Review - Star Wars Pinball
After numerous successes with their licensed tables, Zen Studios takes the inevitable step of cooperating with the Star Wars franchise for their latest outing. Star Wars itself has had its low points over the last few years, but with that in mind, can Zen convince us to give this set of pinball tables a high score?
Star Wars Pinball
Developer: Zen Studios
Publisher: Zen Studios
Platform: Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Playstation Vita, iOs, Android, Google Play, PC, Mac
Release Date: February 26th, 2013
MSRB: $9.99 for all three (Consoles, Vita); $2.99 per table (Computers); $1.99 per table(iOs, Android)
Star Wars Pinball is the first of several planned tablecollections from the famed Lucasfilm (and now Disney) franchise. Sold as either a three-pack on consoles, or three individual tables on handhelds, they’re pretty much available to anyone who plays games… barring Nintendo owners currently. The slightly higher than normal 3 for $10/$3 price is the one thing that may scare away potential enthusiasts; But it’s a fun trio of tables filled to the brim with content and high production value.
Utilizing The Empire Strikes Back, the Clone Wars television show, and Boba Fett’s mythology, these first three pinball tables strategically feature different aspects of the Star Wars universe. Aside from being different thematically, each table has different announcers, skillshots, and layouts so one will be happy to hear that very few assets (if any at all) are being lazily recycled from table to table. The trio has a variety of missions that can be chosen at will when activated. Utilizing Zen Pinball’s reliance on unrealistic pinball interaction, the tables change in dynamic ways by adding villains to fight, shields to deflect past, and challenges to meet. There’s plenty to discover, and even after an hour with each, I was still uncovering new tricks and references.
Zen Studio’s dedication to immersion is as strong as ever. The physics feel excellent as ever and rarely will balls get stuck or glitch out (only occurring once in three total hours of play). Dot matrix displays compliments the 3D character models that fly and flip around the board in animated fashion. Themed sound effects blast out from every direction, and the official score from the films and CG series enhance the mood. One of the few low points however, comes from the fact that many of the actors had their roles dubbed by impersonators, and they range from noticeable to passable. Reusing existing film clips in this regard has worked for any other licensed pinball machine, so it should’ve been considered.
The first of the three tables is Star Wars: Episode V, themed around the second film in the original trilogy. Featuring a large playfield and plenty of personality, it is probably my personal favorite of the three. The difficulty is staggered to the point where you will easily fail missions if there are more than one or two misplaced shots, but hitting some of the objectives are easy enough. Each mission also has checkpoints halfway through that reduce some of the tension and frustration. Making sure not to be just a pinball table with the Star Wars name slapped on it, this board features plenty of personality including: R2 units to loop around, lightsabers that launch the ball, and fights with Vader who will explode your ball right before your eyes whenever you attempt to attack him. The table also features a first person lightsaber training session that uses the flippers to control which direction your weapon is at. While not functionally broken, it feels somewhat out of place from the rest of the standard pinball gameplay.
The Clone Wars table is a frantic creature that rains down plenty of opportunities to increase your score with random bonuses adding millions of points often. The bright colors from the show it’s based on stand out, and variety in its objectives makes it the most exciting of the three, although it also proves to be the most confusing on your first run. Featuring a second set of flippers at the top, one can get into the habit of circulating the pinball around the upper areas regularly. One of my personal favorite aspects is Tom Kane, the Clone Wars narrator, who not only provides exposition, but acts as your pinball announcer.
The Boba Fett table is a somewhat different experience than the other two. With a design more akin to the late 90s, early 2000s look of pinball machines, the board is filled with clever props, physic correlated obstacles, and multiple gimmicks in store. Space is tight and the ball also falls noticeably faster due to the angle of the table, so accuracy is a must. The goal is to simply complete bounties which involve hitting lanes at faster speeds per reward tier, while un-novel, it is the most easy to grasp out of the three tables in terms of complexity. Possibly one of the coolest Ball-Save features I’ve seen comes from Fett’s arm-mounted grapping hook, which will save the ball from the drain in an animated fashion. Players are also armed with a missile that can clear one mission objective at will, although it’s a harder commodity to come by, but add some strategic planning to scoring and staying alive.
There’s not too much I could honesty find wrong about these tables outside of the voice acting, and it was still addictive enough to keep me playing more rounds after I promised myself to stop. If this level of care and quality is going into future tables, it’s going to be a fun year for fans of Zen Studios or Star Wars. If you’re in the market for a great pinball add-on, a Star Wars themed product… or both, then these are the DLCs you’re looking for.
Star Wars Pinball gets a 5 out of 5.
The copy played was a review copy for the PS3/and Vita provided by Zen Studios. About three hours were spent playing the game between the two platforms. Images show were provided by Zen Studios’ official blog.