GamesBeat

Star Wars Pinball: That wizard is not just a crazy old man (review)

We sure have been talking about Star Wars a lot lately.

With Disney purchasing LucasArts and LucasFilm, an upcoming action game, and a new film trilogy on the way, the 36-year-old franchise is poised to make a comeback after those last four movies. So while we’re reinventing Star Wars, how about some pinball games?

That may or may not be the thinking behind Zen Studios’ Star Wars Pinball, the latest paid downloadable content for the developer’s free Pinball FX 2 and Zen Pinball 2 platforms, which are available on pretty much every device capable of playing games. The first three of 10 planned Star Wars tables come out this week on Xbox Live Arcade, the PlayStation Network, the Mac and iTunes App Stores, and Google Play. The initial offering includes cabinets based on bounty hunter Boba Fett, the Star Wars: The Clone Wars TV series, and Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back.

And hey, guess what? It’s awesome.

What you’ll like

Amazing physics and presentation

Zen Studios has always prided itself on its platform featuring the most realistic physics of any virtual pinball game available, and someone else would have to perform some arcane wizardry to outdo them. Everything just feels right: Balls bounce and roll like they do in reality, you can do crazy flipper saves and aim your shots like on an actual machine, and you can even jostle the cabinet to try and save your ball. This is true across all of the Pinball FX tables, but if this is your first experience with the platform, you’re going to be very impressed.

And since these tables aren’t restricted to things that have to exist in our universe, you’ll see things like a 3D render of Darth Vader who stops your pinballs in mid-air and destroys them with the Force. Or a “boss fight” with an enemy who moves around the table. Or Boba Fett zipping around for no reason other than that it looks badass. It’s all very cool and immersive in ways that physical pinball machines simply can’t be.

Variety and replay value

The three tables have different personalities. Boba Fett is very fast and rewards you keeping the ball moving around without demanding many precise shots. The Empire Strikes back is more about accuracy and skill, and Clone Wars has a little of everything. Depending on your mood and preference, one of these tables will appeal to you. The Empire one is probably the most completely executed one with the most interesting modes, but the more action-based Fett and Clone Wars tables are good if you just want to hop in and knock some bumpers around.

All three include “missions” of sorts that you activate by hitting a set number of targets. Boba Fett pursues bounties, and Clone Wars and Empire have scenes based on ones from the TV show or movie. It’s interesting to see events like the Battle of Hoth translated into pinball (you shoot the ball through a round track to simulate a Snowspeeder winding its tow cable around the legs of an AT-AT), and these versions are clever without being overly gimmicky.

Like the rest of the Pinball FX 2 library, Star Wars includes a few local and online multiplayer modes in case jockeying for position on leaderboards is not competitive enough for you. You can take turns on the same table with up to three friends, or you and a buddy can play on your own tables in a race to see who can rack up a set number of points first. The head-to-head mode in particular adds some interesting frantic tension to the game, especially if your opponent is sitting right next to you.

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