Zen Studios and their pinball games have created a resurgence in the interest of pinball games as of late, and it's not really surprising considering the level of quality they produce. Their latest tabletop offering gives players access to tables modeled after one of the most requested franchises, Star Wars. With a healthy dose of extras, this is one of those games that actually makes me sit up and take interest in pinball again, which I honestly haven't done since Pinball Quest on the NES. I'll give you fair warning now, there is going to be at least one reference to 'Pinball Wizard' by The Who.
Star Wars Pinball comes with three tables to start (with more certainly expected to be added later as DLC), each on dedicated to a specific part of the Star Wars mythos. The first table is based on Star Wars: Episode V, with ATAT Walker battles and Jedi Training. The second table is based on the more recent Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series and features a the adolescent Anakin Skywalker and his padawan Ahsoka. The third table is dedicated to famed bounty hunter. Boba Fett, and has cameos from Darth Vader and Jabba the Hutt who dole out bounties for players to capture. Each table has a unique layout full of ramps, bumpers, skillshots, and a wide variety of missions and bonuses for players to complete and earn.
A lot of the fun from the game comes from those missions and thanks to being on a console the game is able to display a lot more visual flair to go along with each mission. Case in point the Episode V table contains six missions that has the player taking down storm troopers, ATAT Walkers, and Darth Vader himself, all displayed on the table in all their menacing glory. There are also gameplay elements and bonuses that take place off the table, like Jedi Training that requires players to use the flippers and ball launcher to deflect laser blasts from a training droid. Visually this all looks impressive on the WiiU, whether it be displayed on the gamepad or on your TV. Though the off-TV gameplay may be at a lower resolution it kind of makes for a better experience overall, giving you a tighter look at the table, and making it slightly easier to time some of the game's trickier shots, of which there are plenty.
If anything, it's actually pretty difficult to get a hang of some of the harder missions and challenges that are required to truly master a table, and while you can get a respectable score without completing missions, it's a lot more satisfying to hit some of those bounties on the Boba Fett table to drive scores into the hundreds of millions. Achieving high scores in turn allows players to earn points for their Light Side or Dark Side factions, which affects the bonuses that players are awarded after each game. Players can also join tournaments that are sanctioned by Zen Studios, or play local hot seat or split screen multiplayer games. There are also leaderboards for keeping track of where your scores stand up against other players, and some of those at the top are nearing the one billion point mark which makes me sad that I thought my fifty million on the Boba Fett table was actually a respectable score.
A big part of what makes Zen Studios so good at recreating the Pinball experience is their attention to detail. The fact that you can adjust operator settings for each table is just one of those extra touches that makes the game all the better, you can even adjust the color of the dot matrix display that shows video of the various movies. You can also see in the ball's movement that there are simulated magnets that affect the movement of the ball. You can also adjust the difficulty which gives you extra lives to start, but playing outside of the default settings will prevent your scores from being posted to the leaderboards.
When it comes to the actual implementation of Star Wars elements in the game, Zen Studios has done a fantastic job, with character models that are on point and sound effects pulled perfectly from the source material. Character interactions with the board while you're playing also fits perfectly within the mythos, Boba Fett is able to complete bounty jobs with a relative ease by using his homing missiles that are fired by using the ball launcher, and you'll be using Slave One to collect your bounties after tracking them down. Little things like this make it obvious that the development team has a great love and respect for the Star Wars franchise and I'm looking forward to seeing what future DLC for the game will contain.
Star Wars Pinball is a pretty solid experience from start to finish. There were a couple of hard crashes here and there which is a bit disappointing, and hopefully can be addressed in the future. But when this game is working at its best it is a ton of fun and works great on the WiiU gamepad. It's quickly becoming one of my favorite ways to enjoy games outside of handhelds, and Star Wars Pinball takes advantage of that quite well. You'd have to be deaf, dumb, and blind to not find something to enjoy here, otherwise you're in for some mean pinball.
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