In 2008, Zen Studios released Pinball FX, a prodigious title which strove to adapt the nuances of the cherished pastime into video form. While most critics praised the game’s ball physics and online functionality, many found that the three bundled tables lacked personality. Ensuing years and subsequent sequels demonstrated Zen rectifying that fault, with the developers offering engaging, well-engineered tables based on properties like Ninja Gaiden Sigma, Street Fighter II, Plants vs. Zombies, as well as the Marvel universe. Later, the studio would provide a duo of Star Wars-themed expansions for Zen Pinball 2, effectively quashing accusations of uninspired design.
The release of the Star Wars Pinball: Heroes Within Pack for the PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PS Vita, PC, and Xbox 360, demonstrates the developer combating the pandemic of complacency. Scaling back on content is a common practice- when Zen began offering licensed DLC packs, their customary quartet of tables become a truncated trio. Without increasing the price of their package, Heroes Within provides players with virtual pinball machines, extended an intriguing value proposition. Pleasingly, the majority of the packs tables are up to Zen’s typical high standards.
Considering the roguish charm which Han Solo added to the original trilogy, one might expect his eponymous table to be a bit more playful. Certainly, Zen can’t be faulted for trying to recreate the character’s personality in pinball form. A table feature depicts Solo slouched in the Millennium Falcon’s captain’s chair, sporadically using his blaster to take potshots at objects on the playfield. A handful of voice clips attempt to channel Harrison Ford’s detached quips- even if don’t capture the actor’s deadpan intonation. But athletics aside, the Han Solo table teds to confine its action to the bottom part of the playfield- as a model of the Falcon consumes a large amount of visual real estate. While the YT-1300 492727ZED is put to use during the game- as players aim to drop the ball into smuggling bays or lamps illuminate sections of a darkened table during an ‘escape from the Sarlacc’- inspired sequence, it might have been better to have the ship been the core feature on the score board. As it stands, a variety of cantina patrons revolve around the backdrop, as Solo works his way to shooting Greedo.
Fortunately, the remaining tables fare far better. With a sizable uncluttered area above the flippers, the Ways of the Force table channels a bit of the play style of vintage machines. The hook here is that the playfield is split in half, with one side dominated by Darth Maul’s wrathful red while the other is drenched in the tranquil blue of Obi-Wan Kenobi’s lightsaber. Pleasing this dichotomy is permeates the table- from uppermost features which contrast Emperor Palpatine and Yoda, as well as combos which compel players to align themselves with the Dark or Light side of the force. Pleasing opportunities for bonus multiplayers, multiball, or extra orbs abound, making Ways of the Force ideal for protracted play sessions.
Undeniably, Episode IV: A New Hope is the pack’s highlight. Elevated by the most evocative portion of John William’s film score, the table is teaming with objects, mini-games, and a multitude of references to its source material. Recalling Gottlieb’s Black Hole, beneath the main playfield lays a second backbox with its own set of mini-flippers, while another defining element is allowing players to select their own skillshot. Beyond a Sandperson and Death Star in the top peripheries, the machine also flaunting some amazing table art, with the trinity of Luke, Leia, and Vader positioned right above the drain hole. Scoring opportunities abound, whether it’s an exhibition of Obi-Wan’s Jedi Mind trickery or video-based sequences where players shoot down TIE fighters or send Luke looking for his X-Wing amidst the labyrinthine walkways of the Rebellion fleet.
The Heroes Within Pack’ Droids table combines Way of the Force’s uncluttered areas above the drainhole with the railways of A New Hope, resulting in a speedy, but obedient game of pin. Set inside a bowels of a Sandcrawler, the table abounds with undertakings, from helping R2-D2 repair C-3PO by sending the ball careening across the multitude of ramps to dropping targets to incapacitate a vigilant jawa sentry. Ultimately, completing the table’s variety of tasks starts a score swelling play mode where the droids execute their escape plans. While Droids is meager on mini-games, the machine has one supplemental mode where players rotate dials in an effort to disable the Sandcrawler’s security system.
Han Solo’s unexceptional table aside, the package validates Zen Studio’s commitment to providing an excellent pinball simulation. Save for varying degrees of graphical fidelity, Heroes Within runs at a stable sixty frames-per-second on each platform we played the game on- the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and PS Vita. Compassionately, Zen offers triple cross-buy- allowing Sony stalwarts to purchase the game on one console and download iterations for other platforms. In fact, the only aesthetic flaw can be found in some of the game’s sound bites. Although the more effect-driven characters like Vader accurately ape the film actors, the voice actors for Han Solo, Luke, and Leia don’t bode as well.
Even with these minor blemishes, the Star Wars Pinball: Heroes Within Pack easily warrants its ten dollar price. Offering a extemporary expense-to-enjoyment ratio, the four tables in the collection can easily keep pinball fans occupied for hours, as they score-chase their way across Pinball FX2’s expansive leaderboard system.
The Pinball FX2 – Star Wars Pinball: Heroes Within Pack was played on the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and PS Vita with review code provided by the publisher.