Zen Studios’ leading pinball platform is making another journey into the VR domain with the release of Star Wars Pinball VR, which we were eager to try out – here are our thoughts on the collection, which is out now for PlayStation VR and Oculus.
The developers at Zen are certainly no strangers to the thrills of digital pinball, getting ready to launch the fourth iteration of their pinball platform later this year. They’re also not new at VR, because they’ve previously released tables based on The Walking Dead and some of Universal’s classic monsters for virtual reality platform. With a range of Star Wars tables already under their belt for regular 2D pinball enthusiasts, this one was always going to be in safe hands.
The Star Wars Pinball VR collection features a whopping eight tables that are all Star Wars themed, including two new ones and six that were previously released but reimagined for VR. The new ones are based on the popular streaming show The Mandalorian and one that’s built around action figures and toys: the Star Wars Classic Collectibles table. It features toys you can collect that are based on the classic initial movie trilogy, many of which you can subsequently use in little mini-games.
Looking at the other six tables, half of them are based on the individual movies in that same trilogy, with Rogue One, Rebels and Masters of the Force rounding out the pack. Every table in the pack is a fully featured pinball experience in its own right with all the ramps, paths, challenges and secrets you’d expect, and even without the VR element they’d be worth playing (as we’ve seen in FX2 and FX3).
VR definitely adds to the experience though, and not just inside the tables themselves. Iconic characters and vehicles from the movies will appear alongside you, standing and sometimes moving next to the table. It can be a bit distracting at first as you’re trying to take it all in and lose focus on the table, but it’s incredible immersive at the same time – as if you’ve discovered a secret arcade room in the back of a cantina far, far away.
That immersive experience also translates to the tables themselves, which more so than ever before come to life. Zen’s tables are well animated on the flat screen, but in 2D the little storm trooper models really come to life and Tie Fighters actually lift off from the table for a little aerial action. Again, distracting at first, but maybe because it’s such an incredibly cool experience to be in the middle of.
As with other licensed tables in the Zen catalogue, the visuals are great but the sound-alikes for the characters don’t hold up to the real thing. Lasers and lightsabers sound great, but when a main cast member speaks it’s clear you’re not listening to Mark Hamill or Harrison Ford. The license does extend to the original music though, and hearing the iconic themes definitely adds to the experience.
As it the tables themselves weren’t fan service enough, Star Wars Pinball VR also features an entire virtual room filled with the kind of memorabilia you couldn’t even begin to purchase or store – at least I assume that’s the case for most people. You can also modify the general look of your virtual pinball room, which also has a TV that gives you access to the career mode. It may seem like an odd inclusion for a pinball game, but it’s a great way of briefly getting to know each table and discover some of their secrets through the included objectives.
With the usual solid table designs and physics we’ve come to know from Zen this is already an easy recommendation for pinball enthusiasts, but it’s a real treat for Star Wars fans because of the inclusion of a lot of extra polish and fan service. Highly recommended.