Casual gamers, rejoice! Star Wars Pinball has finally arrived!
Here's the breakdown by platform:
Xbox LIVE Arcade — 800 MSP (Pinball FX2)
PS3 & PS Vita with CrossBuy — $9.99 (Zen Pinball 2)
Mac — $2.99 per table (Zen Pinball 2)
iPhone, iPad (link) — $1.99 per table (Zen Pinball)
Google Play — $1.99 per table (Zen Pinball HD)
Windows — coming soon
A standalone Star Wars Pinball app will be available soon for both iOS and Android. No prices have been announced.
Zen Studios was kind enough to give us an early preview copy containing all three tables — The Empire Strikes Back, The Clone Wars, and Boba Fett. I've had a chance to play around with it for about five days now, and though I'm not the world's greatest pinball player, I'm absolutely hooked.
The Tables All three tables are designed in such a way as to look and play like traditional pinball tables. However, each table has some great, hidden gems that are only possible in a video game format. Be sure to check out the trailers at the end of this review.
The first of the three tables is Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. This seems to be the most traditional of the tables, though it also makes the heaviest use of the "video game only" elements. The Force will sometimes snag your ball before it goes into a gutter. Giant lightsabers will swing out over the table to deliver the ball onto one of your flipper ramps. Darth Vader will rise up from within the table and Force-choke your ball into a fine powder.
This table's mini-games are phenomenal and include a variety of 3D elements, including lightsaber battles between Luke and Vader, battling TIE fighters and asteroids, and the tripping of an AT-AT (if you're skilled enough) by a snow speeder. I was only able to get one "off table" mini game, in which I took Luke's point of view in the lightsaber training from the Falcon in A New Hope. I used the flippers to move my lightsaber left and right to block bolts from the training remote. At least, I tried to… Alas, the Force was not with me, and I was sent back to the table. However, considering how good this table is, that's nothing to be upset about.
The second table is Star Wars: The Clone Wars. It starts with an opening crawl and narration that will sound very familiar to fans of the television series. For those players who like racking up points quickly, the various combos and mini games will make this the most appealing table. The 3D elements include both Anakin and Ahsoka fighting Ventriss and battle droids, and even a gunship that flies in and lands mid-table to "carry troops" (your ball) off to battle.
My favorite table-based mini game from this table was one in which droids set up a shield over the lower, center portion of the table, and you have to attack them from behind, making good use of the side ramps. I managed to get to one off-table mini game, which is basically an escalating target practice for clone troopers (again, I didn't do all that well). Of all the tables, this was probably my favorite.
The third table is Star Wars: Boba Fett. Though not my favorite table (probably because I did poorly at it), I found this table the most interesting. Jabba the Hutt and Darth Vader both make appearances, the latter of which even does battle with Fett. The sarlaac even makes an appearance, trying to pull Fett into the table. Personally, I found this table to be more difficult than the Clone Wars, but it never became so difficult as to be frustrating. Like the other tables, this one's a lot of fun.
Eventually, 10 Star Wars tables will be released, though no specifics have been announced as to when. Frankly, I'm sure I'll be perfectly content with these first three for a very long time.
The Gameplay Zen Studios knows their pinball. They've proven themselves with other properties such as "Plants vs. Zombies" and various Marvel Comics tables, and the Star Wars tables match or exceed the quality Zen Studios is known for.
I initially played the iOS version using an iPad Mini (the same hardware as the iPad 2, so we're not talking cutting-edge speed and graphics chips). Even though it does play better on my iPad 3 with an A5X chip and retina display, it was no slouch on the older hardware. In fact, there was never a point at which I felt the performance was any less than stellar. The game was very responsive, and the fantasy-based sequences not withstanding (flying ships and such), the physics felt very real.
Controls are simple—tap on the left or right side of the screen for the left and right flippers, and pull down for the ball plunger.
Holding the iPad in its vertical orientation allowed for a better view of the entire table at once. However, its horizontal orientation worked just fine as well. Zen Studios took this into consideration when designing the game, and you can choose from eight camera angles to accommodate your viewing preference. I've found that, for ergonomic comfort, I prefer vertical on my iPad and horizontal on my iPad Mini.
Is it worth buying? Over the years, Star Wars games have been hit-or-miss, especially in the category of casual gaming. But without question, Zen Studios has released a product truly worthy of the Star Wars name.
I'm not a die-hard pinball fan. At best, I'm an adequate player. But I emphatically recommend this game.
For the iPhone and Android users, you have an additional decision — do you get the tables individually from within the Zen Pinball apps, or do you wait and get the standalone app?
Personally, the "wait" portion of that sentence answers the question for me—I recommend getting these right away. But the standalone app will have an additional scoring feature — you'll gain Force points that will sway the balance of the Force for the entire community. The game's title border will change based on whether the Light Side or Dark Side is winning (you choose when you first start the game, and you can modify your choice via the settings).
This provides mainly a cosmetic change, so I don't see it as something that should delay you checking out the game. Additionally, I think you'll like the game well enough that you'll consider picking up some of the Marvel tables too, and it'd be easier to keep everything in a single app.
You can find the trailers below. If you want more information, check out StarWarsPinball.com. If you're an iOS user, look me up in Game Center as "erikblythe" — I'd love to see you on the leaderboards!