(Wii U eShop)

Star Wars Pinball (Wii U eShop)

Game Review

Star Wars Pinball Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Stephen Kelly

Laugh it up, pinball

If the Disneyland Star Tours attraction was systematically dismantled and reassembled by brilliant maniacs who love tabletop arcade games a whole lot, it would surely be a perfect doppelganger to Star Wars Pinball. The creators of Zen Pinball and Pinball FX have somehow managed to stuff all the joy and adventure of Star Wars itself into three tables that dazzle the senses with Jedi, bounty hunters, spaceships, blasters, droids, scum, and villainy. Past all the noise and nostalgia resides a solid game of pinball that goes out of its way to create imaginative situations of flipper-flying intensity, even if showing off Bossk the lizard-man’s beautiful artwork takes occasional precedent over visual clarity.

Before leaping into the heart of things, you’ll pick a side to represent — the Light or the Dark — which sets the stage for a grand war of player preference. As you level up in the respective moralities by raking in points, you’ll contribute to your side’s dominance, which sets a fun tone for those Jedi and Sith who seek to bring balance to the Force. Even more important is bringing balance to the game, and as far as mechanics and physics are concerned, Zen Studios has done so. Metallic balls clang off bumpers and slide down ramps with dependable predictability, zipping along complex tables of impressive detail.

Sometimes the sheer amount of flashing stuff gets to be too much, what with spinners, ramps, and gates all smashed together amid colourful artwork, but an adjustable camera goes a long way to keeping you up to speed. In fact, there are enough customizable options in every area to instantly scare off the pinball illiterate, but tinkering is merely encouraged; not required. This philosophy carries into the tables themselves, delving deep into wonderfully elaborate chain reactions and sub-stories from the Star Wars universe. A scant three tables may not look like much, but they’ve got it where it counts.

The Empire Strikes Back table is bound to release the floodgates of nostalgia. Every inch of it is decked out in decorations from the 1980 classic. As the primary gimmick, targeting the Star Wars logo will open up five scenes from the movie, each with multiple parts that bring iconic moments to the table. For example, you’ll need to shoot the ball off a ramp while avoiding the asteroid field’s rogue TIE fighter, then help Luke balance rocks by hitting the appropriate slots, and finally nail the mynock targets before they can chew through the Millennium Falcon’s power cables. Not only will this table most likely connect with the greatest number of people, but its clean design and exciting variety ensure it top spot from the three.

The Clone Wars animated series gets a well-deserved homage with a table featuring Anakin Skywalker, his apprentice Ahsoka, and the lovable news-reel style announcer who graces the intro to the show. Similar to the movie scenes, various sequences pantomime TV episodes with a charmingly gung-ho attitude. Finding and planting bombs to take down a shield generator and sneaking behind the vicious Asajj Ventress are just a couple of tricky objectives among many, each of them challenging you to guide your silver ball through untold dangers and bouncy panels that make funny sounds. Cramped and a little confusing, this table stands as the weakest addition, despite a bunch of interesting scenarios and tightly designed loops.

To round out the collection, back from the sarlacc’s belly crawls Boba Fett, armed to the teeth and sporting his very own table. Taking on bounties is the name of the game, whether you seek the Empire for some “honest” work or aim for the Hutts instead. After enough skillful shots you can choose a job — the harder it is, the more points you’ll earn — which boils down to hitting targets and whisking your bounties away by aiming for the loading dock of a gloriously polygonal Slave I. Orchestrating the intricate sequence of events can be difficult and supremely rewarding, especially when Fett is flying around the table acting all deadly.

Each of these dynamic dioramas are filled with 3D models acting out the adventures, whether Darth Vader is looming above or Jabba the Hutt makes his grand appearance. The attention to detail is staggering, down to the carefully constructed probe droid on Hoth. Although music occasionally dips into low-rent knockoff territory, the majority is bona fide John Williams stuff, always accompanied by a torrent of familiar sound effects and dialogue to fill your heart with happiness. Seriously, it’s impossible not to smile when the 20th Century Fox drum roll pops up.

None of this looks quite so nice coming from the Wii U GamePad’s constrained screen, but with the flick of a finger you can zip the action to and from your TV on the fly. This is a delightful feature that struggles to fit an already busy smattering of levers and letters onto an even smaller space, so be wary when making the trade-off. The touch screen also displays extra camera angles (smashed into a tiny box off-TV), but prying your eyes away from the action is usually more trouble than it’s worth. However, playing a multiplayer race using the TV and GamePad is a fantastic option, and the Wii U’s oddball controller feels made for the flippers of a pinball machine.


Star Wars Pinball is fully armed and operational, packed with content to keep you pounding away for hours. With more tables already in development, this is a fine start to what promises to be a thriving hub of galaxy-spanning good times, despite slightly confused visuals and hit-or-miss GamePad features. For those who call themselves pinball fans, this new coat of paint is a shiny one; and if you’re just a Star Wars enthusiast wandering into uncharted territory, you’re taking your first step into a larger world.

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User Comments (45)



Hunter-D said:

Day 3 if the... oh

Joking aside, great review. However, I'm happy with Marvel Pinball and Zen Pinball 1 & 2 at the moment.



blackknight77 said:

I love this set of pinballs tables. Zen Studios did a great job and with this and the Pinball arcade its a great time to be a pinball fan.



StephenKelly180 said:

Thanks, it fills me with significant joy to know people appreciate bit of punnery! I agonized for about ten minutes over that one.



bezerker99 said:

Marvel Pinball 3D will be the best pinball game by this company because the 3D actually adds great depth and perspective. Playing in 2D is sort of bland after playing it 3D.



SetupDisk said:

Good stuff, I only downloaded a couple of tables in 2 that I liked but I will get this.



Squashie said:

I have a review copy of this one and it's absolutely awesome! May the force be with you when this one launches tomorrow!



Marr_the_Great said:

This reminds me of the time I played an old Star Wars Pinball machine at the arcade of the cinema a few years ago.

I absolutely sucked at it and immediately quit after one ball proceeded to drop straight down between the two paddles before I could even hit them. My wife (then girlfriend) thought it was a waste to leave two more balls and decided to play in my place. Her having never played pinball before I assumed that she would quit even faster than I did. (Especially after she showed her strategy of always hitting both paddles simultaneously.) I left to get tickets and snacks before the movie.

I returned about thirty minutes later to find her still playing. I asked where she got the money for more balls as she gave her money to me to buy her ticket. She claimed to still be playing the same ball as before. (Still hitting both paddles simultaneously.) I ended up watching her have to quit only because the movie was about to start and after she got the high score.

And that was the day I realized that no matter how good I get at video games my wife is just naturally better than me.



Sgt_Garlic said:

I'll get around to buying this eventually. I just can't resist Star Wars pinball tables.



luminalace said:

So excited. I've already put in over 165 hours on Zen Pinball 2...so really looking forward to this for some new tables.

@Tethers - Considering at this stage there are only 3 tables, I imagine it shouldn't be a problem!



HAL9000 said:

Thankfully there is a 2 player option for those of us who have player 2's in our lives.



cyrus_zuo said:

I got the Plants vs. Zombies table and haven't loved it as much as I've wanted to. I've put about an hour into it split across 7 sessions. I think I like the idea of a "real-table" video game more than I actually like the games.

Whereas I played a ton of Metroid Prime Pinball on the DS and even more Alien Crush, Devil's Crush and Time Cruise on the TGX-16, I've tried Zen pinball on both the 3DS and WiiU and left without much desire to play more.

Really tempted at these Star Wars tables...but more than likely I won't get my money worth b/c they'll get 30 minutes of play each, and I would have been just as happy playing the current PvZ table I have. (and unfortunately, that's just not happy enough)

So I guess that's a really long post saying "I don't get it" so I suppose it's not for me.
...even though I want it to be



StephenKelly180 said:

@Tethers Although I haven't tested any of the other games, but I should mention that I had some trouble getting leaderboards to load. A good point.



KaiserGX said:

The Marvel Pinballs are weak. They made to many of them a lot of them kinda feel like the same board. I can say The Empire Strikes Back alone is worth the price. One of the best boards!



Senate_Guard said:

@cyrus_zuo I can relate with being on the fence. Real pinball is always more fun to play, but you wouldn't have moving characters on the tables.

I got Zen Pinball on 3DS awhile back and I was bored of it within days. Star Wars is the prime reason I'd get this, also the promise of more tables being made (Ep. I please?) makes it more tempting. So I guess its more of a "wait and see" situation for me.

@mr570 Thanks! It just came to me.



Aerona said:

I still don't like having to buy all three tables (I hate that animated series) but I'll probably get it anyways.



Shambo said:

Day 1, mostly for my girlfriend. I feel as if I'm on a foreign planet here.



MadAdam81 said:

I have played Epic Quest on zen Pinball many many hours. I also got the 4 pack with V12, Shaman, El Dorado & Tesla, but they just aren't as fun.
I'm hoping the Star Wars pinball tables are as great as Epic Quest, and it will be a day 11 buy for me (next payday), and my wife will probably play as well, as well as my kids.



Spideron said:

Already got all tables for Zen, Zen 2, Marvel & Star Wars Pinball on PS3 - too bad, would trade them in for WiiU-versions if I could. And now I have to continue buying future tables on PS3 also as I want them all accessible in one package.



XyVoX said:

I love this game i was fortunate to get this on PSN for my PS3 when it was on half price sale for £3.99 then being PS+ subscriber i think it went down to £3.40 i always buy my PSN cards for 20% less of face value so actual cost of this game worked out around £2.70, just wish Nintendo do a PS+ service or a way to purchase eShop cards for less than face value giving us consumers a better deal.



Tethers said:

@StephenKelly180: Thank you for the info. It's really incomprehensible and sad to see that Zen Studios have such problems with the leaderboards. After ZP2 I will now wait for a price drop.



RetrogamerFan said:

Sadly, miiverse has several posts already saying the leaderboards are not working properly. Hope they can remedy this soon, otherwise i'll wait for a sale, or The Pinball Arcade. Really wanted the ESB table as well.



Nintendo4Lyfe said:

DEFINITELY gonna buy Star Wars Pinball at the eShop first thing tomorrow morning! And then... The Pinball Arcade for Wii U!!!!!!!



Lobster said:

Day 42 wonders if she's the only lady out there liking Star Wars on this site. O_o Y'all are weird, date the Star Wars gals!

Now excuse me, I am off to download this glorious game!



Neko_Ichigofan said:

@bezerker99 Well technically all modern systems display 3D images, but the difference between them is the same as the difference between SD and HD, the 3DS displays HD3D!

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