Set your blasters for fun! In a galaxy where uttering the title Star Wars and video games in the same sentence usually equates to wasted opportunity, Zen Studios brings a new hope to everyone’s favorite 80s past time. No, I’m not talking about cocaine. I’m talking about the long forgotten art of pinball. Known for successfully adapting major franchises to the digital age of pinball, Zen Studios brings us its first DLC pack set in the Star Wars universe.
Star Wars Pinball contains three all-new tables, ranging from the classic trilogy, to more modern interpretations of the saga. I’ve always been pleased with Zen Studio’s Marvel themed tables, but Star Wars Pinball goes well and beyond their usual efforts. Zen Studios’ desire to get these tables right is apparent in the iconic scenes, sound effects and voice work, crammed into every crevice of the game. It’s a situation where the DLC could have squeezed by on its license alone, but players are offered much more. These are truly some of Zen Studios’ deepest and well crafted pinball tables to date.
The Empire Strikes Back is both visually and mechanically closest to a traditional pinball table. It’s a good balance of events, quick scoring and the more methodical approach of shot planning. The central goal incorporates the table’s ramps and bumpers to complete various scenes from the film. With a total of 15 separate scenes, The Empire Strikes Back hits every high point of the movie, seamlessly and creatively. Almost no stone is left unturned when referencing the source material, eliciting a burst of nostalgia with every trigger of the flipper. The only minor grievance I had with The Empire Strikes Back was a lack of authenticity when random voice actors attempt to emulate iconic phrases from the film. This is a very minor gripe and certainly auxiliary to the main game. For many players, this will be the table to get and I’m glad to say, it doesn’t disappoint.
From the famous crawl, tight narrative, and the war propaganda announcer, The Clone Wars’ presentation is top-notch. All the audio, visual and story assets are spot on, lending to the immersion. With a series of closely placed ramps, the table excels at high scoring, fast-paced, combo-based action. The Clone Wars exhibits Zen Pinball’s knack for creating highly entertaining and easily accessible tables, similar to the developers earliest efforts. I expected not to connect with this table at first, but found myself instantly sucked in to the solid overall package. Events complement the vignette style of the television series with clear and comprehensive narratives. In one particular event, players are tasked to load a convoy and safely deliver it to the drop zone. Once sending the ball up the convoy ramp, players use evasive maneuvers to avoid turret fire by orbiting opposing ramps. All of the table’s events have this tight narrative, making the game about more than simply high scores.
Unfortunately, the Boba Fett themed board is the low point of the DLC. The other tables benefit from having a wealth of material to legitimize and tailor the experience, but Boba Fett’s lack of diverse canonical touchstones and messy presentation make it easily forgettable. At its core, the fundamental mechanic of fighting rival bounty hunters and completing contracts is promising. However, the smaller table, claustrophobic bumper placement and cluttered visual presentation of Tatooine browns, make playing the table more frustrating than fun. If you’re purchasing the game on a service like the Apple’s app store, which allows you to piecemeal each table, passing up on this one might be worth considering.
Leaderboards, hot seat multiplayer, achievements, operator settings and a comprehensive table guide represent a slim, but welcome set of extra features for each table. Allowing hot seat multiplayer to function via internet would have been a great addition, but unfortunately the game only accepts multiplayer locally. The table guide plays a crucial role in informing players how each table scores a game and thankfully, toggling between the guide and gameplay is simple enough to not be cumbersome.
Overall, it’s hard not to be pleased with Star Wars Pinball. If you’re a fan of the franchise or simply a fan pinball, there’s something worth checking out in this first series of DLC packs. While the Boba Fett themed table is certainly a weak point in the set, both The Empire Strikes Back and The Clone Wars are exceptionally well made tables worth anyone’s time. Engaging representations of beloved source material is why Zen Studios continues to be one of the leading developers of original, digital pinball tables and Star Wars Pinball is certainly one of their best efforts.