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Star Wars Pinball: Balance of the Force for the PlayStation 3 and Steam (a J!-ENT Video Game Review)

October 16, 2013 by  



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“Star Wars Pinball: Balance of the Force” improves over its original with better tables, awesome gameplay and challenging pinball that we have came to love with Zen Studio pinball games.  Featuring very good physics, beautiful table graphics, awesome audio and music plus special effects. “Star Wars Pinball: Balance of the Force” is just  fantastic video game pinball that I highly recommended! 5 Stars!

Screen Captures are from Steam gameplay. “Star Wars Pinball” is under the copyright of Zen Studios. 2013 Lucas Film Entertainment Company Ltd. or LucasFilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

VIDEO GAME TITLE: Star Wars Pinball

TYPE OF GAME: Pinball

PLATFORM: PlayStation Network, XBOX Live, Steam, Windows 8, Google Play, iOS, Kindle

PLATFORM GAME REVIEWED: PlayStation 3 (PSN Download)/Steam

DEVELOPER: Zen Studios

RELEASE DATE: October 15, 2013

The biggest Star Wars space battles come to life on the Star Wars™: Starfighter Assault pinball table, releasing in two weeks for the new Star Wars™ Pinball: Balance of the Force pack. Players must choose to support the Rebel Alliance’s Fleet or the Galactic Empire’s Armada as they complete missions while dodging turret fire and destructible ramps!

As missions are completed, players will earn Fleet Upgrades that can be spent to upgrade the fleet, fighters and turrets. In addition, players will be able to advance the rank of their pilot as they progress through the table!

The table includes legendary Starfighters like the X-wing and TIE fighter, along with iconic vessels like the Millennium Falcon and the Death Star II.

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Zen Studios is back with three brand new “Star Wars” pinball games as part of the “Star Wars Pinball: Balance of the Force” which was released for the PlayStation Network (North America) on Oct. 15th and the XBOX Live Arcade, Steam, Windows 8, iOS, Google Play, Kindle and PlayStation Network (Europe) on Oct. 16th.

Three pinball games based on the American epic space opera “Star Wars” franchise created by George Lucas, each of these three tables not only gives you more than one can expect from a digital pinball game but so many areas that pinball fans and fans of the films or animated series will be excited about.

To start off “Star Wars Pinball”, you have a choice to contribute your skills to the side of light or darkness. The more you play, the more you see your skills go up and benefit you as a Jedi or Sith.

You can play single player or multiplayer. Single player allows you to play each game and build up your level, while multiplayer for each table is about who can accumulate the most points and reach a certain goal and the game restarts once the person reaches that goal. Multiplayer can automatically search for players and quite often, you may get an invite from a player you have played with before.

But one can play the game to be on top of the leaderboards, to open up PS3 trophies or open up achievements on Steam to challenge oneself and opening and beating many scenes as possible or try to get the best score on the leaderboards.

With “Star Wars Pinball: Balance of the Force”, Zen Studios takes the concept of pinball for the digital realm by introducing various acts, special effects, audio and gameplay elements that you won’t typically experience on a real machine.

For pinball purists who have played a digital pinball game, yes the game requires you to shoot the ball, use your flippers to hit the ball and you can briefly nudge the machine (nudge it too much and you are in danger of tilting). You lose a ball each time it falls down through the center (between the flippers) or far left and right boundaries of the game.

Fortunately, Zen Studios implements a “Shoot Again” if your ball goes down the center early in the game, so you do have a second chance. Also, if you hit the ball in the ramps multiple times, it will activate a “Lite Kickback” which kicks the ball back to play if it goes on the left or right side of the table. Meanwhile, there are ways to get free extra balls as well.

So, a lot of the newer tables add a lot of extra gameplay features that make it worth your time to learn, not only for achievements but also because of certain bonus areas or scenes that you may not know about and also finding out strategies on how to get a high score or how to open up various areas.

For example, one may focus on their main bottom flippers, but some games have flippers on the top that if you time your hit, you can see your score multiplying and building up to millions of points. Some require quick thinking where one flipper must be pressed and immediately released, so a ball heading towards the top flipper will not come in contact. Or other strategies that may initiate a kickback (most pinball games have the frustrating area on both ends that will make you lose a ball) or something that may pick up your ball and shoot it so quickly that by the time you hit the flipper, the ball has gone through the center hole and you lose your ball.

COMMON QUESTIONS ASKED ABOUT THE GAMEPLAY:

Are there difficulty modes? While playing a table, you can pause and select “OPERATOR” on the menu, it allows you to install a difficulty mode such as extra easy, normal, extra hard, etc. BUT this is good if you do not want to play with other players and compete in leaderboards. Easy allows for extra balls and better scoring. But once again, it’s important to note that you will receive a warning that if you change settings, your high score will not be included in the leaderboards.

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You can play single player or multiplayer on “Star Wars Pinball: Balance of the Force”.  Single player allows you to play each game and build up your level, while multiplayer for each table is about who can accumulate the most points and reach a certain goal and the game restarts once the person reaches that goal.  Multiplayer can automatically search for players and quite often, you may get an invite from a player you have played with before.

Star Wars Pinball: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi

First, let’s take a look at “Star Wars Pinball: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi”.  This pinball game is set on Endor and of the three pinball games featured on “Balance of the Force”, is the most unforgiving because of it’s short table and because by hitting the ball, sometimes the ball is shot or reflected to the side which will lead you to lose the ball.  Of the three,  it’s a pinball table where you must stop the ball with your flipper in order to spell out a word.  It takes very good timing.

The game features three flippers, while most of the time, I used two as the third sent my ball to a trap door (hole) most of the time.

My strategy for this game was to use the right flipper,wait until the ball gets right to the tip and shoot it out to hit the left side in which Luke tries to get a hold of Jabba the Hut or trying to target the ball in the area that lights up.

So, this pinball game is about precision targeting than just hitting the ball because the ball can easily land in the outside boundaries.  But I feel that if you try to aim for certain spots, especially towards the bottom left and try to aim your ball to the cave, the more points I was able to accumulate as the game went on.

While I put hours into this game, I have yet to activate a lot of scenes.  One scene I was able to access is where you are on your speeder and trying to go after a Biker Scout.  You must hit the pinball directly center in order to shoot the Biker Scout.

But I really enjoy this game because of the possibilities of discovering ways to open up various scenes.

But it’s a challenging table which I enjoyed playing because of how it tries to make you slowdown the pace of the game by trying to stop the ball and target various areas with your flipper.

 

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Star Wars Pinball: Star Fighter Assault:

For this game, you must choose if you want to play the Rebel or the Empire from the opening animation. For “Star Fighter Assault”, the table is much longer and gives you more freedom to hit the ball and utilizing the four flippers on screen.

Where “Star Wars Pinball: Return of the Jedi” has you slowing down the temp and stopping the ball, this game is more about pinball and hitting the ball.  You do have to aim the ball and make sure you hit it through a ramp that has lights blinking on and off but for the most part, it’s a longer table that in which you can find yourself getting many points.

It’s also a game in which you can have X-Wing Fighters vs. Tie Fighters flying around the screen, so by hitting the ball through a correct ramp, it will activate cannons that will begin shooting at the enemy aircraft.

Cut scenes include you controlling three X-Wing Fighters or Tie Fighters, using your L1 and L2 (or shoulder buttons of your XBOX 360 controller) to move the three ships left or right to avoid asteroids and shooting down the enemy aircraft.  Another features you on a Tie Fighter or X-Wing Fighter and trying to target rebel aircraft, similar to an aircraft shooting simulation game, which I enjoyed.  And I’m sure there are more that I have yet to unlock.

There are modes that allow for “Multiball” in which you can have several balls locked and sent out all at once.  And it’s a game that you may want to use the tilt as there are times where the ball may fall straight down the middle.  So, it does require some quick thinking at times.

An enjoyable table that you will find yourself playing for hours!

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Star Wars Pinball: Darth Vader

The last table “Star Wars Pinball: Darth Vader”.  This the combination of the first two games where you can play freely but also will need to target certain areas.  This is probably the game where you will amass a ton of points and of the games played, the one I found the easiest to get cut scenes.

The main goal is to hit the target on the top left corner, this will activate a scene and by hitting the balls to areas that are blinking, you can easily get a multi-ball.

Not sure if this is a glitch or special scene but holding the L2 button on your PS3 controller before you begin the game will take you directly to a scene in which Darth Vader is being assembled and by hitting the ball on the assembling arms, you automatically get a million points per arm.

But other than that, this table is for those who want to play freely without having to stop the ball.  But for those who do want to amass points and open cut scenes, you will need a combination of playing freely, aiming the ball and because of the longer table, prepare for balls that fall down straight the middle, which you need to nudge the table (without tilting).

 

 

The controls for the PS3 is fast and fluid, no lag whatsoever, even during multiplayer, I was able to play the game with no lag.  While on Steam, it’s more likely that my PC had a bit more lag, so playing by keyboard was not an option and I preferred using the XBOX 360 controller.

How are the physics of the game?

Table physics are good, at times, it felt the physics were off. For example, I can tape on the edge of a flipper with great power and sometimes the ball only goes a short way up. Sometimes I hit a ball not hard enough but yet it goes farther than what I expected. But I never expect a digital pinball game to have a perfect replication of gameplay digitally but it comes close and once you get to learn each table, the better you will do each time you play.

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The graphics for each of the tables are absolutely gorgeous. A lot went into table design and character models but there was good planning when it came to the actual tables. On my HD big screen, colors were vibrant, tables were amazingly well-detailed. The game looks great on the PS3!  The game also looks great on Steam!

The audio for the game is also fantastic! “Star Wars” not only features the voices from the film but also the popular music from the film.

 

 

“Star Wars Pinball” is a game with a lot of replay value if you are into getting high scores. With the number of tables available, it gives one a chance to focus on a table and learn it and move on to the next table and continue getting high scores, topping a table leaderboard and obtaining PS3 trophies or Steam achievements.

Each time I play these games, I feel I discover something new!  So, there is a lot of replay value in any of the pinball games from Zen Studios.

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Zen Studios has done it again.  After creating the first three “Star Wars: Pinball” and make us all fans again with the more impressive “Star Wars Pinball: Balance of the Force” pinball with great, addictive gameplay, graphics, sounds and music, they managed to improve with three tables in my opinion are even better than the last three!

For this latest “Star Wars Pinball: Balance of the Force”, you get “Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi”, “Starfight Assault” and a “Darth Vader” and there is a great combination of gameplay but also challenge that you can’t help but play them over and over again, it’s that fun and entertaining!

When it comes to pinball, growing up, pinball machines were a big part of my life as a child. Playing them at the local burger shop, even receiving a Superman pinball machine as a child, pinball machines were fun, addictive and I continued to play them even when everyone moved towards “Pac Man”, “Street Fighter II” and other popular arcade games for each decade.

My pinball experience would eventually lead me to playing the game on NES, Gameboy and dedicating hours to getting the highest score on “Pinbot”. Then came “Super Pinball” on the SNES, “Devil’s Crush”, “Metroid Pinball” on the DS, “William’s Pinball” and “Akira Psycho Ball” for the PS2 and recently playing various pinball games on my iPad.

But Zen Studios have really taken pinball to even greater heights with innovative table creation (great effects and lighting), obtaining licenses to utilize popular franchise’s or iconic characters including the voices and music from the films and incorporating it into this game.

So far, Zen Studios have made pinball so much fun again! It’s not just about hitting the ball and getting the high score, there is strategy involved in playing a Zen Studio pinball game.

As I said with the original “Star Wars Pinball”, it’s literally pinball crack and they feed your addiction with three awesome tables, in my opinion are much better than the original three.

Once you play, you become addicted to the game and find yourself playing it for hours and trying to figure out various strategies. And while the single player game is fantastic, the multiplayer is OK. It’s more or less a contest of who can reach the most points and the game restarts and you keep on playing. What would be nice is to find out how some of these players during multiplayer rack up millions of points in a short amount of time, so if there was a watch mode, where you can see other players playing a game realtime, that would have been cool to see and also learn from.

These three “Star Wars Pinball: Balance of the Force” tables are also quite creative in gameplay and each are very different from each other, requiring different strategies, so one can expect to put a lot of time playing and replaying to see how things work, especially how to defeat various missions.

As for playing the game on the PS3 versus on Steam, I will say that I felt physics and fluidity and smoother gameplay was noticeable on the PS3 but for those who prefer having the monitor right near them, so they can see things clearly, I’m sure it’s subjective to each player. But the PS3 feels smooth and experienced no lag.  But the lag I experienced on Steam, was mainly through the response of the controls, until I switched to an XBOX 360 controller and I was able to play just fine.

With each table, some require strategy and quick thinking. For example, one would not want to let the ball roll too quickly down your flipper as momentum is so quick that by the time you press the button the flipper, the ball falls quickly through the center and you lose a ball. And sometimes, the placement of a ball will end up in the far boundaries, making you lose the ball. So, you come up with strategies of how to get a kick back (so, if the ball goes out on the left or right boundaries, the ball is kicked back on the table) or to regain a “Shoot Again”, so a lost ball will result in free play ball.

The most challenging is when you have multiple balls in play. This will give you a chance to rack up enormous points but it’s not easy when you have four balls all coming down all at once, so sometimes you act erratically by hitting the flippers repeatedly. So, it requires patients and finding out new ways to deal with multiple balls.

But the big part of the strategy for this game, for me, is to figure out ways to utilize the top flippers and where I should have the ball aimed. Some tables reward nicely if you use those top obscured flippers correctly.

So, each table, I have had a lot of fun playing and trying to learn what the game has to offer and with the addition of playing with friends via the leaderboard or gaining achievements, it adds to the replay factor of the game.

But each time I play each table, I discover something new and no matter how many hours I have put in, I still have yet to try out the different scenes for each table.  So, there is great challenge in these pinball games and it takes some strategy on your part on slowing and stopping that ball and hitting it in the right area.

Overall, “Star Wars Pinball: Balance of the Force” feature awesome gameplay and challenging pinball with very good physics, beautiful table graphics, cool audio (in this case, also fantastic music) and special effects.

“Star Wars Pinball” continues to raise bar for digital pinball games and for fans of “Star Wars” or pinball in general, you can’t help but be addicted to these games. These tables are not just challenging but among the most enjoyable digital pinball games I have played.

“Star Wars Pinball: Balance of the Force” from Zen Studios for the PS3 and Steam are highly recommended!

PROS:

+ Awesome and creative gameplay and you discover something new each time you play the game.

+ Additional replay factor to challenge others and win trophies (PS3) or earn achievements (Steam).

+ Wonderful graphics for each table!

+ Great use of sound effects, music and dialogue!

+ Physics are very good for these tables on the PS3, smooth gameplay, no lag!

NEGATIVES:

– Gameplay for some people may be a little frustrating.

– Purists expecting perfect physics may be disappointed.

– A little slowdown on Steam in terms of keyboard response but if you use an XBOX 360 controller, it feels right.






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