By Robert Workman
Video Game Reviews
9:30 AM EDT, September 30, 2013
If there's one thing that Zen Studios has a knack for, it's pinball design. I don't know if these guys just live in a bar surrounded by pinball machines or just sit around the office all day tinkering with bumpers and plungers, but they get pinball.
And they've proven this time and time again with their offerings for both "Zen Pinball 2" on PlayStation Network (and iOS) and "Pinball FX 2" on Xbox Live Arcade, two games that we never get tired of. Just recently, we booted up "Plants vs. Zombies" again just to see who would fare the best in scoring. (And, of course, I conquered all.)
Now, after taking on the Marvel universe for a while, Zen Studios has moved on to "Star Wars," striking a deal to design 10 tables based around the Disney-acquired franchise. The first three tables are out now for PlayStation Network and iOS and Xbox Live Arcade-- and you'd be a fool to pass these up.
The three table designs really give you an idea of what Zen Studios wants to do with this universe. You have "The Empire Strikes Back," based on one of the best movies in the series; Boba Fett, a table designed with the intergalactic bounty hunter in mind (complete with the Sarlacc that supposedly devoured him); and "Star Wars: The Clone Wars," based on the Cartoon Network series of the same name.
Each table is painstakingly crafted to match the ambience of each theme, a tradition that Zen Studios continues to stick to. The best of the three easily has to be "Empire," mainly because you have all sorts of skill shots, as well as a pop-up Darth Vader mask in the middle of it all to accept balls for bonus rounds. The artwork is quite authentic as well, with Luke and company featured right there on the main part of the table, along with light-up ramps and displays.
But that's not to say the other two tables are shoddily made. Boba Fett's is outstanding, with plenty of galactic-oriented ramps to shoot at, that Sarlacc, and Boba himself running around from spot to spot. "The Clone Wars" is equally impressive, with characters taken straight from the show, a cool launcher shuttle that puts your ball into play, and more. The design is impeccable, and really brings out the most in each theme.
Some might be turned off by the sound a little bit, though. While the music is pure "Star Wars" -- and outstanding, as always -- the voicework is off and on. Some of the actors sound true to their counterparts, while others-- like an all-too-obvious Darth Vader fill-in and a Han Solo sound-alike-- could've used fine tuning. And, really, on the "Clone Wars" table, every time we make a combo shot, Yoda speaks. It's great to hear his wisdom, but each time we make a shot like that?!
The gameplay is pure pinball, as Zen Studios has captured so well in the past. Flippers react with ease to your shots, and it's great seeing how you can line up a skill shot on each table with your plunger. The only downside is that ball speed is a little too fast at times, and it's easy to lose your ball as a result. Keep an eye on it, however, and you'll be able to keep it in play. Mostly.
"Star Wars Pinball" has full online leaderboard support, which remains excellent as always, and you can also add to your Superscore and compare scores with friends on both "Pinball FX 2" and "Zen Pinball 2." And it costs only 10 bucks, a swell deal for a "Star Wars Pinball" three-pack-- especially compared to what the vintage "Phantom Menace"holographic pinball goes for on eBay these days. And that's if you can find one that's running.
"Star Wars Pinball" opens a new door for Zen Studios, one that's sure to give the company an immaculate amount of attention as it works on the remaining tables in the franchise. That's great, because it can only inspire them to make even better tables -- if that's possible. "Empire Strikes Back," "Clone Wars" and Boba Fett make quite an introduction to this flipper-based universe, and we can't wait to see what's next.
Just...please . . . no Jar Jar Binks table. I beg of you.
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