Every night’s a marvelous night for a Moon Knight

, | Game reviews

My favorite table in Zen Studio’s new Virtue and Vengeance Marvel comics add-on for Pinball FX 2 is Moon Knight. In fact, it’s one of my favorite tables in the entire catalogue, along with Paranormal, Secrets of the Deep, and Earth Defense. Add Moon Knight to that list. I know what you’re thinking. “Who?” You and me both, brother. That’s part of why this is among my favorite tables. I don’t get the feeling that it was made for you comic book dorks who own issue #1 of The Marvelous X-Men or The Amazing Superman or The Watchmen or whatever. I suspect you guys are just as bewildered as I am when you hear Moon Knight’s signature line, “Let’s pack some punch into the whirlybird, Frenchie!”

After the jump, putting the “moo” in Moon Knight

I don’t really understand the creative politics of comic book publishers, but I’m guessing Moon Knight is Marvel’s answer to DC Comics’ Batman, except with silver and black instead of blue and black, with a French mechanic instead of an English butler, and with a bird-beaked ghost who talks like the Crypt Keeper instead of a teenager played by Burt Ward or Chris O’Donnell. Moon Knight has a bat-winged Mooncopter and he races around to crime scenes on his Mooncycle. One of the villains even looks like the Joker.

My reaction to all this is very “oh, what-ever”. Until there’s a Moon Knight: Arkham City game or a Moon Knight Returns movie directed by Christopher Nolan, I couldn’t care less about who’s borrowing what from whom. Because as a pinball table, Moon Knight looks wonderful. Unlike the colorfully vomitous splash of Thor, it has a consistent aesthetic and a strong sense of thematic unity. Most the table is blue and silver, with a couple of important exceptions. A yellow clock face and four red villain emblems sit in the center of the board. The clock determines different modes for the main ramp, and the villains are the core missions you have to beat. There’s also a golden chest with symbols on top that track various orbs you can collect.

When you start a game, you get a bit of backstory. Basically, hi, my name is so-and-so, I’m the warrior-priest for an Egyptian god who saved my life, and here I am arriving in my Moonplane to fight crime or whatever and now enjoy this wisecrack from my Egyptian god sidekick.

I wouldn’t say it’s an easy table. Unlike Thor, my other favorite table from the Virtue and Vengenace pack, Moon Knight has challenging shots for doing even the most basic stuff. Both the left and right flippers have multiple important targets, so until you get a handle on how to make the ball go where you want, the table will feel awfully random. You need to practice Moon Knight to get the ball to go to important places.

Once you do that, it reveals some wonderfully weird treats. The colored orbs level up your character, but they also level up the table, increasing the scoring for different targets. The two main ramps let you toggle different options for the table, including some goofy minigames, a crime-seeking-then-fighting mode, and a multiball attack in which the Mooncopter drops brightly glowing thermite Moonballs to fight crime, much like former Philadelphia mayor Wilson Goode fights radical political sects. You can set a wrecked muscle car on fire, which lets you shoot burning balls to light memorial flames around the city. A stoner named Crawley with flies buzzing around him like Pigpen gives you mini-missions. Tentacles of black energy like the smoke monster from Lost will creep up on your flippers and seize them. Rout punks with a first-person Mooncrossbow. Dot matrix punch other punks. A zombified vampire with telekinetic power over your balls makes an appearance and talks like a surfer, calling you “dude”. Sometimes the moon itself invites you to visit with a magical light bridge. Other times you have to rescue a woman who I’m guessing is your girlfriend. Yet other times you work as a cab driver, listening to rumors from your fares. Superheroes gotta pay rent, too.

Based strictly on playing the table — I’m reluctant to Wikipedia Moon Knight, because I think I prefer the story spun out in my head instead of whatever story was actually written by Marvel Comics — this guy is a trippy cosmic demi-divine figure flitting about in his silver cape, tights, and cowl, arresting vandals and muggers, using a beat-up unpainted muscle car for some indeterminate purpose, and collecting colored mana in a magical chest. Go, Moon Knight, go! At one point, I unlocked a mission in which he plays the stock market for money. I was so taken aback by this mission — Moon Knight is also a day trader? — that I lost the ball because I was trying to read the dot matrix display, which had something about buy/sell prices. Not since the Iron Man table has fighting supervillains and earning capital been so intertwined! I have no idea what happened with Moon Knight’s stock, but if ever a superhero was a true renaissance man of the Modern Era, it’s this wacky Moon Knight fellow as presented in the Vengeance and Virtue add-on for Pinball FX 2. Who needs to actually read a comic book when you can just play a pinball table this good?

5 stars
Xbox 360