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Review: Yoku’s Island Express (Xbox One)

Developer: Villa Gorilla

Publisher: Team17

Genre: Action, Pinball

Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC

Rating: E for Everyone

Price: $20.00

Standing out from the crowd of platforming and Metroidvania types of titles is a necessity nowadays for developers to be successful. Developer Villa Gorilla is trying to do just that with their experimental pinball title, Yoku’s Island Express, which features a decently large open-world, but not in the traditional sense. Instead, it’s a pinball game with a weird and obscure setup for certain, but one that kept me smiling the whole time I was playing.

Content Guide

Spiritual Content: Your goal is to awaken an ancient island deity from his slumber to prevent bad dreams from startling the island residents. The deity’s backstory is not touched upon with no real fantastical elements other than talking bugs.

Violence: The only real violence is when you gather or destroy these slug creatures to get them to explode obstacles. Flinging Yoku around the environment with the pinball flippers looks harmless, and even Yoku chirps out his enjoyment of being flipped into the air.

Positive Content: Yoku is always trying to help his fellow island dwellers and everyone is appreciative of his efforts.


Yoku’s Island Express starts off as you playing Yoku the dung beetle, a tiny but adorable bug. You’ve come to the Mokumana Island as a replacement for the pterodactyl mailman. The story is the perfect setup for Yoku on a big and relaxing tropical island for him to spend his days as a mail bug. The only problem is that his relaxation quickly falls apart when the ancient island deity is having restless nightmare that are affecting the island inhabitants.

Through a series of side-quests and an elaborate interconnected pinball system, its up to Yoku to save the day. Throughout your adventure you’ll come across quirky, weird, and generally fun personalities. One of them is a parrot that delivers recorded messages and another is a gang of hard-headed bugs just to name a few. They all populate the island and take you across the various corners of it in side-quests that play in parts of this happy tone Metroidvania pinball crossover. The lighthearted narrative really sets the tone for this positive and heartwarming adventure.

Yoku is certainly an interesting collaboration between game genres that typically don’t go together. While the entire game consists of a relatively large open-world, it’s presented in a giant elaborate pinball machine. There are moments where you can manually move around as Yoku when he tries to drive the ball around, but primarily you’ll be navigating blue and orange pinball-like bumpers with the shoulder buttons on your controller.

The pinball system helps you navigate around the island that’s all interconnected by it. Each section of the island is themed after the type of terrain, from the beautiful tropical beaches, to the vibrant lush jungles. It’s all just not looks though as each of these terrains has their own gameplay elements, as well as island citizens to interact with.

This is where the pinball system is more convoluted as the paths aren’t all just straightforward. Yoku’s Island Express is actually a Metroidvania video game in disguise. Like other Metroidvania games before it, you’ll discover new sections of the open-world that you won’t have access to immediately. It’s not explained to you directly, but as you continue exploring, it’ll come across in your abilities. For example, early on you are introduced to an explosive slug that can clear out obstacles that once stood. There’s plenty of other examples just like this that will open up the world for you to explore.

The Metroidvania system is what really carries Yoku’s Island Express forward and it works nearly flawlessly. You’ll keep on exploring the island clearing out clouds on your map only to meet and discover new locations and NPCs. There, you’ll find your side quests and missions for you to that will lead you on to more quests and abilities for further opening the branches you can take. It’s a collaboration of systems that I personally never thought would work well together, but it pairs surprisingly well and just works.

Now, as previously mentioned, there are plenty of side quests for you to do and collectables to find. Throughout the world are pieces of fruit that act as a type of currency and this currency can be used to open up new pinball bumpers that can send you in any direction on the island. Additionally, certain NPC characters will offer upgrades to your wallet so you can store more fruit at once. Other collectables will activate shrines giving you treasures in return. I really appreciated it felt like I had control over the path I wanted to take as long as I had all the necessary collectables.

Yoku’s Island Express has a beautiful art aesthetic that looks like a painting very reminiscent of Ori and the Blind Forest. It’s captivating to look at and a marvel to play through. The small amount of animation that is in the environments, such as the confetti that comes out of treasure chests or leaves being blown in the wind are gorgeous. I wish there was more animations in the overall environments though, and I would have loved to see more through the movement of the backgrounds. With that said, once you do get into more of the environments, you do see more of a layered background effect.

The music in Yoku’s Island Express is, as you would probably guess, very tropical and upbeat. It’s a happy type of listening music for a generally cute and positive game. Though the songs can repeat often, especially when you’re stuck trying to find where to go next, I didn’t mind it too much as the songs were catchy and easy to relax to. While the characters themselves don’t actually speak dialogue, they make these adorable little critter sounds that goes along with the text conversations. Each voice matches the physical appearance of the NPC you’re talking to and it all works together in this good vibes and happy-go-lucky attitude that Yoku’s Island Express nails.

Overall, Yoku’s Island Express had me smiling the whole time I was playing, even when I got stumped trying to find the next correct step in my path. It has a lot of heart and charm that’s present in almost every aspect of its design. I wasn’t expecting much, as I don’t play too many pinball-like games, however, Yoku genuinely surprised me. The addition of a Metroidvania system works brilliantly with the open-world pinball design to create a fun and unique take on the genre.

Review code generously provided by Team17.
Gaming PC PS4 Reviews Xbox One

Review: Marvel Pinball—Epic Collection Vol. 1 (Xbox One)

DeveloperZen Studios
Publisher: Nighthawk Interactive
PlatformsXbox One, PlayStation 4
Genre: Pinball
Rating: E


When  I was growing up during childhood, every Friday evening was our family’s special time to do something fun. Mom and dad would pick us up from school, take us to get dinner in the mall, swing by KB Toys a bit, then stop by Pocket Change, our mall’s arcade. It was there, as a youngster with a fresh slice greasy Sbarro in my belly, that I first experienced the likes of Street FighterRidge Racer, and ski ball, but it was my father’s love for the paddles and bumpers that drew me in. Now, Zen Studios has put that whole experience together with 10 Marvel-themed tables (Sbarro optional).

Content Guide


Spiritual Content: None
Violence: Some cartoon violence is implied, but the game is really just pinball.
Language/Crude Humor: There is nothing crude or crass, but there is some mild name-calling (especially from our friendly neighborhood web-slinger), but nothing outside of a Saturday morning cartoon. Per the ESRB, the word “H*LL* appears on some of the stages, though you’d have to be really paying attention to the stage design to notice it.


Sexual Themes: There’s a scene of Peter Parker and Mary Jane kissing when you can get the ball to his home.
Positive Themes: Marvel-themed pinball fun. 



Zen Studios have been putting out their lauded pinball games for just under a decade at this point. With the meteoric rise of the Marvel cinematic universe since Iron Man hit theaters in 2008 and the recent release of the Doctor Strange film, now seems like the perfect time to drop their Marvel Pinball collection, but how does it stack up?
As I’ve mentioned, prior to firing up Marvel Pinball: Epic Collection Vol 1, I hadn’t played a pinball video game in years. Though I poured hours into Full Tilt! Pinball on Windows and Midnight Magic on the Atari 2600, not much has really released in the last few years that’s drawn my attention. Sadly, the world of pinball seems to be in its twilight, but there are still enthusiasts out there that keep the dream alive. I’m happy to report that Zen Studios latest collection is a great time for anyone that’s a fan of pinball or just the Marvel universe in general. 


First, let’s talk about what all is in the collection. Most of the company’s major properties are represented here. There are tables for Ant-Man, Venom, Doctor Strange, Iron Man, Spider-Man, and yes, even Blade (which I didn’t even realize was a Marvel property until this game!). There are even tables built on The Avengers and Marvel’s Civil War!
Each table is unique, with totally different lane and bumper layouts. What’s even more impressive, though, is that each table features the represented series’ iconic heroes and villains, including voice acting and music pertinent to the series. It does an incredible job getting fans into each table while conjuring a little nostalgia. They look great and the thematic material feels completely on-point.
With pinball, often the devil is in the details. To that effect, Zen Studios has hit it out of the park. You can shrink on the Ant-Man table, take on Doc Oc and the Hobgoblin on the Spider-Man table, and the Avengers table even lets you pick the ball of whichever hero you want to play as. Yep, you can take on Loki with a green Hulk ball, a red Iron Man ball, or one designed for any of the others Avengers. It’s wonderfully engrossing and I wouldn’t have it any other way.


To speak to the gameplay beyond thematic content, the game feels spot on. Zen Studios has their pinball physics figured out perfectly. Whether you’re giving a quick flip, holding the ball for more control, or bumping the table for some extra action, everything feels fantastic. They even replicated the feeling of bumpers racking up points with the rumble of the controller. While some of the additional flourishes they’ve added clearly couldn’t be done on a real table (Iron Man taking to the sky, etc), I feel like every one of these tables could actually exist in an arcade…and I desperately want them to.
As with pinball anywhere, your score is ultimately the goal. That’s no different here, but now you can post your high scores to online leaderboards. There’s a separate leaderboard for each table, and I can tell you the community is clearly active. Early on, I earned the high scores three separate tables: Doctor Strange, Venom, and Iron Man (I have screenshots to prove it!). Within 24 hours, not only was I knocked off the top score table, but my record was often obliterated by 3-4 times my score. It keeps everything competitive, giving players a constant goal to chase for and, in this case, I’m still enjoying the chase after several days with the game. You can even play split-screen or hotseat to get your buddies involved.


On top of individual table scores, there’s also a “Hero Score,” which is an aggregate of your score across all 10 tables. You can compare this worldwide too. Each table also features a couple unique achievements to unlock. The game gives players loads of replay value and variety that are sure to keep pinheads around the world chasing the pinball wizards out there.
Overall, I’m pleasantly surprised and impressed with Marvel Pinball: Epic Collection Vol 1. There’s an excellent variety to the collection to keep fans engaged. The game’s pinball physics are on-point. The visuals make you feel like you’re consuming part of the Marvel universe – whether comic, cartoon, or film – and the game’s soundtrack and sound effects immerse you further into both worlds. When you add cooperative play and online leaderboards for each table, you’ve got an addicting collection fans will come back to again and again. With its budget price point, Marvel Pinball: Epic Collection Vol 1 feels like a no-brainer for any pinball or Marvel fan out there.
Physical review copy of Marvel Pinball: Epic Collection Vol 1 provided by Wonacott Communications

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Gaming PS4 Reviews

Review: Zen Pinball 2: Venom Table (PS4)

The Venom Table for Zen Pinball 2 is an exciting new addition. I played the original Zen Pinball when it came out for Playstation 3It’s a load of fun, and if you’re a Marvel fan and enjoy Spiderman, you’ll love this pinball table and Zen Pinball 2.

Content Warning

Zen Pinball 2: Venom Table is rated E for everyone. The rating notes Fantasy Violence and Suggestive Themes as potential concerns. There is no alcohol use, sexual themes, or language. There is minor cartoon violence/fighting. After having played it, I’d say it’s okay for kids to play this game.


The goal of the game is to team up with Venom in order to take down Carnage. It is a long process to get to fight him; you have to put the pinball in the exact right area, repeatedly. It might take quite a long time. In order to face Carnage, you must spell out CARNAGE by hitting the pinball to the correct area. With each correct hit you gain a letter, spelling out Carnage, ultimately letting him out of his cage. Unfortunately, it’s pretty frustrating to try to get to this phase. I tried multiple times and still failed to get Carnage out onto the board.

You also can get Spiderman into his black suit by hitting the “Suit” blocks. The blocks will go down as you hit the letters.

There’s lots of opportunities for chaos in this pinball game. Like when you get three, and then four, balls bouncing around the board. After you get the three balls to their designated spot, Black Spiderman crawls into the pit. He takes the balls out—making it a multi-ball game. Now you have four balls at the same time. With four it’s pretty uncontrollable. It’s easy to lose track of the balls going through bumpers, bouncing around everywhere. On the plus side, it boosts your score pretty quickly, so there is definitely a pay off.

You can choose up to eight different table views. I checked out a few which followed the ball, but I’m not a big fan of them. It’s easier to play the game while viewing the whole table, with little camera movement. If you’re following the ball it’s pretty easy to mess up.


One downside of to trying to take down Carnage—the pinball goes out a lot of times (Carnage likes to throw things). This might frustrate players if they’re on a scoring spree. Once the ball goes out, you have to start over.

Occasionally when I played, I would experience lag spikes during gameplay. It’s pretty frustrating in a pinball game, where timing is key. You might get a delayed reaction when trying to hit the pinball off the bumpers. The lag really messes with the rhythm.

All Venom table screenshots shown are provided by Zen Studios


The soundtrack for this game is pretty solid. It keeps you pumped up to continue playing the game. It’s pretty catchy too (you might even find yourself dancing to it).

The graphics are more polished than in previous iterations. This version for Playstation 4 runs on 1080p resolution at 60 FPS. The table’s colors are vibrant reds and blues, adding to the excitement.

All Venom table screenshots shown are provided by Zen Studios


I think most Marvel fans would love this pinball table game. Not only do we get Spiderman and Venom, but Carnage is a great villain. While it may take some time to actually beat Carnage, it’s worth the challenge to play through.

Zen Pinball 2 is free in the Playstation Store.

Venom Table is $4.99 in the Playstation Storeand is available on the PS4, PS3and PS Vita platforms.

Have you played the Venom Table for Zen Pinball 2? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below!

Gaming PS4 Reviews

Review: Zen Pinball 2 – Deadpool

The Merc with the Mouth. As any comic book fan will tell you, Deadpool is very unique. He is fully aware that he is a comic book character, taking time to address his audience mid-story. He’s quirky, funny, and all-around inappropriate for the most part.Deadpool_001

So why not make a pinball table for him?

Zen Studios is known for their amazing tables related to some pretty famous characters.  They have an entire line of Star Wars pinball tables–Darth Vader, Boba Fett, and The Clone Wars to name a few.  They also have some pretty amazing Marvel tables, Deadpool being one of those.

Nolan North voices Deadpool, as he did in the Deadpool video game, and his delivery of the snarky anti-hero’s dialogue is bar-none. Those familiar with video games will have, at one point, heard his voice, as his resume is chock-full of video game voice-overs.

The table is unique to Deadpool, including a pinball table inside the pinball table (which he even comments on).  Deadpool ignites T.N.T Deadpool_008to launch the ball in a fun and crafty way, and his endless commentary will keep you laughing (if not distracted in a fun way). He will even mention previous Zen Studios games in jest.

When you approach the bonus levels within the game, you are able to choose from a few “issues” in which Deadpool has to complete a challenge. One of my favorite is when minion Deadpool comes out and starts firing a rocket launcher at Deadpool. You have to hit the ball in the lighted lanes to keep this from happening.

If you are a fan of Deadpool, or pinball, you will enjoy this download.

[jumbotron heading=”Zen Pinball Player?” tagline=”Add me on PS4 and try to beat my record.”]xx9mmpreacherxx The Gauntlet has been dropped![/jumbotron]