Review

Star Wars Pinball: Balance of the Force

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It’s time to return to a galaxy far, far away with the latest and greatest Star Wars Pinball pack from Zen Studios. In this second set of downloadable content, we delve deeper into the classic sci-fi trilogy as the developer continues to dazzle us with its seemingly endless bag of tricks.

What You Need to Know

Star Wars: Balance of the Force includes tables based on Episode IV: Return of the Jedi, Darth Vader, and Starfighter Assault. In each of these, players will re-enact familiar scenes from the films that transition seamlessly from the action on the playfield to sequences that feel more like an action shooter game than pinball.

The mechanics start off as you would expect, with some simple flipper action and a little nudge of the table here and there, but as you progress through the missions the functionality of the controller is altered depending on the situation.



What’s New?

Zen is taking this series further and further away from traditional pinball and more into a blending of genres that’s likely to attract a wider audience, and more specifically fans of Star Wars. It almost feels as if the pinballs tables are a Trojan horse that allow them appear as one thing on the surface, but at a deeper glance offer a lot more depth and complexity than you would ever imagine.

This is where the game really shines, and whether it’s the Speeder bike chase scene on the Episode IV table or the ‘in space’ action sequences on Starfighter Assault between X-Wings and TIE Fighters, there’s always something that’s both visually appealing and rewarding for accomplishing your goals.

What’s the Same?

Akin to the previous three Star Wars Pinball entries, these tables stick to the same basic formula that has proven to be successful. Each one starts with a nice intro that sets up the action and helps to draw you into the setting. Then you launch the ball and start flipping. Missions are started by successfully hitting certain shots a given number of times while the various modes are activated by hitting specific ramps.

As with the other pinball games from Zen, the games really shine once you start doing the missions. You can select one of five or so missions from each of the tables, which is nice because that flexibility prevents you from having to play the same scene over and over.

You’ll Enjoy Star Wars Pinball: Balance of the Force If You Liked…

If you’ve played and enjoyed any of Zen’s previous pinball offerings such as Marvel Pinball or Pinball FX then you’re sure to enjoy this one as well. Obviously if you’re a fan of Star Wars this is a no brainer, but if you’re a casual gamer looking for some good filler in between major titles then this is a perfect bite-sized game that offers a lot of value for the price tag.

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What I Liked

- 5.) The ramps and missions on Return of the Jedi. It’s always fun to play a table with good ramps but the twisted and winding nature of these that send the ball rolling all sorts of ways is very gratifying.

- 4.) Being able to choose to support either the Rebel Alliance’s Fleet or the Galactic Empire on Starfighter Assault. The table plays out differently depending on which side you choose and that adds a lot of replay value. The table is split down the middle to represent the struggle between the two and you have to complete both to activate wizard mode.

- 3.) The Darth Vader table. It has the best flow of the three and before you launch the ball you can choose whether or not to assemble Vader. If you choose to, you’ll start a brief mission in which you’ll have to hit the ball at some mechanical arms. Upon completion Vader stands up and lets out the infamous “Noooo!” that cracks me up every time I hear it.

- 2.) Graphically the game is pretty impressive. I’m amazed at the quality of the scenes that take place, particularly on the Starfighter Assault table. The flight combat is just a lot of fun, simple, and looks nice.

- 1.) The sounds from the game are taken straight from the films and are subtle yet refreshing reminders of the era in which I became acquainted with them as a child. Hearing Darth Vader’s familiar quotes, listening to the beeps and bleeps of R2D2, and the whirring of the various types of aircraft help to draw you in and take you back.

Favourite Thing

The best thing about this game is the same thing that makes the others so great. Simple, fun, and rewarding gameplay that has just enough depth to keep you coming back for more to push that high score just a little higher.

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What I Didn’t Like

- 3.) This is a bit nit-picky, but after playing the games on PC via Steam, PS Vita, and my smartphone I would really love the option for portrait mode on my television. Yes, it is completely impractical and I would probably break my TV, but I still want it. It’s just a much more natural feeling that way and provides the best viewing angle.

- 2.) Starfighter Assault’s complexity. Each of the packs seem to offer an easy, medium and hard table, which is great, but I found this one to be a little less enjoyable than the others due to its difficulty.

- 1.) A little more of the same. That’s good in some ways except that if the first set didn’t win you over then it’s unlikely that this one will either. It also seems more focused on the canonized material and less diverse than the first pack.

Least Favourite Thing

If there was one thing overall I could say that was my least favourite it would probably be that even though each of the tables has its own identity, they all feel and sound fairly similar in theme. That’s the nature of the beast I guess with a license like this, but in direct comparison to Marvel Pinball each of those seemed to stand on their own more than these.



What’s Extra?

As with the other games in the series, there are three trophies for each table, online and local leaderboards, two-player split screen, local hotseat for up to four players, and the option to post your scores to either the light or the dark side. In doing so, you can climb the ranks to be a Jedi Master or a Sith Lord.

The Bottom Line

Zen Studios’ Balance of the Force pack for Star Wars Pinball is another great addition to an already outstanding pinball library.


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