Star Wars Pinball

According to the Internet Pinball Database (which I bet you didn't know was a thing), there have been 5 Star Wars pinball machines, going back so far as to include crazy mechanical ones. That's a pretty good relationship with the medium, and each of them has had differing amounts of success trying to encapsulate the franchise in a table, from the crazy Star Wars Trilogy cabinet that had you answering trivia questions, to the Episode 1 cabinet that had a screen projected onto it like it was some hologram from the future. It makes a lot of sense for Zen to go back to the Star Wars well, then, and since there's a lot more Star Wars now than there used to be, it's cool to see what they chose to make.

The Star Wars Pinball package, which launches as a different game from the main Zen Pinball 2 base because brand strength, gets you three tables: one based on Empire Strikes Back, another based on the Clone Wars series from Cartoon Network, and the last just based on Boba Fett. It's a pretty interesting spread, and it does well at having something for every fan- new, old, and crazy fans who just really love Boba Fett.

So let's start with the Empire table, because it's the table that I struggled most to like. It's actually a decent table-- it changes based on ramps you're hitting, it has cool objectives, and you actually play through the events of the movie, from taking down an AT-AT to training with Yoda.

It's also the table that seems to be the most made for fans, emblazoned with all kinds of high-res art of the series heroes, a large Darth Vader that sinks into the board, a small Yoda cave, and it takes you through the entire events of the movie. It's really interesting to see it try this because that's a lot to cram in, but it's a double wide table, making it a little easier for them to shove even more in. The scenes are actually split into multiple checkpoints, so even if you fail, you'll pick up on it next time exactly where you'd been.

But what was confusing was the fact that you could have multiple objectives going on at once. Most tables sort of shut you into modes, and that makes a lot of sense, because it keeps pinball from becoming TOO crazy. It's already a game of timing and reflex, so keeping the objectives streamlined is a good idea, but that's not how they choose to do it. Having multiple objectives going sort of turns it into a confused mess because the dot-matrix display can't keep up with with all the information. Neither can the lights on the board- it's difficult to know WHICH objective you're going for just based on the information presented. A clutch last-minute shot suddenly goes nowhere because oh no, it's the wrong ramp you hit.

On top of that, several places on the board actually catch you and waste time, and a lot of objectives also do things like take you through the bumpers without actually making them part of the goal. You can then get caught in there for a good 5 seconds, taking simple shots or going against the clock and turning them into more difficult ordeals.

Furthermore, the Jedi Training mode is kind of terrible, because the sheer amount of guesswork needed makes it next to impossible to progress. I actually never made it past the first level because, man, it was just way too crazy.

Still, it's a pretty good table to fool around on, and even though the multiple objectives thing makes it a little too difficult, it's fun to go in and play the scenes out. Hitting probe droids and stopping Stormtrooper attacks was really cool to do on a pinball table, and the awesomely-named Vader Frenzy mode was really satisfying as well. It has its problems, but it's fine.

Despite being the property I have the least knowledge of, I really enjoyed the Clone Wars table the most. It was bright, colorful, and had some fun modes, like one where you had to hit ramps to navigate a ship between missiles.

The whole thing looked really cool and kinetic, with lightsaber battles happening and characters floating on platforms you have to smack around. Even the way the ball saves work is cool, as the ball doesn't relaunch. It actually flies in and explodes back out of the hole. It's ridiculously awesome, but I accidentally found myself losing balls because I accidentally tipped them with the flipper. Whoops!

It's more or less the problem with the level, where it's cool and kinetic, but sometimes it's a little too much. You might lose track of the ball in all of the craziness, but it's a really fun table, and it's probably the best in the whole package. It's the one I can see myself spending the most time with, and with this and the Empire table, so far the Star Wars Pinball package seems pretty good!

Unfortunately, I can't say the same for the Boba Fett table.

Also, why does everyone love Boba Fett so much? What does he even do in the movies that everyone just freaks out about so much? Sure, Darth Vader singles him out with the whole "no disintegrations" thing, but he doesn't even catch Han Solo on his own. The Empire helps him. He also doesn't track down Luke, the person he was hired to track down... the Empire takes care of it themselves. Then in Jedi, he has his jetpack destroyed, uses it anyways, and then falls into the Sarlacc pit. Because he's too stupid to not use a busted jetpack.

Because he's got about as much character depth as the Sarlacc that's his eventual downfall, his table focuses on the one real thing we know about him: he's a bounty hunter. So as you play, you get missions from Jabba or from Vader (who always says "no disintegrations" BECAUSE REMEMBER THAT?!) but no matter who it is, your objective is always the same. You hit the lit lanes (AKA all of the lanes), then you board the Slave I and take the bounty back to where it needs to go. I hope you like doing that, because apparently no matter who they are, all bounties are collected exactly the same.

On top of that, I found the actual setup of the table to be pretty bad as well. There's a Sarlacc that blocks a ramp, but it seems to pop up randomly and interrupt shots for no reason. You have a missile you can use to help you collect your bounties, but when you shoot it, your ball is knocked all over the place and it's really easy to accidentally waste it. And why is there a ramp in the back that splits so that your ball can easily fall off and ruin your bounty attempt? Why is it so hard to start Rivals mode that I've never actually done it?

I think this is a poor and frustrating table that really bothers me because it had so much potential. I'm no professional or anything, but I feel like it would have been pretty easy to make something better and more in line with what people want Boba (Mr. Fett?) to be. Instead there's this uninteresting table that had the potential, but doesn't even begin to seize on it.

Plus, all of the tables just suffer from the same issues every Zen table has: too many ramps and rails, too few targets and drop holes and really skillful shots. It makes the tables take too long because you're not always playing- you spend a lot of time waiting for the ball to fall down a predetermined path instead of actually hitting it around, so the tables never feel truly kinetic. They also all give you multi-ball way too quickly, and it feels unearned. Multi-ball works best as a reward, but I got it so many times it started to feel like a chore.

They're certainly not the worst tables Zen has ever put out, but they're also not the best, and $10 gets you a pretty varied collection of tables. At the same time, you can probably ignore this whole review if you're just a really big Star Wars fan, because this is the kind of fanservice you want, right? There are better tables to spend your money on, but the Empire and Clone Wars tables are fine enough to satisfy you if you do buy it.