Hands On: Star Wars Pinball Impressions

Posted by on March 1st, 2013 | 8 Comments | Tags: ,

Zen Pinball 2 for PS3 and Vita has received many original and licensed expansions to its growing roster of virtual pinball tables. Star Wars Pinball is a bit different, in that there will eventually be a total of ten tables encompassing the Star Wars Pinball Collection. Of the three tables in this first table pack, which was my favorite one?

The perception of what makes a pinball game fun might be different for each gamer. I spoke with a friend about these tables and she said she didn’t care about any of the missions or skill shots, only about the Pong-like element of hitting the ball upwards repeatedly. This is preposterous to me, and likely to others that aim their shots to go for the big points. These fantasy Star Wars Pinball tables are a faithful tribute to the source material and, much like previous Zen Studios table creations, the Star Wars tables are packed with missions, minigames, and plenty of things to shoot at.

Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back

Episode V has the most iconic theme of the three tables. Kids today probably refer to the original trilogy as the old Star Wars, and that’s fine. This table packs in all the retro sound effects, voice overs, and imagery from the movie. It comes loaded with five challenging missions to activate by hitting the ball up center of the table. There is also a really cool training mode that is activated by wrapping the ball around the center to light up the letters in the word “TRAINING”, then hitting the ball through the adjacent door. In training mode, the game takes you away from the table and into a first-person view with a light saber in hand with the objective being to simply deflect laser fire from a floating training bot from three directions. Completing the training turns on the Extra Ball award. Further training levels will be harder by speeding up.

The completely original and fantastical nature of the Zen Pinball tables is the reason anyone is remotely interested in pinball games.

The Episode V table missions feature an appearance from a storm trooper, an AT-AT, flying X-wings, and Darth Vader himself. One of the most surprising features of the Star Wars tables was checkpoints during missions. After ending a game, I was prompted to continue from the last saved checkpoint in a mission or start new. These missions were fun and diverse enough to keep my attention to just this one table for a couple hours before I remembered there were still two other tables to play. And enough can’t be said about the sheer fact that battling against the high scores of your friends is truly where Zen Pinball 2 shines over its competition. Although I love my retro Pinball Arcade tables, the completely original and fantastical nature of the Zen Pinball tables is the reason anyone is remotely interested in pinball games.

Clone Wars

The Clone Wars table grew on me, like a beauty mark rather than a mole. At first, the crazy background had me losing my targets and the 4-ball clone multi-ball just made matters worse. But once I realized that this was the ramp-lovers dream table, I began to really love it. There are five ramp shots and three loop shots, each of them leads back to a flipper. There are absolutely no target shots or drop shots. Not until I entered the training “mini table playfield” by spelling “TRAINING” via the right and left loop. Hitting the gunship ramp takes the ball up to a two part training minigame. These shots require a bit more skill than the main table and break up the ramp-mania rather nicely.

Clone Wars scores can easily get into the hundreds of millions, though at times it can feel like a chore.

Just like the Episode V table, there are five missions and one gunship minigame requiring precision combo shots in an effort to transport some Clone troopers to safety. This table takes itself much more seriously over the Episode V table. Missions had me battling it out with Asajj Ventress. Hitting specific shots powered up the ball into a green glowy thing that would damage her, whereas any other shot would get sliced in half by one of her light saber wielding arms. Clone Wars scores can easily get into the hundreds of millions, though at times it can feel like a chore.

Boba Fett

This is the only table dedicated to a single character. Boba Fett is offered bounty missions from either Darth Vader or Jabba that require a precise shot through each ramp and loop on the table. These bounty missions have a short timer and I found myself hitting brick shot after brick shot until the time expired. The left most flipper is a death trap if not timed perfectly. It was the reason for losing the ball down both sides many times before I simply decided to leave it alone.

I’m sure in time I will begin to see its value, but in the first hour of playing Boba Fett there was nothing there for me.

Overall, Boba Fett was my least favorite table. Boring gameplay, instant gutter balls, and audio not on par with the other two tables are a few of its shortcomings. I’m sure in time I will begin to see its value, but in the first hour of playing Boba Fett there was nothing there for me. Scores seem to be in the tens of millions when bounties are not completed. Up to 50 million is awarded for one of the bounties from both Vader or Jabba. The highest score on the overall leaderboards is right above 1 billion. That is why chasing friends’ scores is more realistic, unless you’re friends with the 1B scoring guy.

I’m sure big publication will say something closed minded like “if you’re a Star Wars fan and love pinball, then buy Star Wars Pinball.” I would back up even further and simply say, if you downloaded the free-to-try Zen Pinball 2 and have yet to pay for a single table, make your first Star Wars Pinball. These three tables are a lot more fun than any of the Marvel tables were in my humble opinion. Though Plants vs Zombies comes in a close second. With Cross-Buy entitlement onto PS3/Vita and trophies to unlock on each platform, I am now looking forward to the next crop of Star Wars tables to release; a desire normally reserved for The Pinball Arcade table packs.

  • Freelance

    Wow your impressions pretty much mirror my own. Clone Wars is my fave, then EB V and Boba Fett in that order. I too love TPA more than Zen but these SW tables are great and can’t wait for more. SW tables > Marvel tables IMO.

    • KosmoCrisis

      What I want to know is who is designing these tables? Real world pinball table designers are credited for their works of art and these people are recognized in the Pinball Arcade versions. I wish Zen would do the same for their designers/artists; boost their reputation.

    • Freelance

      That’s one thing I can’t fault Zen on. The artwork on some of their tables are pretty nice.

  • I like all of the SW tables, but Clone Wars is probably the only one I’d say is one of the best in the entire game. Before I probably would have said Wolverine was my favorite table in the entire game, but now I’m not sure if I’d stick with it or go with Cone Wars instead.

    • KosmoCrisis

      Is it too early to begin speculating on possibile themes for the next three SW tables? My guess would be Ep IV: A New Hope, SW: The Old Republic, and Darth Maul. Then Ep VI: Return of the Jedi, one or two of the new trilogy. Maybe the tenth will be Ep VII.

    • I hope they make a table for every movie, though I hope they manage to do it without them all being too similar to the Episode V table. But since that would only leave space for four non-movie tables (and two of them are already taken up by Boba Fett and The Clone Wars), I’m thinking they won’t get around to it in these initial 10 tables. But considering how well the game seems to be doing, I can’t imagine them not making more tables beyond the initial 10 being made.

      As for what I wouldn’t mind seeing, I think a podracing table could work well (or at the very least include a podrace-related mission on the Episode I table). I also think a more lighthearted table (in the vein of something like their Epic Quest table) with either R2-D2 and C-3PO or Jar Jar Binks (I know people will hate me for that) would be a nice way to bring some more variety to the tables.

    • Freelance

      Zen has already said (somewhere) that there won’t be tables for all the movies. LA has specifically requested them not to do so.

      I expect to see more character specific tables like Boba Fett, and Star Wars things in general, like say, a Jedi Battle or a space battle. Maybe a table with the Ewok battle?? I’d love a pod racing table too. The actual Pod Racer game (I played it on PC) was downright awesome.

    • Like I said, I think that’ll be the case for this initial batch of 10 tables, but if they do make more tables beyond that then I think they’ll eventually get around around to making one for all of the movies. It’s probably just a timing issue, as they don’t want to have all the movie tables come out so soon and then have none to come out in later table packs. They probably just want to space them out evenly until they get around to an Episode VII table that will come out around the same time as the movie (which is still well over a year away).