star posts bound together with a rubber ring, which can be the source of much frustration (or amusement, depending on whether you're playing or watching).
This pair of posts is rather more dangerous than the pair on the opposite side because they can act with the top of the right slingshot below to immediately send balls rolling out of the pop bumpers and down the Iron Man lane straight into the right outlane.
This can happen at the very start of a ball and, if it is held in the pop bumpers for long enough, the ball saver has run out by the time the drain happens, leaving the player without the opportunity to flip the ball even once.
This playfield also had a metal plug next to the lower star post, suggesting it is an early version where something was moved, or possibly an alternative position for the lower post.
The right slingshot is much like its counterpart on the left, comprising of a lower level which is like a regular slingshot plastic, but extended to form the bottom surface of the Loki ramp, and an upper level which guides the ball.
As with the left side, the inlane L-O-K-I insert is totally hidden by the ramp's end, unless you lean over the playfield and peer through the ramp's cutout.
The cause of this obstruction is the Loki ramp and it's construction is quite complicated, so let's take a look at that now.
The Loki ramp takes over from the Hawkeye lane as it passes across the back of the playfield and creates an incline to take it above the playing surface.
Then a number of plastic pieces guide the ball around a curve, through a rollunder switch, and down the right side of the playfield.
The metal ramp leading from the shooter lane is slightly higher than the Loki ramp, so any ball coming down the ramp is automatically diverted to the left into the ball lock lane.
The lock area consists of three in-line ball sensors and an up-post to hold the balls in place. It works in a similar way to the sword lock in The Lord of the Rings and, if there are already balls in the lock when another one arrives, will release the front ball if lock is not enabled at the time.
The sensors are a new contactless type, and are surface mount components on a circuit board positioned under the ramp's base.
The up-post is the sharpened white plastic variety seen before, but with the shooter lane's metal ramp taking much of the ball's momentum away before it enters the lock lane, it doesn't seem to suffer from balls jumping the post as we've seen in the past.
Just below the up-post, you can see a cutout in the ramp to allow the tightening or adjustment of the right outlane post.
To the right of the Loki lock is the shooter lane ramp which, as we've just seen, joins the Loki ramp to send a launched ball up the ramp.
Anything less than a full strength plunge from the game's combined manual and automatic plunger will roll back to the Loki lock, but if you plunge hard enough, the ball makes it all the way to the top of the Loki ramp, where if falls into the inner loop lane above the top rollover lanes.
The controlled gate will be closed, so the ball bounces around until it chooses a lane to pass through, and enters the pop bumper area.
A really strong plunge could send the ball into the controlled gate, so it seems a weaker plunger spring has been chosen to prevent this happening too often. In fact, the autoplunger has the best chance of consistently sending the ball to the rollover lanes as the manual plunger will sometimes fall short.
As we continue our tour around the playfield we head back to our starting point, noting the single inlane and outlane at the bottom right and the close integration of the playfield and the plastics artwork to produce a 3D effect.
The shooter lane divider is also worth a mention as it's like the Monster Bash one, featuring a narrow plastic topper covering four red-coloured lamps below.
As we return to the flippers, we also come to the indicator of our progress, which is located above the flippers in a hexagonal pattern.
As we already explained, the three picture panels below the hexagon are unrelated and don't light up, so the six character images are our main progress indicator.
We say 'main' because there is another area of the game which shows status information - the backboard.
Apart from providing six general illumination lamps to brighten the back of the playfield, the backboard is also host to six flasher domes - each colour-coded to correspond to one of the Avengers characters - with the dome replicating the colour used for their playfield inserts.
We won't say they never work, but in the software version we were playing, they hardly ever worked, and when they did they rarely seemed to equate to the state of the indicated characters. They did look good when they lit up though and will catch your attention.
So for this version we're looking at the hexagon above the flippers for our progress information.
While we're looking under the playfield, here's a full view of the underside.
That concludes our look at The Avenger's hardware. So now it's time to explain the rules and give our opinions on the machine's various different elements.
We did this In-Depth Review with all the settings returned to factory defaults and we used the latest version of software at the time, which was version 1.3. By the time you read this, a new version may have been released and some of the features or scoring changed. If so, please let everyone know in the comments section below so we can keep this as up-to-date as possible.
The idea behind The Avengers is to bring together the six Avengers characters, get them to challenge each other and then get them to use their super powers to fight the evil Loki instead, saving the Earth along the way. Something we can all surely all relate to.
To bring one of the superheroes to the party you need to make their related shot enough times. That gets them to join The Avengers and when all are on-board, you get to play the sub-wizard mode Assault on the Helicarrier.
But to get them battle-ready they need to prove their worth by facing off against one of their fellow Avengers. If they manage to do that, they are fully qualified for the main wizard mode, the Battle for Earth.
Our progress towards completing these tasks is shown on the hexagonal indicator above the flippers, as we've just seen.
Each of the six Avengers can have one of three states; off, flashing, or solidly lit.
Off means you haven't made enough of their shots. Flashing means you have made enough shots, but only once. Solid means you've done it twice and taken them into a head-to-head challenge which they won. Once they are all flashing you can start Assault on the Helicarrier, but you need them all lit solidly for Battle for Earth.
But before we can even think about achieving any of that, we first of all have to start the game and launch the ball.
The first thing you might notice is the return of the split-screen layout. Loved and loathed in equal measure, the split-screen format reduces the animation area to 60% of the display area, using the remaining 40% for player scores and to show points as they are subsumed into the total.
As the ball is kicked out of the trough and into the shooter lane, there are two options available. A regular full-strength plunge will send the ball to the top of the Loki ramp and into the top rollover lanes, while anything less will drop it into the Loki ramp lock area.
Going for the short plunge option is not that useful, as it won't credit you with a lock if Loki multiball's locks are lit, and there's no skill shot available either. In fact, the only reason to choose that option is for a nice easy feed to the right flipper.
If it's a skill shot you want, the full strength plunge is your weapon of choice.
One of the three lanes will have a flashing insert to indicate it will give a skill shot award if the ball rolls through it. You can change which insert is flashing with the flipper buttons and if you steer it to the same lane as the one chosen by the ball, you get a points award which starts at 250K for the fist skill shot and increases by 25K for each subsequent award.
We're pleased to see the return of the 'hands free' bonus which gives you an additional 100K if you manage to get the ball through the indicated lane without using the flipper buttons.
Skill shots are available at the start of each ball and any extra balls. They aren't available after locking a ball on the Loki ramp when a new ball is launched into play, or after a ball save.
Above the top lanes are six inserts representing the six Avengers.
Rolling the ball through any lane will light whichever of the two inserts above the lane is not already lit and score 2,560 points. If both are lit then it does nothing apart from score the same 2,560 points. The flipper buttons cycle the six insert states in a clockwise or anti-clockwise direction which is a little more confusing than just having three inserts, but you'll get used to it eventually.
Once you get all six inserts lit, you receive a 10K award, the end-of-ball bonus multiplier is increased by 1X, and they all extinguish again.
We tested the bonus multiplier up to 17X after which we got bored, but with six inserts to light, you're unlikely to get much above that very often.
Once the ball passes through the top lanes, it comes to the pop bumpers, which are initially worth 1K per hit at the beginning of each ball but increase by 500 points with each visit to the bumpers. A counter at the bottom of the display shows the total points earned during the current visit.
This is the first of many examples where the display animations break out of the right-hand split screen and either overrun the scores section on the left, or replaces it completely. We'll see plenty more examples of that later on.
As the ball rolls out of the bumpers, it passes the S.H.I.E.L.D. mystery award targets, so we'll take a look at what goodies can be earned there.
To get a mystery award, the lower two targets need to be hit so both inserts are lit. You do actually need to hit each target - the adjacent one won't light its neighbour.
Lighting both will cause the insert in front of the upper target to flash to let you know a mystery award awaits you.
Hitting the upper (Nick Fury) target cycles through a list of possible awards before settling on the one you receive.
As usual, these are not truly random awards and at certain times you can safely predict you will receive more time for the current mode or an additional ball will be added to the multiball you are playing. But the good news is that on default settings you can stack as many of these as you want, as each completion of the lower two targets increments the number of awards available from the upper target.
Possible awards shown before the final one is awarded include:
The Tesseract spinning cube is one of the larger features on the playfield and naturally enough has its own set of rules.
The turntable on which the cube is mounted moves very freely and actually feels quite loose if you get your hands on it. This means it doesn't take effort much to get it to turn. Even the ball rolling down from behind the Hulk targets often registers a partial spin.
In front of the Tesseract's turntable are six C-O-S-M-I-C inserts and the target is to light them all. Each shot which causes the turntable to turn even slightly will add one letter.
It's important to note that the strength of the shot and how many times the cube spins is irrelevant when it comes to adding the initial letters, as you only get one letter whether the turntable rotates a quarter turn or spins 20 times. However, the greater the number of spins, the more points you earn and the more you increase the Cosmic value. Each spin scores 500 points, and adds 500 points to the total which is shown at the top of the display. At the bottom are the total points earned on this spin of the Tesseract cube.
Behind the turntable are two blue standup targets.
These are two of a set of three targets, with the third being over on the left side of the playfield, next to the Captain America lane.
Each of these targets scores 25K points when the insert in front is unlit. Getting all three scores 150K, gives a nice sound effect and increases the value of each Tesseract spin by an amazing 10 points.
Back to the C-O-S-M-I-C letters though, as when all six are lit, a score of 250K is awarded and Tesseract mode begins. Completing C-O-S-M-I-C is also the way to build towards lighting the extra ball at the Hulk saucer, which - on default settings - happens after C-O-S-M-I-C is completed three times, and then again after twenty-five completions.
And so we go into the Tesseract mode.
Our objective now is to spell out C-O-S-M-I-C again to collect the Tesseract jackpot. This is no mean feat, as each letter requires 15 spins of the cube and you only have 25 seconds before the mode ends. The next letter flashes on the row of inserts in front of the turntable, while any you collect light solidly.
There are plenty of points to be earned by spinning the cube. After an initial 1K score for moving the turntable, each sector it turns scores an additional 2K, so a spin will earn you about 15K.
While you're doing that, all the major shots in the game now score the Cosmic value you built-up from spinning the Tesseract. Of course it's hard to collect those while you're spinning the cube, so Tesseract mode is best combined with one of the game's multiballs.
When you do get all those 15 spins, the next letter's flashing insert becomes solid and the new next letter begins to flash. You also score the Cosmic value and that value is added to the super jackpot as well.
With 90 spins needed and not very long to achieve it, you may choose to accept a helping hand from the team at S.H.I.E.L.D. with one of their well-aimed mystery awards.
The Tesseract is the only timed mode in the game, so it was unfortunate that in this version of the software, despite showing the expected award on the display, no additional time was added to the clock.
So collecting all six C-O-S-M-I-C letters is a task you will almost certainly need several attempts to complete. If the time does run out before completing C-O-S-M-I-C, the next time you start Tesseract mode in the same game, any letters you lit before will be carried over, as will the number of spins left to add the next letter. The Cosmic value resets to zero for the start of the next build towards Tesseract mode, but it also seems to accumulate much faster the second and subsequent times, making cosmic values of more than 350K possible.
When you do eventually light all six letters, the super jackpot is lit. But where?
It's not very well signposted, but the triangular insert on one of the major shots will be lit to score the super jackpot. The lit shot can be changed by shooting the Tesseract cube and the direction of spin determines which direction the lit shot moves. If the cube is spun clockwise, the lit insert moves to the right, and spinning it anti-clockwise sends it to the left, wrapping round once it reaches the edge of the playfield.
Simply shooting the indicated shot is enough to collect the super jackpot.
Collecting the super jackpot ends the Tesseract mode and resets all the lit letters.
We said earlier how Tesseract mode is most lucrative when running alongside a multiball and it is fortunate the Tesseract is one of the few things you can start once a multiball mode is underway.
And so we come to the six Avengers characters and their shots.
All six of the characters follow roughly the same pattern, where you have to make their shot a certain number of times to start their feature. You then have to complete their mode to get them to join The Avengers and make their insert on the progress indicator flash continuously.
Naturally, each one has different requirements to start and complete their features, so we'll look at each one in turn, working our way clockwise round the playfield.
Thor's area is the four-bank of standup targets on the left of the playfield.
Each target has a fairly well-hidden insert in front to show when the target has been hit, and, as expected, you have to light all four by hitting the relevant targets.
There's no information on the dot matrix display about which targets have been hit, so you're reliant on the insert lamps working. Hitting an unlit target only earns you a paltry 2.5K and getting all four is not much better, bumping your score up by 11,110 points. Hitting and already-lit target is worst of all, garnering you a mere 1,110 points.
Whereas a simple shot to their lane is the sole requirement for some of the other Avengers, completing the four targets is the requirement for advancing Thor towards his feature. On default factory setting of 'hard' you have to actually hit each target to light its insert, as there's no latitude allowing you to hit the adjacent target and light its neighbour if its already lit.
The pattern of building towards each character's feature is broadly the same for most of the Avengers, with the first advance revealing the character's secret identity (or alternative name) on the display. With Thor that means the first time all four targets have been hit we get...
As you can see, we have to complete the four bank targets a total of three times to start Thor's feature. Lighting all the inserts a second time give us details about Thor's weapon - his hammer, which is named Mjölnir.
The third completion of the targets takes you straight into Thor's mode.
Like all the Avengers, Thor's mode is untimed and carries over from ball to ball - allowing you to keep playing it as long as you keep the game going.
The action remains with the standup targets but now their inserts strobe back and forth, from the left to the right and back again.
As they sweep left and right, three inserts are lit at a time. The leading one is full brightness, the previously lit one somewhat dimmer, and the one before that even dimmer.
Shooting the target with the brightest insert scores 300K points and counts down the number of hits needed to complete the mode.
If you hit the next brightest your score is reduced by 50K, and hitting the dimmest drops the value another 50K.
There's no countdown on the display of the number of target hits remaining, so you just keep wailing on the Thor targets until the game decides it has had enough and ends the mode.
Completing Thor's mode flashes his insert on the progress indicator meaning he is ready for the Assault on the Helicarrier sub-wizard mode, and starts a 2X multiplier on his standup targets for the remainder of the ball.
Hawkeye is the archer in The Avengers, and his area of the playfield is the outer left lane leading to the Loki ramp.
Each shot up the lane lights one of the four inserts leading up to the red triangular insert with his name.
Making the first shot to the Hawkeye lane reveals that his real name is Clinton "Clint" Barton. You can see why he changed it.
The second shot to the Hawkeye lane shows his 'tools of the trade'.
For the third shot we get a fairly generic skills display.
The fourth shot starts his mode with an introductory animation.
As with Thor, the action remains in the same part of the playfield for Hawkeye's mode as we have to keep shooting the outer left lane over and over to spell out H-A-W-K-E-Y-E, with each shot adding one letter.
The first shot is worth 150K, and this increases for subsequent shots by 25K.
The seventh and final shot gives a little treat beyond the 2 million points awarded for completing H-A-W-K-E-Y-E, as the animation shows a pinball bouncing around the screen to the sound of electromechanical chimes.
Collecting all the letters adds Hawkeye to the Avengers team, flashes his quadrant of the progress indicator, and doubles the value of all further shots to his lane for the rest of this ball.
Just to the right of Hawkeye's lane and taking a similar path is the Captain America shot.
Just like Hawkeye, to start this character's feature we need to make his shot four times, and once again the first shot reveals Captain America's alter ego.
The second shot tells us about the Captain's shield which he uses both to defend himself and as a weapon.
Next we have the status display when just one more shot remains.
Which means the next shot starts the Captain America mode.
The display tells us to shoot the Captain America lane but that's not where the real action takes place.
The objective for Captain America's mode is to deplete the energy of a series of enemies until you defeat them. A shot up the left inner loop shows the progress so far and makes the enemy very slightly weaker.
But it is the Captain America pop bumpers which make a serious dent in the enemy's energy bar. The more bumper hits, the more the bar depletes, with each hit also worth 8K points.
After enough hits, the enemy's energy bar reaches zero and Captain America is victorious once again. To celebrate his victory, you get two million points. So everyone wins. Except the bad guys, obviously.
His insert on the progress indicator flashes to show his mode has been played and completed. Defeating the enemy also gives the Captain a 2X multiplier for all further shots for this ball.
The next Avenger brings with him the game's main multiball mode, as The Hulk smashes his way into the ruleset.
The Hulk's model is the focal point of the game, but the drop targets blocking his path are less visible and - as we explained earlier - somewhat complicated by the insert positions not lining up with the targets.
The objective is to knock down all four H-U-L-K drop targets three times to qualify The Hulk's mode. Each target hit is shown on the display and the corresponding green insert extinguishes when the target is down.
There's no build-up towards Hulk's feature as there is with the other Avengers. When all four targets are down they simply reset with a display to show you spelled out H-U-L-K.
After knocking them down three times, they stay down and the green triangular inserts pointing at the Hulk saucer and the Black Widow ramp flash, as does the Hulk flasher on the backboard.
Shooting the saucer is no easy feat and any ball rolling in there usually arrives as a result of a lucky bounce. It's far more reliable to shoot the Black Widow ramp, where the diverter will actuate to drop the ball into the saucer from above.
The instruction card says you can also shoot The Hulk himself to start his mode, but we didn't test that out and it may only be available on the easier settings.
The Hulk's mode is a four ball multiball where the H-U-L-K targets are the place you collect your first jackpot awards.
Starting Hulk Multiball is also enough to flash his quadrant of the progress indicator and ready him for the Assault on the Helicarrier, making him one of the easiest Avengers to collect.
The game comes with four balls installed, so if any balls are being held in the Loki lock, they are released onto the right flipper while any balls in the trough are also ejected and auto-launched to the top rollovers.
The H target is knocked down as the ball is ejected from the saucer, so the remaining three are available to score jackpots, with their inserts flashing while they are up and off when they are down.
Shoot one to get the first jackpot of 100K.
The next two jackpots increase by 25K each.
After collecting the three jackpots by knocking down the wall of drop targets, you can shoot The Hulk himself, and that's where the next set of jackpots are found.
The value resets to 100K and there are now four jackpot to be collected by hitting The Hulk with the ball, or at least rolling over the switch in front of him. The second time you play Hulk Multiball this doubles to eight hits.
When a hit on The Hulk is detected, he turns one way then the other and raises his arms. Additionally, the magnet in front is pulsed to throw the ball back at the player and make the ball's movement more unpredictable.
The value stays at 100K until all four Jackpots have been collected when the drop targets reset and they become the source of the next Hulk Multiball awards. This time though you need to hit each H-U-L-K target once.
As soon as a target is hit, its insert turns off and all the targets pop back up. You also get a double jackpot now things are a little harder.
Thereafter, hitting the same target again does nothing except reset the whole bank, but nailing one of the flashing targets gets you another 200K double jackpot.
When the fourth and final H-U-L-K letter is hit and the double jackpot of 200K is collected, its target stays down. That's an indication the big pay-off is now available at the Hulk Smash target. It's not the only indication. The display tells you too.
In addition, the insert in front of the target flashes, but that's very effectively hidden by The Hulk, as is the Hulk Smash target.
It looks difficult to reach, but in reality is relatively quite easy thanks to the long metal ball guide on the left. However, you probably want to knock down another drop target or two to make the shot a little easier.
When you strike the target, you are rewarded with a slightly underwhelming super jackpot of one million points.
Collecting the Super Jackpot fully complete's The Hulk, qualifying him for the game's full wizard mode Battle for Earth.
As the six Avengers qualify for Battle for Earth they are indicated on the display.
Then you are back at the stage where you shoot The Hulk to collect regular jackpots of 100K, except this time you have hit him seven times before moving on to hitting each drop target once for double jackpots, and then getting another super jackpot of 1M.
This continues until you are reduced to one ball or fewer, when Hulk Multiball ends.
During Hulk Multiball you cannot start the game's other multiball mode - Loki Multiball - nor can you advance any of the other Avengers. You can advance the Tesseract though and spell out C-O-S-M-O-S to get that running along with Hulk Multiball.
The next character is the sole woman in the group, the former Russian spy who is named after a childhood spy program in which she was enrolled, rather than her marital status.
The Black Widow's area of the playfield is the cross-playfield ramp, which includes a spinner at the entrance and a diverter leading to a side-ramp along the way.
The second shot shows us one of the weapons she can wield against the enemy.
Shot three shows her 'bio' increasing, whatever that is...
...while the fourth shot to the ramp starts Black Widow mode.
The Black Widow ramp isn't the easiest shot to make, so starting her mode is an achievement in itself.
Having started it though, guess which shot you need to make.
Yes, that's right, it's the ramp again. And you have to spell out B-L-A-C-K-W-I-D-O-W one letter at a time, which means shooting it another ten times.
Each shot scores 300K and adds a letter, but it is only shown on the display very briefly during an animation, and there's no other indication of your progress.
There are a couple of Black Widow animations which either shown in their normal orientation or sometimes flipped so they move across the display in the opposite direction.
If you manage to shoot that ramp enough times to spell out B-L-A-C-K-W-I-D-O-W then you collect Black Widow, score a 2 million award for completing the mode, make her insert on the progress indicator flash, and double all further shots to her ramp.
Making all those shots on the tricky Black Widow ramp makes her one of the harder and more arduous characters to collect.
There's only one more character left to collect, and he's the second of the six Avengers to already have his own pinball machine.
The right inner orbit shot is Iron Man's territory, marked out with the familiar four symbol inserts leading up to the triangular insert marked with his name.
The lack of any lead-in on the right ball guide makes this another tricky shot, with ample opportunities to hit the red rubber post on the right instead.
The first shot reveals Iron Man's real name, which will come as no great surprise to most people.
Iron Man's power comes from the device embedded in his chest, so that's the weapon which is shown for making the second shot.
Then comes the enigmatically named 'bio' graph which grows in strength.
The fourth shot starts Iron Man's mode.
As with Black Widow, Iron Man is one of the less imaginative modes, asking you to keep shooting the same shot you just shot four times.
Making the right inner orbit adds a letter to I-R-O-N-M-A-N and gives a points award which starts at 150K and increases by 25K for every subsequent shot.
Adding all seven letters nets you 300K for the final 'N', 2M for completing the mode and flashes the Iron Man insert on the progress meter. It also doubles the value of all shots to, and awards from, the right inner loop lane.
You might think that a character's mode would end once you lose the ball, but as long as you're not on the last ball, when the next one is launched the mode picks up where you left it, except for Hulk Multiball that is. This certainly makes the modes much more achievable.
Once all six sectors of the progress indicator are either flashing or solidly lit, the sub-wizard mode Assault on the Helicarrier is qualified. It's availability is not immediately apparent, with nothing on the display to alert you.
However, if you look at the top left of the playfield, the three Loki lock lamps are now strobing in a "shoot me, shoot me..." attention-seeking way. Shooting the ball all the way up the Hawkeye lane and onto the Loki ramp causes the ball to be held in the lock while the introduction to the mode is played out.
There's not much razzamatazz about the start of Assault on the Helicarrier yet, other than a flashing frame. That may improve in subsequent software releases though.
This is a single ball mode and the instructions are minimal, but the inserts in front of each character's shot tell the story. They all begin to strobe,inviting us to shoot the same shots again; Thor's standups, Hawkeye's left outer orbit, Captain America's left inner orbit, Hulk's drop targets, Black Widow's ramp and Iron Man's right inner orbit.
In fact you have to shoot each shot twice to complete the character, making a total of twelve shots to finish Assault on the Helicarrier. Once both a character's shots have been made, the inserts go out and the shot only scores the thousand points or so you get for the switch closure. It also doesn't advance towards the character's mode for a second time.
A successful shot to a character where the inserts are strobing scores a points value which starts at 550K and increases by 50K each time. You also get 1M points just for starting the mode.
Those shot points also go into the super jackpot for collection when all the required shots have been made.
If you do the sums you can work out that 550K+600K+650K... +1100K = 9.9M and that's what the super jackpot is worth for completing all twelve shots. If you drain while playing Assault on the Helicarrier, you lose the super jackpot and the mode ends.
Assuming you don't drain, once all twelve shots have been made the Loki lock lights start strobing again like they did to start Assault on the Helicarrier, indicating you need to get the ball back into the lock to collect your payoff.
Make the shot and you get your reward, ending the mode.
Now, Assault on the Helicarrier is the sub-wizard mode as it becomes available when all the characters have been collected and made to flash. But as we saw with The Hulk, there is a level above simply collecting the Avengers where characters qualify for the main wizard mode, Battle for Earth.
For The Hulk that means collecting the Super Jackpot, but for the others it means putting them into a head-to-head challenge to prove their mettle. As their challenge's objectives are achieved, their name lights up on the display.
To put them into the head-to-head challenge you need to illuminate all the insets on their shot a second time. You don't need to complete their mode - in fact it doesn't even start - just light all the inserts.
As soon as the final insert is lit, the character will begin their challenge with another of the Avengers, or the evil Loki. The Avenger you just completed will be on the left and their opponent on the right.
This challenge sees Iron Man facing-off against Thor and like all challenges, a certain number of shots are needed to complete it.
Each challenge is a 2-ball multiball, so a ball is immediately kicked into the shooter lane and auto-plunged, while a lengthy ball saver begins. This ball saver feels like it lasts about 30 seconds, so even if you're caught by surprise by the challenge starting, you won't end it rapidly.
When the challenge begins, both Avengers' shots will be flashing, so that's the right inner orbit for Iron Man and the four-bank of standups for Thor.
Either shot can be made to begin with, but after that the rules vary depending on who is fighting who.
Your progress through the required shots is shown in different ways for the different challengers.
Sometimes it is a bar graph, other times - such as in this Black Widow vs The Hulk encounter - a shot counter is displayed in the corner of the screen.
Where The Hulk is involved in a challenge, the shots need to be made at him, and not at the drop targets in front.
There was also one challenge where the animations hadn't been added yet, so it was just a text display for Hawkeye vs Black Widow.
Making each of the shots also brings you a points reward, which begins at 200K and increases by 50K with each shot. The 2X scoring is respected here, so either or both of the characters could have their points doubled if their challenge is in the same ball you collected them and made their insert flash on the progress indicator.
The choice of which of the two Avengers' shot to opt for is more flexible at the start of the challenge, but soon you are forced to make just one or the other to progress.
When you do make all the necessary shots, the mode ends and the Avenger is added to the Battle for Earth board.
However, you will still be in multiball, but that doesn't stop you advancing any Avengers which are still flashing and not solidly lit yet. Just make their shots and once all the inserts are lit, another challenge begins and another ball is added to the mix.
You can often get another ball added from the S.H.I.E.L.D. mystery award as well, and it will even occasionally try to add another ball when all four are out on the playfield, which just wastes the award and gives you nothing.
Starting the last of the challenges will light the special award which is given by the Hulk Smash standup target located behind The Hulk's right arm.
Shooting it gives you whatever the operator has chosen for the special award, be it a free game, an extra ball, some points, or nothing at all.
Understandably, the real desire is to get all six Avengers lit up on the Battle for Earth board, like this.
Once that happens....
We now come to the part which some readers - especially home buyers of The Avengers - prefer to skip in order to keep some mystery to the game. In respecting that, we give a little pause in proceedings before we come to the game's wizard mode.
If you'd rather not know about Battle for Earth yet, just click here and join us again a little further down this review.
So, for those with enquiring minds, it's now time for the Battle for Earth wizard mode.
As with Assault on the Helicarrier, the availability of Battle for Earth is indicated by the strobing Loki lock lamps which combine with the flashing insert in the pop bumpers to tell you some good stuff awaits.
To start Battle for Earth, you need to shoot the ball up the Hawkeye lane, onto the Loki ramp and into the Loki lock.
Once the ball has settled into the lock position, we're off.
OK, well, maybe it's not the big finale we were expecting just yet, but hopefully a later software upgrade will give us a sound, light and display extravaganza equal to the effort it took to get here.
In the meantime, the wizard mode looks uncannily like the sub-wizard mode, except the Battle for Earth shots start at 500K instead of the 550K we got for Assault on the Helicarrier.
It continues as you started it, whether that was in a multiball from completing the final challenge, or if you were down to one ball. It's your job to make the shots while trying to add more balls from the S.H.I.E.L.D. mystery award.
All the inserts on all the Avengers' shots are now flashing and the objective is to make each the character's shots enough times to light all their inserts. So whereas Assault on the Helicarrier only took two shots to complete each Avenger, Battle for Earth takes four, making it harder to complete but much more lucrative along the way.
It's made that little bit harder by The Hulk's drop targets, which pop up at the start of the wizard mode, and then pop up again each time you knock them all down. With The Hulk's shot requiring you to actually hit him with the ball, you'll want to knock down just enough drop targets to give you a clear shot at him. But don't knock them all down, or they'll just reset again.
Thor is a little more forgiving though, often crediting you with two hits if you hit two of his standup targets with a single shot, as is Black Widow who - if The Hulk is not completed - diverts shots to her ramp into the Hulk saucer for a free shot at green guy if the H target is down.
As with the sub-wizard mode, making a shot scores the indicated value, adds that same amount to the super jackpot value, and increases the value of the next shot by 50K.
At this point, shot multipliers no longer seem to apply, so the value you see is the value you get. Even so, before long those points start racking up and by the end the shots are worth nearly 2M points.
Once all the characters' inserts are fully lit, the super jackpot is available for collection.
As with Assault on the Helicarrier, the Loki lock lamps begin to strobe again to direct you attention to the required shot. The star insert in the pop bumpers also flashes madly to remind you this is Battle for Earth as well, so doubly worthwhile.
Put the ball up the Loki ramp and into the lock and all those yummy points are yours to enjoy.
But wait. There's more. Unlike the sub-wizard mode, collecting the super jackpot doesn't end Battle for Earth. You can go round again.
In fact, as long as you keep two balls in play, you can keep racking up the points, which really does make Battle for Earth a potential gold mine. You have to work hard to get there, but the rewards await once you do. The points values reset once the super jackpot has been collected to avoid making the scoring too unbalanced.
During Battle for Earth you can also build the Tesseract by adding C-O-S-M-I-C letters, and start a Tesseract mode to make the most of the multiball. You can't advance any of the Avengers or lock balls for Loki Multiball though.
Battle for Earth ends when you're down to just one ball (or fewer).
Now it's time to welcome back those who skipped that last section.
Welcome back to those who didn't want to know about the wizard mode and how you could win a free Avengers machine for getting there*.
We've mentioned Loki a few times in this review, and he now gets his turn to shine as we look at Loki Multiball.
*we made that last bit up
Loki is Thor's younger brother and the chief villain in The Avengers movie. His name is spelled out by the four inserts in the inlanes and outlanes.
Lighting the four inserts through a combination of rolling the ball through an unlit lane and cycling the lit lanes with the flipper buttons is what lights the ball locks.
Once all four L-O-K-I inserts are lit, all three locks light on the lamp board at the entrance to the Loki ramp.
Spelling out L-O-K-I only lights all three locks the first time you play Loki Multiball. For the second and subsequent plays, collecting the four letters lights just one of the locks.
With one or more locks lit, shooting the ball onto the Loki ramp locks it in the ball lock area, and auto-launches a new ball to the top rollover lanes. In a multi-player game with two balls already locked, the front ball in the lock will be released instead, since the lock can only recognise three locked balls at once.
If you are quick, you can manually plunge the ball in the shooter lane before the auto-launcher kicks in. But making a short-plunge so the ball rolls into the Loki lock won't credit you with a lock. Instead, the front ball is released from the lock into the right inlane and play continues as normal.
A second shot up the Loki ramp is what's needed to lock ball two.
Then, making a third shot will score 250K and start Loki Multiball.
Loki is a 3-ball multiball where three shots are lit to collect jackpots. They are the two outer shots - Hawkeye and Iron Man - and the central Black Widow ramp.
The red triangular inserts on these three lanes flash to show where jackpots can be collected.
The premise of Loki Multiball is initially to choose one of the three characters' shots for a jackpot of 100K...
...and then shoot that same shot again for a double jackpot of 200K.
That character then becomes unavailable as the other two return.
You then choose one of the two remaining characters, and make two shots to them for another jackpot and super jackpot, before doing the same to the remaining third character. While collecting these awards, any shot multipliers you have in effect are correctly applied, doubling the value of the regular and double jackpots.
With Hawkeye, Black Widow and Iron Man completed, it's now The Hulk's turn. The target inserts in front of him begin strobing, but it's not the targets you need, it's The Hulk himself. In fact, the targets are there to hinder you, blocking shots to The Hulk and popping back up when they are all knocked down.
If you knock enough drops targets down to reach The Hulk, you once again need two shots at him for a regular and a double jackpot.
Now Captain America gets in on the act, and two shots to him are needed to progress.
None of the other characters can be advanced towards their modes while Loki Multiball is taking place, so you can't start Hulk Multiball, although you can advance and start the Tesseract.
When Captain America is completed, the Loki lock lamps begin strobing again to tell you there's something good up in the Loki lock. That something is a super jackpot equivalent to the sum of the jackpots and double jackpots you collected at Hawkeye, Black Widow, Iron Man, The Hulk and Captain America. Loki thoughtfully leaves his brother Thor out of this particular battle.
Having collected the super jackpot, the mode begins again with your choice of Hawkeye, Black Widow or Iron Man. The only difference this time is the jackpots and double jackpots have both doubled in value.
Loki Multiball continues until you only have one ball left in play, when the total scored from your jackpots, double jackpots, super jackpots and the 250K you got for starting the mode is displayed.
The extra ball can be lit in two ways. First of all there's the S.H.I.E.L.D. mystery award of extra ball lit. Then there's the spinning of the Tesseract and the completion of the C-O-S-M-I-C inserts in front. Completing these three times lights the extra ball, as does the rather harder task of completing them twenty-five times, and every twenty-five times after that.
Collecting the extra ball is a simple matter of shooting the Hulk saucer - either directly, off a lucky bounce, or by sending the ball up the Black Widow ramp from where it will be diverted to the saucer.
And now we come to the part which comes to us all as surely as death and taxes (unless you tilt, in which case it's only death). Yes, it's the end-of-ball bonus.
Some games have bonus scores which are largely irrelevant and not worth worrying about, but The Avengers has a decent bonus which can make quite a difference to your overall score.
It consists of eight parts; the first being based on the number of switch closures. This first part is not normally shown unless you failed to make any of the Avengers' shots in which case it's the only thing shown.
Then come up to six scores based on the number of shots you made to each character.
The points awarded are:
If you didn't make shots to any of the characters, they are not shown in the bonus count.
The scoring seems somewhat at odds with the difficulty of the shot, with the harder ones such as Black Widow and Iron Man only earning 10K and 5K respectively, while the easier shots such as Thor and Hawkeye get you a much more acceptable 20K and 30K.
When all those have been added up, the eighth and final part is your bonus multiplier which is increased by completing all six of the top rollover lane inserts.
Now this is an extreme example, but the bonus can still be quite significant and not something you'd want to tilt away.
If this is your last ball, the only question left to answer is whether or not you win a free game.
The match animation shows The Hulk (presumably) smashing his way through a wall, revealing the match number as he does so.
Happily the match animation only covers part of the screen so the final scores are viewable as soon as the bonus count has finished. That is unless you get a high score, in which case the full-screen display to enter your initials does obliterate the scores, which can be frustrating.
Now we'll take a look at each of the main elements which go to make up the game and give our opinion on them, starting with the area we've just examined.
The rules for The Avengers are relatively simple compared to a complicated game such as AC/DC, but simple isn't necessarily bad, especially if what there is turns out the be fun to play.
We do like the two-stage approach to collecting the Avengers characters, where the first stage is achievable by an average player and gets you to a sub-wizard mode, and the second stage is somewhat harder and a challenge for most other players.
Our concern has to be the skill level required to get to the sub-wizard mode and the fact it seems out of reach of many average players on default settings.
Then there's the question of how fun it is to keep shooting the same shot over and over. It keeps the focus on that character, but can turn into hard work, especially when the shot is difficult to begin with. A little variety and imagination wouldn't go amiss here in keeping the mode entertaining.
In the version of software we are reviewing here, it didn't seem possible to stack many features so that they were running concurrently. The exception was the Tesseract which seems to be able to run alongside just about anything, but is another mode where the default difficulty of 15 spins per C-O-S-M-I-C letter makes it unlikely to be completed by many players. We do like the rules for it though, with the way the Cosmic value becomes the shot values for the duration of the mode and how you can steer the super jackpot by spinning the cube if it ends up somewhere you find difficult to shoot.
Overall, there are a number of good ideas in The Avengers which are pretty straightforward once you work them out - even if they're not all that clearly presented - but the repetitious sequences needed to achieve some of the objectives does make it quote a slog at times.
The team at Stern have done a pretty good job with the display animations and static frames on The Avengers. While there are clearly some display effects missing in this software version, they have found ways to present the characters in a variety of attractive ways for different parts of the game.
Some of the characters immediately present certain character traits which are well executed, such as the ground-shaking power of The Hulk, or the force of Thor's hammer, but others are less well characterised, with Iron Man and especially Black Widow relegated to minor roles with few appearances, which seems a shame.
Another area we feel could be improved is the inconsistent way some of the important information is displayed and how some is hardly shown at all. Some modes show a bar graph showing your progress, while at other times it is a countdown of the number of shots remaining, sometimes in the top left, other times top right. This can be justified when it's not a simple number of shots to finish such as in Captain America, but it's used in other modes where a number would be easier to understand. We would also prefer in cases where a number is used if the display was designed to incorporate text saying something like "4 shots to go" rather than just a number "4" stuck haphazardly in one corner.
The Avengers makes good use of the range of shades available on the display to provide shape to the comic book characters and produce a variety of background elements.
Although there are plenty of players who dislike the split-screen layout, we like the ability to usually see the score even when other animations are taking place. The Avengers still uses a number of full-screen effects - some of which don't really need to be, but are probably built into the system and aren't going to change at this late stage of dot matrix display use - and freely allows animations from the right two-thirds to overflow onto the left side where necessary (or sometime just for effect).
So the display effects are pretty good in The Avengers, but a few need a little tidying up to present the information in a better way and a few more don't seem to be included just yet.
As you might expect given the theme, The Avengers is jam-packed full of sound effects. Every crash, explosion, thud, whoosh and thwack in the effects library mush have gone into the game. Plus, there are plenty of quotes in the mix too - even one or two which raised a smile*.
Having six characters to provide speech for the game (well, five characters for speech, one to provide roars) certainly helps with the variety and content, but whereas the artwork for The Avengers features likenesses of the actors from the movie, the speech does not.
No doubt the voice actors are all authorised by Marvel but, for anyone but the dedicated fan who knows him more from the comics than the movies, when Iron Man speaks you expect to hear the sarcastic, cynical and slightly world-weary tones of Robert Downey Jr., and not someone who sounds like they're still at college.
Putting that gripe to one side, not all the speech comes from the Avengers, since there is a certain amount of anonymous commentary in the game for things like extra balls being lit, Avengers being collected and challenges being announced. This fits in well with the feel of the game, with suitable levels of over-emphasis to build the excitement.
One of the down sides of all the sound effects and speech calls is not being able to hear as much of the music as we would have liked.
The main music bed is a stirring, slightly-bombastic track with horns and sweeping strings which does exactly what you need, bringing gravitas, patriotism and solidity to the game but without ever overpowering the action by becoming the focus of our attention.
Each character has their own theme for their mode - Iron Man was our favourite - as does the challenge mode, while Assault on the Helicarrier and Battle for Earth share the same music, but it is the short musical stabs which we enjoyed the most, such as when you get a skill shot or spin the Tesseract.
So although we were a little disappointed to find The Avengers had a reduced amount of memory compared to AC/DC, it didn't appear to be a problem.
* Quotes we particularly liked included, at the end of the ball; "quit screwing around with the bonus and get back out there" and "You didn't earn all those points".
The Marvel universe provides a wealth of character drawings and reference material for the six Avengers but, as we noted earlier, the characters in this game are based on the movie characters of Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson and Robert Downey Jr. which means using assets from the movie instead.
The translite image is a montage of the six Avengers with the logo, and appears to be a recomposited - and in our opinion, superior - version of this movie poster.
In fact we prefer the Pro model's artwork to that used on the real backglasses of the Limited Edition models.
The cabinet artwork features a different composition of the same characters but, in contrast to most of the rest of the game, goes for a lighter feel with a white background - something we think would have worked well on the backbox sides too, but we're not convinced about the backbox and cabinet being so different in tone and style.
Down on the playfield it's all strong primary colours - reds, blues and greens.
The characters are all colour-coded too, but that branding is less obvious and easily overlooked with the main playfield colours overwhelming any attempt at subtlety.
The three-dimensional patterning on the lower plastics matches the box-section styling and lit edges of the ramp returns, while the detailed artwork in the centre of the playfield helps mask the fact there's nothing much there in the way of playfield features or inserts.
We're not so sure about the three image panels below the progress indicator which serve no purpose in the game and are purely decorative. However it's nice to see the whole of the back panel being used to provide status information and give us six more flashers in the game.
Which brings us on to...
As you can see in the playfield image above, the illumination levels vary across the playfield, with most of the light concentrated in the upper part.
Down by the flippers it gets quite murky at times due to a combination of coloured plastics reducing light transmission and dark saturated artwork absorbing most of the reflected light. And that's when the game is new and clean.
On the other hand, it does look pretty.
You get the impression the preference is for indirect lighting - getting the light to radiate from the edges of coloured plastics in seemingly impossible places, without tracing the game with LE wire.
Towards the top of the playfield things change considerably with direct light taking over from the six incandescent lamps mounted across the top of the backboard and a number of spot lamps bathing The Hulk in a green wash. There's even a green flasher to accentuate this at key points in the game.
Regular readers will know we're suckers for a flood of light in the pop bumpers when they fire. Steve Ritchie does this well, stuffing two or even three flash lamps beneath a large clear insert, but The Avengers not only has just a single flasher fitted, the insert through which it shines is over-printed with a graphic rendering it largely ineffective.
Lighting is cleverly used to provide cues about the game's status beyond the normal inserts, thanks to the row of six flash lamps across the backboard. In this version of software their behaviour was erratic and inconsistent enough not to be much help, but these will effectively act like a group of inserts on the playfield - providing information about the current mode and where to shoot - while at the same time increasing the playfield illumination and enhancing flasher effects during light shows.
We've come to expect something a little different from George Gomez and he doesn't disappoint with The Avengers.
The two ramp designs - and the Black Widow ramp in particular - are certainly different, as is the open saucer which can also be fed from the ramp, and the ramp on the right being fed from what would normally be the left orbit shot. And putting the spinner on the ramp entrance is... different.
What he's produced is a mix of easy and difficult shots while sneaking in a couple of features to shorten ball times.
With just two flippers, the layout is always going to be what some people call a 'fan', with all the shots radiating from those flippers, but there is a mix of long and short shots, with the Black Widow ramp managing to be both - being reasonably close to the flippers but needing a full strength shot to make fully.
From the player's perspective, probably the most unwelcome features are the two protrusions above the outlanes which appear to be there purely to deflect the ball into perilous situations.
The two moving toys in the game are The Hulk and the Tesseract.
The Hulk is the more animated of the two, being able to turn to punch the ball and raise his arms, while being 'armed' with a magnet for added ball randomness. But his arms are both his strength and his shortcoming, because the ball regularly gets stuck behind his right arm which only a ball search clears.
That's one of the three things we picked up about the game's design. The second is the inability to see key parts of the playfield such as the O and K insets in the inlanes - or in fact anything that's going on in that area - or the top rollover inserts, or the Hulk Smash target. The third is the design of the start of the Loki ramp where it starts to rise above the playfield, which looks... well, unfinished, as though it was made up from a pile of off-cuts
Some people are not keen on the sectional design of the Loki and lower Black Widow ramps - constructed from interlocking sheets of printed clear plastic. While they do feel much cheaper and less solid than injection-molded one-piece ramps, we like the ability to apply much more complex art designs to them, to incorporate transparent sections, and the way they disperse light.
A George Gomez design is always going to have a unique look to it, and you don't have to be a pinball expert to be able to spot one of his games. His use of colour and light throughout, and the attention to detail he gives the construction and printing of the numerous plastic pieces used in his designs often literally shines through.
He took that to extremes with Transformers - his inaugural game as Vice President of Game Design at Stern - having entire models based largely on the colours crimson and violet.
Now though we have The Avengers which comes without the same level of hype but is an equally solid design which thankfully manages to takes itself a little less seriously and is the more fun to play because of it.
What's surprising though is that the games main shortcomings are all playfield design ones; ball hangups, badly-placed inserts, blocked views and rough-looking plastic sections. Just the things you wouldn't expect to be the problem areas.
The sounds and music are good, the rules are solid if not ground breaking, with a tendency to repetition but some nice touches too, while the artwork is attractive if inconsistent at times.
We played The Avengers quite a bit and now looking back - unlike some games - we would happily play it again. Not to discover more about the rules, but because it brash, rowdy and loud. It can also be brutal at times too, but once you get it going and unleash The Hulk, you can really have a smashing time.
Finally, we come to that part of the review where we give our ratings to the individual elements of the game and come up with a total for the game as a whole.
While most of the details in this review are objective and factual, these rating are entirely subjective, describing our feelings about the game, how it plays and how much fun we had playing it.
Each element is scored out of a maximum of 10 points. If a game gets a 10, then it’s the best we’ve ever seen in that category. Consequently, it’s pretty rare to see a 10. Scoring an 8 means that element is 80% as good as the best example we've ever seen, which is pretty good too. You get the idea.
Remember, the version of software we reviewed here was incomplete, so we reviewed it mainly as it was, with a little bit of allowance for how we think it will turn out, keeping in mind our experience with previous software updates (good and bad).
Don’t get upset if our ratings don’t match your own – it’s quite unlikely you’ll think exactly the same way we do. You should, however, be able to see why we rated them as we did if you’ve read right through this review and noted our comments along the way.
Finally, a huge thanks to everyone at Electrocoin for their help and hospitality in the making of this review.
With that, we end this in-depth review of The Avengers. Thanks for reading it and we hope you enjoyed it.
Now you've seen how it works, why not give us your thoughts about The Avengers? What do you think about what you've seen? Have you played it? Have you bought it? Did you get the Limited Edition, and was it worth it?
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© Pinball News 2013