Though it was clearly delayed to avoid spoiling the film — what, Han Solo has turned into a silver metal ball!?! — Zen Studios have finally released their Star Wars The Force Awakens Pack for Zen Pinball 2 (PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Vita), Pinball FX 2 (Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC), Zen Pinball (iOS), and Zen Pinball HD (Android, Amazon), which includes two tables inspired by the titular film. Though it may be a spoiler for the next movie that the better table is the one that embraces the Dark Side.
For those who’ve never played one of Zen Studio’s pinball games, Star Wars or otherwise, they’re essentially simulations of pinball machines that have never been built, and never could be. By which I mean that while they employ realistic physics that make the ball roll around like it would on a real machine, as well as authentic sound effects that make those rolling balls sound like they’re metal and the tables are wood, all of Zen’s tables have special mechanics that could never fit inside a real pinball machine, or would make that table prohibitively expensive. And sometimes both.
In the case of the tables in the Star Wars The Force Awakens Pack, these physically impossible mechanics include having the tentacles of Han Solo’s pet rathtar wave hello on The Force Awakens one, while the Star Wars Might Of The First Order table has Finn getting into a shootout with Stormtrooper armed with a riot shield.
Set on the planet of Jakku, the Star Wars The Force Awakens table is kind of like BB-8: short of stature but full of surprises. While the lower half is largely open, the upper part is somewhat closed off, as it just has a couple of ramps and a mini table that takes some luck getting to. As a result, the ball is largely confined to a smaller space, which makes for some faster and thus more frantic play when the ball gets going. And that goes double when you unlock the multiball.
Far more interesting, because it’s far more tricky, the Star Wars Might Of The First Order table initially looks more conventional than The Force Awakens one, as it has more open design, especially at the top. Except that it also has a second, smaller table under the surface of the first, one that has flippers that line up parallel but just above the regular ones, which kind of forms an optical illusion. This, once again, makes things especially frantic when you get a multiball going and have to keep you eyes on numerous balls and four flippers And that’s not even taking into account that the objective of that lower table isn’t just to the keep the ball afloat with the flippers.
Thankfully, when you play on a console or computer with a controller, you don’t have to hit one set of buttons for the upper flippers and another set for the lower ones. Though even that wouldn’t keep this from being easily one of the best Star Wars tables Zen has made so far, and certainly the best since the Return Of The Jedi one.
Like their previous Star Wars tables, though, the two in the Star Wars The Force Awakens are not without their minor (and, in one case, inconsequential) issues. The biggest, as always, is that if you play this on a game console connected to a TV, and you sit at a reasonable distance from that TV, you may have trouble reading some of the in-game messages, such as when you’re about to break your high score, since the type size is rather small. Thankfully, this isn’t a problem if you play on a phone, table, Vita, or computer.
The Star Wars The Force Awakens Pack also doesn’t have the actual stars of the movie doing their characters voices, though it’s not nearly as bad here as it has been on some of the previous tables. While Captain Phasma sounds like actress Gwendoline Christie, Rey just kind of sounds like a British woman. Still, it’s not as bad as the Harrison Ford “impersonator” they got for the Han Solo, Empire Strikes Back, and Return Of The Jedi; and I use the term “impersonator” loosely.
Similarly, while the Star Wars The Force Awakens and Might Of The First Order tables both use sound effects from the movie, there are others that are more game-y, and thus sound rather out of place.
Though the oddest problem, albeit also the least impactful, is that the art on the Star Wars The Force Awakens table features a picture of Rey that oddly looks like it was based on a picture of actress Daisy Ridley from when she was like fourteen or fifteen (she was twenty-one/twenty-two when the movie was filmed).
In the end, Zen’s Star Wars The Force Awakens pinball tables are like the movie itself: tons of fun that you’ll want to experience over and over. And that’s especially true for the Star Wars Might Of The First Order one. Just be thankful you won’t have to pay for parking every single time you want to play.