• Gameplay
  • Sound
  • Replayability
  • Table Design

While I’ve spent a good deal of time in arcades, I’ve never really gotten into the pinball scene. Sure, I played once in a while, but the game always seemed too boring to me to justify pumping quarters into a machine for hours. I always resisted getting hooked- until I played Zen Studios’ Star Wars Pinball addition to Pinball FX 2 for the Xbox 360, or Zen Pinball 2 for the PS3/Vita.

With the release of Star Wars Pinball, Zen Studios took the opportunity to explore the Star Wars license with three themed tables, covering episodes V, VI, and The Clone Wars film and TV show. Each table is distinct and they are all fun in their own ways. They can also become quite frustrating, though, if you’re not a pinball wizard like me and are looking to collect the achievement for each stage.

For the two original trilogy tables, the sound bytes are comprised entirely of quotes from the respective films. In the Episode V table, you hear quotes from Han Solo, Yoda, and even Darth Vader as you sink the ball into various pockets around the table. The Episode 6 table revolves around Boba Fett, and as you play the level you can complete bounties for Darth Vader and the Empire by hitting the ball into certain pockets. Out of the three tables I played the Boba Fett stage the least, and according to my lay-pinball player judgment it’s the worst of the set.

I really like the design of the Clone Wars table and enjoy playing on it immensely, which pains me to admit, considering I’ve now spent over five hours trying to earn the “Clone Training” achievement.

The Clone Wars inspired table.

The “Clone Wars” inspired table during an in-game event.

While it has certainly been frustrating, I wouldn’t keep trying if the table were not fun. The design feels seamless, and, having played it over 100 times now, I can virtually guide the ball all over the table at will. For someone who had virtually no experience playing pinball before trying this game out, that’s not bad. Now, that’s not a testament to my aptitude, which is often sorely lacking in learning new controls, but the fluid controls of the game itself.

Multiple perspectives are offered to view the table as you play, but I often found the default, over-the-top view to be the most effective. One view tracks the ball, which is useful if you want to follow certain paths around the table and see where they lead up close, but then coordinating the pinball with the bumpers is more difficult. The choices are certainly nice, though, and offer alternatives for more experienced players than me.

Since I’ve spent by far the most time on the Clone Wars table, my major complaint comes from there. On each level, certain quotes will always play when you push a ball through corresponding pockets. I didn’t find this as bothersome on the original trilogy tables, perhaps because I didn’t spam them as much, but hearing Yoda constantly drone on about friendship and heroism made me hate life just a little as I was going for the achievement. It would definitely be nicer if the same quotes didn’t play every time I hit the ball down a certain pocket, since I heard the same few constantly as I went for the Clone Training achievement.

The three achievements in this DLC, one for each table, are definitely tough. I was able, after only a few tries, to complete the one on the Episode V, which requires you to fully light up the “training” pocket and complete a first-person lightsaber training exercise straight out of the original Star Wars. I have yet to even attempt to complete the Boba Fett achievement, but I assume that it is earned in a similar fashion, this time by completing bounties by hitting the pinball up a certain ramp and then following instructions from there.

As I’ve mentioned repeatedly, I’ve spent a great majority of my time with this game going for the “Clone Training” achievement on the Clone Wars table. It requires you to send the pinball up the designated “training” ramp until each letter is filled in. Then, you have to hit the ball up one of the topmost ramps on the table. Then, a minigame begins on a squat pinball board, where you have to smash down barricades on the left and right with a pinball without letting it fall between your two bumpers. Once you complete this first training exercise, you have to complete another oddly-shaped table. I’ve still yet to complete these second table successfully after hours of futile attempts. It’s that hard.

Each stage has a sort of story built in, where hitting certain combinations of pockets leads to these events. The Episode V ones are kind of lame and just retell a part of the story on a screen to the upper left of the table, offering little interaction with the player. The Clone Wars table, however, has a really cool story mode. After completing the “council” ramp, you choose one from amongst several scenarios with the right and left trigger, which also control the right and left bumpers respectively during every game. I’ve played through each scenario, and they are each quite fun and entertaining. One pits Ahsoka Tano against Asajj Ventress, while another takes place during the Battle of Kamino. Finally, my favorite involves Darth Maul’s brother, Savage Opress. He moves from left to right, blocking much of the board. Hitting him with the pinball, though, yields a one million (!) point reward.

The Verdict

Overall, Star Wars Pinball is really just a set of fancy pinball tables, but that’s exactly what Zen Studio’s sought to accomplish. While I can’t speak from the perspective of an avid pinball fan, the three tables each play very smoothly and, with the possible exception of the Boba Fett table, are a lot of fun to play. I recommend this DLC pack to anyone who has enjoyed Pinball FX 2/Zen Pinball 2 tables before and are looking for some Star Wars-themed tables to whet their appetite for some pinball fun. The game is available on a myriad of platforms, including the Xbox 360, PC, PlayStation 3 and Vita with Cross-Buy enabled, and Mac OS.

P.S. Anyone who has purchased the DLC and downloaded the free Pinball FX 2/Zen Pinball 2 template game  is able to participate in the official Star Wars Pinball score tournaments. One has already passed, but tournaments for the Boba Fett and The Clone Wars table will be held from April 12-19 and May 3-10 respectively. You can find more details on the competition and the prizes at the official website. Good luck to any of my competitors!