Star Wars comes to Zen Pinball with outstanding ball physics and remarkable visuals and sound. As Yoda might say: Do.
Star Wars Pinball has taken that level of quality and raised it substantially. The ball physics are outstanding. The visuals and sound are remarkable. Each table has ball error recognition, so if a ball jumps to a place it shouldn't be, the ball is replaced within a few seconds. Each of the tables is engaging in its own way, and the various objectives and missions keep me coming back to see what else I can accomplish. The constantly-changing leaderboards keep me challenged as I peek to see which scores to take down next. Yoda may say “Do or do not,” but when it comes to Star Wars Pinball, there is only one option: DO.
February 19, 2013
Written by Peter Skerritt (editor-at-large)
A long time ago, on a video game console that you probably still own, Zen
Studios began its quest to deliver quality original pinball simulation
experiences. It started with Pinball FX on the Xbox 360, then Zen Pinball on the
PlayStation 3. It continued with improvements to ball physics and
community-building with Pinball FX2 and Zen Pinball 2. The original tables
gradually improved as months passed and people began to take notice. Companies
with significant IPs began to show interest. The biggest partnership had been
with Marvel Comics, as Zen Studios adapted a series of tables based on
well-known (and not so well-known) comic book heroes.
In June of 2012, while getting a chance to meet members of the Zen Studios
team during E3, I had an early opportunity to see some of the newer Marvel
Pinball tables that were being worked on... but I also was treated to a surprise
that I was sworn not to reveal. A deal had been struck to create a series of
tables based on the Star Wars universe. Behold the fruits of those negotiations:
Star Wars Pinball.
I sat on this for months, excited, but I had no idea what the tables would be
like. I couldn't have prepared myself for what I would go on to experience with
the first suite of tables in the Star Wars Pinball series. They're better than I
possibly could have imagined, and, simply put: You must purchase them. I'll
state my case over the next few paragraphs, but these are the best original
tables that I have played to date and easily deserve your money and time.
This initial suite provides three tables: The Empire Strikes Back, Boba Fett,
and The Clone Wars. The Empire Strikes Back table stays true to the film and
ultimately challenges players to "play through" the scenes by pulling off
specific tasks. Scenes from Hoth, Dagobah, Cloud City, and the harrowing
Asteroid Field sequence are among the scenarios that are simulated in pinball
form. There are other features that players will come to learn and access as
their experience grows. Jedi and Sith multiball sequences, taking down AT-STs
via hitting certain loop shots, Probot skill shots, and even a first-person Jedi
Training mode await. The music and sound effects are pulled straight from the
film for the most part, although some music is original and very high quality.
If there's a downside to Empire Strikes Back, it's that some of the ball returns
after shooting the ball up certain ramps get confusing. It's hard to tell on
occasion where the ball is going to go and a very keen eye must be used to track
and follow the ball as it makes its way along each ramp. At times, the ball
travels from ramps to outlanes via a lightsaber; if the flipper buttons are
pressed before the ball exits the saber blade, the saber changes locations. Be
aware of this, too.
Boba Fett is an original table, chronicling the series' most well-known
bounty hunter. It's also arguably the most difficult table of the three to
master because accurate and quick shooting is mandatory for the best results.
The main objective for this is revolves around Boba taking on missions from the
Empire or from the Hutts to bring in bounties for big points. In order to
collect these bounties, the player must hit seven different ramp or loop shots
within the allotted time. This may not sound difficult on paper, but it becomes
a race against time to line up and hit those last one or two shots as tens of
millions of points are at stake. Higher bounty amounts- which increase by the
tens of millions of points- also add penalties for hitting one of the seven
shots more than once. Success in these missions means big points, provided the
bounty can be delivered to Slave I by locking the ball inside. The idea of Slave
I flying around the playfield is cool, but it flies so close to the outhole that
a bad bounce or missed shot can lead to a frustrating lost call... and lost
bounty points. When not taking on bounty missions, players can earn points by
making plunger skill shots, facing off against rival bounty hunters, and
collecting "easy bounties" by shooting the ball through the top-center spinner
and hitting all of the seven required shots that normal bounty missions use. As
with the Empire Strikes Back table, the sound and music are top-notch.
Finally, the Clone Wars table is based on the animated series. This is the
easiest and most forgiving of the suite, and there are plenty of things to do in
order to rack up points. Hurry-up sequences, multiball sequences, missions to
complete, and a very cool bonus table which has players attacking a citadel
(sans Commander Shepard) all await. The main playfield seems larger than the
others, mainly because the action takes place mostly on one of two levels. The
top level has various ramps and hurry-up shots to light, along with a series of
bumpers that can activate a ball saver if they're hit enough times. The lower
level is where missions are activated and where certain shots must be made
during missions to achieve success. The big challenge on this table is learning
about the different shots, what they do, and what is required to collect certain
With experience, observation, and persistence, success is very
achievable; my first time playing this table was an effort of more than 300
million points. The drawback I have with this table- and it's one of personal
preference- is that Yoda talks way too much. It became grating before long, and
that's unfortunate as the music is again very, very good. It won't be long
during a good effort before you'll want to switch the Jedi Master off
I've had the pleasure of playing all of Zen Studios' tables over the years.
The level of quality has steadily increased with each successive release, and
what the team did with the Marvel Pinball table suite was some of their best
work. Star Wars Pinball has taken that level of quality and
raised it substantially. The ball physics are outstanding. The visuals and sound
are remarkable. Each table has ball error recognition, so if a ball jumps to a
place it shouldn't be, the ball is replaced within a few seconds. Each of the
tables is engaging in its own way, and the various objectives and missions keep
me coming back to see what else I can accomplish. The constantly-changing
leaderboards keep me challenged as I peek to see which scores to take down next. Yoda may say “Do or do not,” but when it comes to Star Wars Pinball, there is
only one option: DO.