Star Wars Pinball is part of the Zen Pinball 2 franchise and can be played with or separately to their other tables. Unless you’ve been locked in a box for the past few Years you may have noticed Star Wars has a new film that’s been creating quite a stir. The latest offering from Zen Studios is two tables themed around the latest episode in the Star Wars saga, The Force Awakens.
I know I probably should have started with the table of the films namesake but I simply couldn’t resist the power of the dark side. The voice acting of Might of the First Order is authentic enough. Oddly the music is the theme to the final attack on the Death Star. Not exactly a piece from the new movies but I suppose it’s dramatic enough for pinball. The table is based within the Star Destroyer hanger with a nicely animated flame trooper on the left. Over on the right Captain Phasma gets a far larger role and more lines of dialogue than she did in the movie.
From the start this table impresses with two skills shots that are obtainable from a measured starting slingshot. One of the more original aspects is the Kylo Ren mini-table that’s accessed from entrance on the left. It’s positioned directly above the main tables flippers and between it’s moderately responsive bumpers. This can take some getting used to as you adjust to the mini-game’s flippers being directly above the main flippers yet below a transparent screen. It can be very confusing during a multi-ball but it wasn’t a completely unwelcome added challenge. The mini-game itself is simple, once accessed your first ball will lock in one of six holding slots. The next ball you shoot in there you will use the flippers to knock the first ball over to the far right storage chamber. Upon successfully getting two in there the third will start a multi-ball bonus round where you play for the Jackpot and even a Super Jackpot.
There’s an upper flipper that allows access to the other multi-ball and is equally helpful for completing a mission where you arrest Poe Dameron. In usual Zen Pinball style animated charters play this out by responding to your play. I find it incredibly hard to fault this table. It’s extremely easy to familiarise yourself with all it’s intricacies through repetition. Its many missions were self-evident, interesting and took a fair amount of effort to activate and complete. Eventually you should be able to combo white-hot ball multipliers with missions to maximise your score.
After getting hooked for quite a few hours on the Might of the First Order I decided to check out the other half of this pack. The Force Awakens table looks like it’s been carved out of the desert wastes of Jakku. The dialogue is competent for the most part; even obviously not John Boyega, is passable. It’s a much larger table and a far more jarring choice of music. The theme used is from the scene where everyone gets a medal except Chewbacca. Only this gets stranger as the track jumps directly into the end credits theme. It may work for the movie but here it really doesn’t fit and comes across as a bit slapped on.
The table itself is the more difficult of the two due a far higher requirement for accuracy. Now it’s no shock to the avid pinball player that the game is set up so you will eventually lose for the most part. However, this table seems to have a personal vendetta. There’s a metal door in the centre of the table that requires repeated hits to open. Only this door, either by design or mistake, seems to be magnetic. This really throws the physics sending your pinball flying in random directions. Though, a lot of the time this will be right through the gap between your flippers, giving you no chance to recover. Most of the paths send the ball round and right back at this blind spot at speed. Another way the game tries to beat you is by taking a ball you’ve fired into top area and randomly materialising the ball to the side allies giving you mere moments to react. So while your focus is at the top of the screen where you sent the ball the game sneaks it to an area you’re not predicting it to be. Sure you can eventually get used to this to a certain degree but it does feel like the game’s cheating a little. Mix that with over reactive bumpers and it’s a one-way trip to frustration city.
Outside of that the challenges are the usual fair of hitting areas repeatedly until missions unlock. My personal favourite is the mission where you have to hit the Rathtar cargo from Han’s ship. Successful attacks on these clearly Sarlac inspired monsters racks up an insane score. Maybe due to the overall difficulty millions of points are practically thrown at you. While this may scratch that ridiculous highscore itch, the missions are too simplistic to be interesting. The most inventive seemed to be the BB-8 mini-game which unfortunately was let down by clunky movement and irresponsive controls.
Out of the two there’s a clear winner that’s leaps and bounds ahead of the other. It certainly helps to avoid mechanics that mess a bit too much with the pinball formula so it ends up being more about luck than skill. The music choice on both tables feels like a missed opportunity to familiarise people with the new film’s sound track. My personal choice would have been ‘The Falcon’ for The Force Awakens and ‘Kylo Ren Arrives at the Battle’ for The First Order. That said, I would highly recommend picking up The First Order, it’s definitely one of the best tables from the Star Wars Pinball series so far. The Force Awakens, less so, unless you feel confident you can adapt to the many surprise attacks and bizarre physics at play.
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