I’ve never really got pinball. It’s not that I don’t like it, I just don’t know what I’m doing. Beyond the need to keep the ball in play, I’ve never really got a feel for how the whole scoring system works. Yes, I understand that I should generally be aiming for the flashy lights and that, but it’s knowledge akin to knowing that the round ball going in the sticks makes a goal in football – rudimentary at best. Zen Pinball helped to change that though. Thanks to the themed tables, pitch-perfect physics and (mostly) beautifully designed tables, I found myself compelled to dig a little deeper (if only to beat my friends’ scores) into the mechanics behind the basics and the skills required to hit those genuinely high scores. I’m still rubbish, but now, now I know why I’m rubbish. ….I’m not sure if that’s better or worse?
Either way, what matters are the tables, and honestly, these are some of the best out there. Pinball FX 2 has been around for a few years now so I’m not going to go too deep into the basic (the physics are still great and the visuals are expectedly top notch), but for anyone concerned that this selection of Star Wars-themed tables would prove a quick cash grab, you can certainly rest easy; these, despite being a somewhat odd collection, have all clearly been made by a developer with a genuine love and reverence for the source material.
Sure, many old heads would have loved a virtual recreation of Data East’s classic 1982 table, but beyond what I can only imagine would be a rights nightmare, the ones here are more than worthy of the Star Wars name. An animated Clone Wars table probably won’t have hardcore fans frothing at the mouth, and while it also happens to be the easiest table of the three, it’s by no means the runt of the litter. Well designed and the only table blessed with the original voice cast, the Clone Wars table is sure to surprise thanks to its consistently high levels of quality. It’s the easiest of the three in terms of score chasing, but with its wealth of ramps and nuanced touches, proves oddly compelling.
As good as the Clone Wars table is though, the majority will be buying this 800MS point package for the Boba Fett and The Empire Strikes Back tables. Neither disappoint. The Boba Fett table is unquestionably the trickiest of the bunch – you a re tasked with collecting bounties for either the Empire or Jabba the Hut and honestly, it’s not the simplest of tasks either………or at least it wasn’t for a man of my limited pinballing skills. It’s not the hardest Pinball FX table out there by any means, but if you want Slave I to make an appearance, you’re certainly going to need your game face on.
The simplest in terms of layout and design, but arguably the most visually arresting of the bunch thanks to its combination of beloved theme and variety of mission type, The Empire Strikes Back table will most likely prove the most popular of the bunch. By hitting the central panels, you unlock one of five missions related to the movies with full 3D models accompanying your choice. Be it a Snowtrooper, an AT-AT or Lord Vader himself, the use of 3D animations and character design really does bring this, (and the other two tables) to life.
As always though, it’s not just the flashy 3D imagery that brings these table to life; the commitment to classic design still plays a huge part in making these tables feel as close to the real thing as possible. From the fantastic audio design (imitation for the most part, but excellent nonetheless) to the cool LCD display, these tables once again succeed in walking the fine line between classic cool and contemporary technical triumph.
If you’re a Star Wars fan, these are worth checking out for the audio/visual design alone. For pinball fans, despite not offering anything particularly new, these tables are universally top notch and, regardless of your feelings towards Star Wars, are arguably worth checking out on a purely technical level. It doesn’t re-invent the wheel, but then, it was never trying too. This is more brilliant pinball action from the fine folk over at Zen Studios and proof that no franchise is beyond their seemingly Midas touch.
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