Ever since cinema audiences were first entranced by the Rebel Alliance’s plight against the Galactic Empire, loyal fans have become fairly judgemental as to how unsparingly used the Star Wars brand has become. Obi-Wan Kenobi may have sacrificed himself for the greater good, but by God, the gaming atrocities that have been spawned through the years have nearly pushed us to the brink ourselves.
Step in Zen Studios who, having transitioned Plants vs. Zombies and Marvel’s eclectic superhero horde into precarious tabletop pinball machines, now find themselves enlisted by LucasArts to do the same with George Lucas’ iconic creation. And lo and behold, they succeed.
Here we find three separate tables themed upon Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back, animated spin-off Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and notorious bounty hunter Boba Fett, each superbly tackled by a group of developers that clearly have a love of the source material from which they derived.
Zen Studios are at the top of their game here and if the sweeping orchestral themes from John Williams don’t immediately send you on a nostalgia trip, then authentic voice samples, ridiculously detailed table layouts, the re-enactment of key scenes through dot-matrix displays, and intricately hidden secrets will long pique your interest.
Players first choose to side with either the Light Side or Dark Side (such choice influencing a global balance of the Force) before pinging their way around the tabletop boards, colliding with Storm Troopers, fumbling with the Sarlacc, and continually bashing switch panels that continually spring surprise as you battle to retain your pinballs whilst chasing those high scores.
It’s frantic, fast-paced pinball action as many will have come to expect from their output, but built to such a high standard of quality that it’s fairly difficult to find anything to fault.
There’s so much that adorns each table that it’ll take a while to soak it all in, multiple replays often seeing you discover certain elements for the first time. Zen Studios can be excused for self-indulging in their creations, with pre-game camera swoops navigating around the table layout to show off their attention to detail.
Whilst Off-TV Play on the Wii U GamePad is a welcome addition, visuals take a lamentable hit and it becomes far harder to keep track of the on-screen action. Elsewhere, GamePad integration allows you to keep a track of progress toward breaking previously set high scores, how many pinballs you have remaining, and grants a quick option to alter the camera viewpoint.
I couldn’t possibly speculate as to how strong the Force is with Zen Studios, midi-chlorians are clearly thriving within Star Wars Pinball. Though despite all the frills and visual spectacle, there’s not enough content here to keep you occupied for any longer than short-burst sessions.
With the sure-fire success that they will undoubtedly see from this latest creation, we hope that LucasArts seize the opportunity for the team to continue to pluck inspiration from the film series to craft further tables for us to enjoy.