GAME REVIEW: Star Wars Pinball

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GAME PREMISE
This first batch of pinball tables based on the Star Wars saga (10 total tables are planned) features three subjects: The Empire Strikes Back, The Clone Wars (animated series), and Boba Fett.

GAMEPLAY
I can’t say I’m a big fan of pinball video games. I have a couple of downloaded pinball games on my PS3, but never felt compelled to play them. As a Star Wars fan, however, I couldn’t resist the appeal of a Star Wars-themed pinball game, and the trailer looked promising.

Playing Star Wars Pinball on the PS3 requires downloading Zen Pinball 2 first from the PlayStation Network (it’s free), and the three Star Wars tables are downloadable as DLC for $9.99. 

Each table has its own personality, design, and gameplay unlike the others. The Empire Strikes Back table has a distinct Imperial theme,with Darth Vader watching over Luke, Han and Leia in the center of the table artwork. Characters and ships are built into the table, which provide a number of bonuses. Hitting the Darth Vader bonus in the middle of the table can unlock one of five “scenes,” including Hoth, Dagobah, and Cloud City, each with bonuses to reach by hitting targets on the table. 

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The Clone Wars table provides some of the highest scores, with bonuses galore. The animated series may not be as beloved as the original saga, but here, it provides the most fun. The voice actors from the series provide their own voices, which is a nice touch, and Savage Opress even battles Anakin in a bonus feature.

The Boba Fett table has a Return of the Jedi/Tatooine design, down to including a Sarlaac pit near the top of the board (even the tentacles move, and hitting the ball down the pit is way more fun than it should be). Purists may complain that Fett sounds more like Temeura Morrison than the original  trilogy version, but it’s a minor gripe.

What really makes the tables work – at least for Star Wars fans – is the attention to detail. There are a number of nods to the films built into the game, and it is obvious these tables were designed by Star Wars fans. Music from the original soundtrack is used (a great touch) and the dot-matrix screen recreates scenes from the film in an old-school way.

Voices for the original trilogy characters are obvious sound-alikes (although I’m not certain that Anthony Daniels didn’t provide C-3PO’s voice), but they are close enough that you don’t mind. Yes, Tom Kane of The Clone Wars does provide the voice of Yoda on the ESB table, which some may object to, but at least he’s quoting original trilogy lines.

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The in-game bonuses are great, although I admit I haven’t hit them all yet. However, the ESB table includes a “Jedi training ball” mini game set inside the Falcon, and even though it’s technically from A New Hope, it’s a fun diversion. The target shooting game on the Clone Wars table is a nice sidetrack. Hitting certain bonuses will trigger animated characters to appear and interact, including a Stormtrooper that tries to shoot your ball on the ESB table, and Boba Fett does a flyover on his. It’s enough fun to make any padawan giddy.

GAME MECHANICS
If there’s one thing Zen Studios is known for, as I’ve learned, it’s making realistic pinball games. I was pleasantly surprised, while playing the Star Wars tables, to find the game plays like an authentic pinball game. The physics are spot-on, from the flipper reaction to the ball movement. As the ball moves downward, it picks up speed, just like a real ball. You can even set the game view to see the whole board, rather than follow the ball close-up. I like that. No complaints here. 

GAME GRAPHICS
The PS3 version features outstanding graphics, both in the table artwork and the animated characters. The table surface features painted-like graphics, just as you would expect to see in a real game. The animated characters aren’t photo realistic, but they are well-rendered.

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THE BOTTOM LINE: IS IT WORTH YOUR QUARTER?
Ratings (1-5 scale)
Gameplay: 4.5
Mechanics: 5
Graphics: 5
Overall Grade: 4.8

Star Wars Pinball has great appeal, and it is a heck of a lot of fun to play. Even though I’m not a big pinball fan, I found myself playing this nonstop. Star Wars fans will love the attention to detail, and all the little nods to the movies, but I found myself constantly trying to boost my score and unlock all of the extras and bonuses. Ten bucks (for the PS3 and Xbox versions) is a little steep for three pinball DLC tables, but you get your money’s worth. Grab them when you can. You’ll have just as much fun as I did. The Force was definitely with my balls.

GAME SPECS
Release Date: February 26, 2013
Platforms: Dowloadable content for PS3 (Zen Pinball 2) and Xbox 360 (Pinball Fx 2), iTunes, Mac, and Google Play.
Developer: Zen Studios
Price: $9.99 (PS3), 800 Microsoft points (Xbox 360)