Star Wars Balance of the Force Review
Zen Studios, known for releasing excellent pinball adaptations of famous IPs, have done it again with the release of their latest three table set, Star Wars Balance of the Force. The Star Wars universe, with its larger than life characters and set pieces, is ripe for the picking and Zen Studios do a marvelous job at adapting the licence into a beautiful and incredibly fun set of tables.
The set consists of three distinct tables with their own set of challenges, tracks, and special mission modes of which take you away from the table and into various table specific mini games from piloting X-Wings to Vaders memorable fight with Obi-Wan. These segments offer an exciting change from the standard pinball format and allow you to experience things that would be nigh impossible on a real pinball table.
The first table is based solely on Darth Vader, opening with the powerful Imperial March theme and panning back from the large and ominous head of Lord Vader, that looks down on the play field, to display the table and all that it has in store. A fantastic feature of all of these tables is the “attract mode” that has the camera panning and zooming across the entire table really giving you a scope of all the intricacies and details taken by the Zen Studios team. I spent a nice bit of time just enjoying the entirety of John Williams music while getting an idea of how I would attempt to play the table. The look and feel of this table is spot on with it bathed in striking hues of red and black with chrome and blue highlights, as if inside the walls of a Star Destroyer. This table, while seeming the most bare, is actually the most technical of the bunch requiring more skill and strategy to experience all it really has to offer along with some incredibly fun multi-ball moments. You play the entire story of Darth Vader beginning with his construction and the conversation he has with the emperor about Padme. It is all handled exceptionally well and all the while you are actively playing the table.
The second table, Starfighter Assault, is the table that really stands out in the set. Right from the attract mode, which has you soaring through a space battle weaving through Star Destroyers, the table gets off to a fast and furious start. The table is set floating in space in the guise of a nondescript space carrier. This is because the table itself is split down the center with Imperials on the left and Rebels on the right. All this is anchored together with a beautiful depiction of a pilot and cockpit being merged together, half Imperial and half Rebel. When you start a round you are given the option of with faction to play for. There are no words to adequately explain the feeling, as a Star Wars fan, when a giant Star Destroyer enters and fills a large portion of the edge of the table and a battle unfolds above you, one that you have control over with how well you play. The devil is in the details when it comes to working with an already established universe and Zen Studios gets every little bit right with this table, right down to the ball launcher being a nav computer that the rebel pilots had during their Death Star trench run.
The third and last table in the set is the odd duck out. Being based on the movie Return of the Jedi it lacks the punch that the other two tables have. That’s not to say it’s a bad table, just that it’s not quite as unique as the others. The other tables were original and based on distinct characters in the universe thus allowing more freedom to explore their respective motif, but here we are limited to only the events of Jedi. While this may not be a bad thing the problem really arises when you realize the voices, and their are a lot of voice cues, done are not from the original cast or even lifted from the film. This goes in striking contrast with the sound design and musical score, which are all authentic to the world. Another thing to note is that this feels like the smallest table of the bunch and when trying to capture the entirety of the film really comes off as a burden. I would have liked it much more had they taken a moment from Jedi and focused on that instead of the entire film. In its favor the table does have some nice set pieces allowing you to engage in a speeder bike mini game, as well as working to break through the door to the base on the moon of Endor. You can even unlock various clips from the film that are shown in the small display in the upper left of the screen through a filter, as if done on the score display that adorned many a classic pinball machine.
Zen Studios have managed to craft an exceptional set of tables that not only revitalize a now sadly almost lost art form but push pinball itself to places it just hasn’t and couldn’t have gone before. Fans of Star Wars will love all the sights and sounds while pinball fans will marvel at just what can be done on todays hardware. Star Wars Balance of the Force is a three table add-on set that requires the free downloadable title Pinball FX 2 from Zen Studios.