Star Wars Pinball Balance of The Force Impressions
When Zen Studios released the first lot of Star Wars Pinball tables earlier this year I was quite impressed with how great the source material transferred over to Pinball, and was surprised with just how addicted I got to those tables. For a while a great chunk of my gaming time was spent playing those tables, battling back and forth trying to claim that top score on my friends list. So I was pretty excited when I got my hands on the next set of tables with the Balance of The Force table pack.
Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi
As you can guess from the name this table is based on the last movie of the original trilogy: Return of the Jedi. As with the Episode V table in the last pack the main draw of this table is the ability to play through the iconic scenes from the movie such as rescuing Han Solo from Jabba the Hutt, taking out the shield generator on Endor, and of course destroying the Death Star. Each of the five missions have multiple parts and varying goals which will definitely put your speed and accuracy to the test. My only real complaint with the missions is that to activate them you need to hit the centre sinkhole four times to spell Jedi, with the sinkhole returning the ball a little too close to the end of the left flipper for my liking.
Besides the missions the table features four different multiball modes that can certainly help you to get those high scores, with my favorite being one that you need to shoot the ball around a holographic loop that R2-D2 has projected on the field to collect jackpots. R2 is also used in an interesting way as one of the kickbacks. If all five targets are hit in the left outlane using the R2-D2 bumper it activates the ball save. Another neat feature is by spelling Speeder through hitting the top sinkhole (or though one of the missions) you can activate a mode where you control a speedster bike. You need to hit the left and right ramps on a mini playfield to move in those directions to dodge trees and hit the middle hole to shoot at the storm trooper’s speeder bike ahead of you, which while challenging is really fun. Overall the Episode VI table offers a lot of variety and is chocked full of references to the movie (and yes, of course there are Ewoks). While I think I like the Episode V table a little more, this is still one of the better tables Zen has released.
Star Wars: Starfighter Assault
After spending a lot of time with each of the tables in the Balance of The Force pack Starfighter Assault seems to be the one I head back to first when I start up the game. The playfield of the table takes place onboard a capital ship in open space, which looks quite impressive. At the start of the table you must choose your side, either the Alliance or the Galactic Empire, which changes several aspects of the table like how the ball is launched, the voices you hear, and if there are TIE Fighters or X-Wings that you shoot down and control. That’s right you didn’t read wrong, I said control. Some of the missions include segments where you take control of a laser turret or a ship (either in a basic shmup fashion or an on rails cock pit view) to shoot down enemy ships. While a little odd for a pinball table these modes are pretty fun and a nice break in between the pinball action.
Through playing you get rewarded for completing missions and shooting down enemy ships in the form of experience (which is used to increase your pilot rank which unlocks new squad missions), commendations (which can be exchanged to foe upgrades), and fleet strength (which affects how much score you earn from each shot). There is so much going on with this table at any one time that it can be difficult to pick out what you need to do at first, which isn’t helped with how little time the game gives you to read mission instructions. But after spending time with the table to get the hang of things I really enjoy the intricacies and varied gameplay of Starfighter Assault and it has become my favorite of the three.
Star Wars: Darth Vader
Darth Vader is without a doubt the most recognizable character in the Star Wars universe, so it’s great to see the next character specific table based on him. Right off the bat the table introduction opens centered on Vader’s face as it pans out while the Imperial March plays, setting up the table perfectly. As you start playing you have the choice to start with the assembly of Darth Vader or not. By starting the assembly you can rack up about ten million points in a mode where you must shoot the ball at moving robotic arms while you hear a conversation between Palpatine and Vader. While not the most exciting mode I thought it was pretty cool for them to recreate the famous scene from Revenge of the Sith.
While the Vader table contains missions based on some of his major moments in the original trilogy I tended to concentrate more on setting up combo shots on the different ramps and cross ramps that start the hurry up and multiball modes. You can start racking up points in the hundreds of millions pretty quickly on this table once you start activating multiple multiball and hurry up modes at the same time, which ends up being hectic and quite fun. After completing the TIE/X1 hurry up you have the chance to play a Trench Run mode. This mode has you maneuvering Vaders TIE fighter left and right with the flippers and shooting at X-Wings in the trenches of the Death Star. While initially impressive, I found the mode to not be as entertaining as the extra modes seen in the Starfigher Alliance table. Overall though it is a really fun table that is quite an improvement over the character specific Bobba Fett table seen in the first pack.
For people who enjoyed the original Star Wars Pinball tables grabbing the Balance of The Force pack for $9.99 should be an easy decision for you. Zen Studios have once again shown that they understand the franchise and have put the time and polish into representing Star Wars properly in pinball form. Each table is detailed and full of imagery that fans will love with great sound effects, familiar music, and …ah… OK voice acting. These tables are a lot of fun to play and in my opinion are even better than Zen’s original Star Wars offering. I’ve got a feeling that once again my gaming time for the next while is going to be taken up with a lot of Star Wars Pinball.