Star Wars Pinball (PS3)

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Let’s cut right to the chase: If you’re a fan of pinball or Star Wars then there’s no reason you shouldn’t be playing Star Wars Pinball right now. Available across multiple platforms, this three-pack bundle includes tables based on Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, Boba Fett and The Clone Wars, marking the latest in Zen Studios’ excellent pinball table line-up.

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The Empire Strikes Back table has a very nostalgic feel to it. The designers really did a great job of recreating some of the classic scenes from the film and integrating them into the missions. Once the mission select is activated (this is done by hitting the center bank and collecting the ‘STAR WARS’ letters) players can choose from one of the five different missions available that include scenes based on taking down an AT-AT walker on the ice planet Hoth, attacking a storm trooper and learning to use The Force under the tutelage of master Yoda. Activating a mission initiates a cool jump to hyperspace effect that should be a real treat for Star Wars fans.

Despite the over-the-top special effects, The Empire Strikes Back plays more like a traditional pinball table than the others in the pack. It’s a little lower scoring than the other two and the missions, although easy to initiate, are fairly challenging to complete, and each mission is broken down into three parts, or checkpoints. This means that you can pick up where you left off with a mission if you weren’t able to fully complete it the first time through.

The 3D character models are absolutely fantastic as well. Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker are both represented on the table as well as their dialogue from the film. Watching them interact as you play through the missions adds so much to the experience that at times it doesn’t even feel like a pinball game. It’s more like an interactive trip down memory lane with your old friends from 1980, which is fine by me.

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The Boba Fett table has to be one of the single best examples of fan service that I’ve ever seen. You can really tell that the guys at Zen are big fans of the source material and work hard to include intricate details that only the most hardcore fans could appreciate. Taking a quick look around the play field you’ll see several of the other bounty hunters from the movies in the table art. There’s even the dreaded Sarlacc pit, 3D models of Jabba the Hutt, Boba Fett’s ship (the Slave I), and a TIE Fighter, as well as a spinner that happens to be our beloved Han Solo encased carbonite.

The cinematic quality of the cut-scenes on this table is unsurpassed by anything Zen Studios has done to date. It’s a real joy to watch the action unfold after completing a mission objective and it’s that type of rewarding gameplay that kept bringing me back for more. Table missions (bounties) are separated into two groups, each activated by shooting their respective ramps. To activate jobs for the Galactic Empire, spell the letters ‘EMPIRE’ by shooting the middle-left orbit. Shooting the sinkhole under the seesaw ramp will collect the letters ‘HUTTS,’ which will let you complete missions for, as you would expect, Jabba the Hutt.

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Boba Fett has a good balance to it and you can choose the difficulty of your missions when you select them. For example, choosing a ten million point bounty will only require a couple of ramp or orbit shots to be hit, while selecting a fifty million point bounty would require you to hit seven in a limited amount of time.

The third table in the pack is based on The Clone Wars, a computer-animated movie turned TV series that’s set in-between the events of Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones and Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Not being too familiar with the content that inspired the table I wasn’t sure what to expect, but that didn’t affect my enjoyment much. The gameplay on this table is very fluid and combo heavy, with lots of fast ramp shots and high scoring opportunities. That makes for a good time once you get the hang of things and get a good rhythm going.

Represented on this table in 3D form are Anakin Skywalker and his new apprentice, Ahsoka Tano, as well as Asajj Ventress, Savage Opress and Battle Droids. There’s a lot of over-the-top action and voice acting on this table, and this can be seen straight away from the classic scrolling Star Wars intro when you start the table and hear the voice reading over of the text.

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I have a hard time finding much fault with this latest batch of tables. Each one is fairly well balanced and offers something for both the casual gamer and the hardcore fan alike. I’m continually impressed with how Zen Studios manages to push the envelope of what to expect while constantly redefining what we thought a pinball game should be. And the best part is that this is only the beginning, with seven more Star Wars tables lined up for release later in the year in the form of two more three packs and one standalone table.

There’s simply not a better time to be a pinball fan than right now.

Star Wars Pinball is now available on the following platforms:

– Pinball FX2 on Xbox LIVE Arcade
– Zen Pinball 2 on PlayStation Network for PlayStation 3 and
PlayStation Vita as Cross-Buy entitled content
– Zen Pinball 2 on the Mac App Store
– Zen Pinball on the Apple App Store
– Zen Pinball HD on Google Play