Almost 15 years ago I experienced the last real-life Star Wars pinball game. I remember fondly seeing Star Wars: Episode I pinball in a shady dive bar full of creepy bikers. The game featured a killer virtual game screen and tons of dialogue ripped from the movie. For this Star Wars fanboy, the experience was like none other. Although I didn't spend too much of my time button-mashing, I'm still amazed to this day the wonder of this game's ghosting effect. Now in the present, Zen Studios has picked up the license to cash in and hopefully breathe life into this franchise. Could it possibly rival my memory of Star Wars: Episode I pinball?
Zen Studios has delivered three new tables for fans to explore the virtual labyrinth of Hoth, Tatooine, and the depths of Anakin’s teenage brain. Specifically featured are an Empire Strikes Back table, a Boba Fett table, and one based off of the recent Cartoon Network series, The Clone Wars. Each table offers a distinct layout with themes tied to its main story-line. While I initially gravitated towards the two themes I knew best, I wound up enjoying the theme I was least familiar with.
It almost goes without saying that the physics of these tables is flawless. Zen Studios has perfected the motion and movement of the little steel ball over 20 previous tables. Compared with other pinball apps and games on the market, the Pinball FX games have provided the most realistic gameplay that successfully blurs the line between reality and a video game. If you're looking for the best video game interpretation of a pinball table, these tables have you covered. The tables in this pack are no different!
From best to worst in this pack, I had more fun playing the Clone Wars table than the other two. At first I was put off by the table’s derivative music (i.e. not composed or conducted by John Williams); however, after multiple play throughs the music grew on me and I was less bothered. Regarding the dialogue, I found the line reading to be tolerable and the imitation of Yoda serviceable. Despite the averageness of the sounds of this table, the gameplay and design of the Clone Wars table is clearly the most action-packed. There is an abundance of rails to send pinballs around and secret hidden tables not so obvious at the start. I’m still not entirely sure how I made it to these hidden tables; but when I got there I enjoyed the change of scenery and new tactics I was forced to employ.
From an accessibility standpoint, I found the Clone Wars table to offer the easiest access to multiball mode. In addition, higher scores on this table were easier to achieve; something very welcome for those of us trying to increase our Wizard Score. The core downside of this table was my lack of connection with the characters or the settings. Everything here looks like Star Wars but it’s missing that historical connection that can only be earned through time. However, as an actual game it provided the most overall enjoyment.
Second best of this bunch is a lackluster Boba Fett table. While this table does a fantastic job of delivering real John Williams’ music and genuine Boba Fett dialogue, it struggles in most other ways. First off, the dialogue, while true to the movies, sounds horrendously re-recorded. Boba Fett was a bad ass because of the tenor of his voice and the rocket on his back. Even though the rocket plays a minor role on this table -- it can not make up for the lack of Jeremy Bulloch (or Temuera Morrison).
Secondly, the sand-colored paint job is incredibly bland. Furthermore, it makes tracking the ball that much more difficult. This table includes a Sarlacc Pit that seems way under-utilized considering the potential. The only real enjoyment of this table comes from the minor bounty missions that can be unlocked up the left side. They include a nice walk-up cameo from Darth Vader, but once he leaves the actual goals of the challenge aren’t that easy to decipher. I liked the concept of giving Boba Fett a table but it just doesn’t deliver the unique kind of experience that a cult character of this nature deserves.
Finally, the worst of these three tables is the Empire Strikes Back. Like the Boba Fett table, Empire Strikes Back features a great soundtrack and legitimate dialogue. Too bad the actual dialogue has been butchered by new voice actors. The table features voiceover from a Han Solo imitator that never comes close to the suave sound we’ve all grown to love. This man is no Harrison Ford.
Worse than the voice acting, the action is focused on one specific set of cut scenes triggered at the top. Drawing the action to this one area makes things highly repetitive. I kept on launching the pinball to the same spot over and over until I became incredibly bored. None of the cut scene missions were engaging. Considering this is a pinball table based on the best Star Wars movie ever made, it was a shame that there was really no incentive to keep on coming back.
Overall, while I am excited to see the Star Wars license return to the world of pinball, these tables are not as good as they should be. With the exception of the Clone Wars, these tables present too much bland and repetitive gameplay. Furthermore, the voice acting is an embarrassment to the license and fans would have been better served with no dialogue at all. With that said, I fully expect to see more Star Wars pins in the future and I can only hope the developers come up with some better ideas on how to use the license.
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of Pinball FX2's Star Wars Pinball.