While it’s silly to speculate about what Han Solo would eat if he was in our galaxy, or what TV shows he would binge, it’s a safe bet that he’d probably enjoy pinball. Maybe not obsessively, but when Chewie’s not around to play darts and Lando is off flirting with some waitress, it’s easy to image Han dropping a couple quarters into a pinball machine. But what makes me think he’d like the three tables included in the Star Wars Pinball: Solo pack for Zen Pinball 3 (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC) — well, two out of three of them, anyway — is that they honor him and his recent biopic, Solo: A Star Wars Story, as well as his friends, in a way that’s fun for fans of pinball, the Star Wars saga, and smooth criminals alike.
For those unfamiliar with Pinball FX3 and the other Star Wars Pinball tables available for it, here’s a quick primer. This pinball simulation marries realistic physics and sound effects with unrealistic mechanics. So while the balls move around these tables like they would if they were real, and they sound like a metal sphere rolling on wood when they do, they also have such physically- and financially-impossible accoutrements as — in the case of this collection’s titular table — lifelike versions of Han and Chewie hanging out, as well as a working version of the train they try to hijack in the movie. Which, of course, would require way too much money and a repealing of the laws of physics to do in a real pinball machine.
The tables in Star Wars Pinball: Solo and others also defy the laws of economics by being far less greedy than real pinball machines. While the ones they have in your local bar or arcade are designed to be tough, and thus suck down your quarters like you’ve been sucking down those beers, the ones for Pinball FX3 are more forgiving. Not only are they much nicer about giving you your ball back when you lose — well, to a point — but they also design the tables so the flippers are slightly closer together than they are on real pinball tables.
What they do share with real pinballs machines based on movies and other things is a wealth of fan service, whether they’re inspired by the Star Wars movie, the heroes of Marvel Comics, or such fellow video games as Doom, Fallout 4, or Telltale’s Walking Dead. Not only do they use the real sound effects, images, and iconography, but they often pull little tricks befitting of their source material.
Though in the case of the tables in Star Wars Pinball: Solo, this penchant for accuracy is both a benefit and, in one instance, a detriment.
“Star Wars Pinball: Solo”
As for the three tables that make up Star Wars Pinball: Solo, the obvious place to start is, well, the one called “Star Wars Pinball: Solo.” With a large open area near the flippers, but a densely populated section up above only accessible through numerous but narrow passageways, this is a rather frantic table, one that has the ball picking up a lot of speed as it bounces around the bottom, but then mellowing out when it comes back from visiting the upper area.
While the “Star Wars Pinball: Solo” is a fun one, it does have a minor issue that’s oddly plagued every Star Wars Pinball table to feature Han Solo: bad voice acting. One of the failings of Pinball FX3‘s licensed pinball tables is that while they sometimes use real dialog from the films that inspired them, they usually don’t get the real actors to do new dialog. Which is why Han here sounds less like Solo star Alden Ehrenreich or even the original Solo, Harrison Ford, and more like “Weird” Al Yankovic.
“Star Wars Pinball: Calrissian Chronicles”
Next up in Star Wars Pinball: Solo is the “Star Wars Pinball: Calrissian Chronicles” table, which pays homage to the smoothest gangsta in the galaxy by being the loosest and most relaxed table in this collection, relatively speaking. It has none of the busyness of the “Solo” table, just a few ramps and railways, as well as some targets moving back and forth. All of which, ironically, really gives the ball a chance to fly. Though it is it slightly less challenging as the “Solo” one, if only because you can see the ball coming from further away. Though what it lacks in foresight it more than makes up for in speed, making “Calrissian Chronicles” as much fun as the “Solo” one.
The “Star Wars Pinball: Calrissian Chronicles” also gets points for including references to Star Wars Rebels, which featured Lando on a couple episodes, and thus could’ve been understandably left out of this table’s construction. In fact, even when it does fail — in the voice over department, since neither Solo star Donald Glover nor Return Of The Jedi hero Billy Dee Williams do Lando’s voice here — it’s somewhat mitigated by the voice actor they did get having a smooth voice that wouldn’t sound out of place in a Colt 45 commercial.
“Star Wars Pinball: Battle Of Mimban”
Finally, Star Wars Pinball: Solo presents “Star Wars Pinball: Battle Of Mimban,” which is based on the battle early in the film where Han first met Chewbacca. Which is why this table has a similar war-torn and damaged look as the The Walking Dead table. As for its layout, it’s somewhere between “Solo” and “Calrissian Chronicles.” It has a busy upper half, though it’s not nearly as dense as the former, and has more points of egress. Which gives the ball some speed, but without all the foreshadowing, while the distressed look actually masks some of the ramps, adding the challenge of having to play a couple rounds before you get a good handle on the table’s quirks.
Though whether you’ll play “Star Wars Pinball: Battle Of Mimban” enough for it to become familiar is another question. Though it’s fun as a pinball table, and its war-torn vibe certainly matches the scene in the film, it’s the least Star Wars-y of the three tables in Star Wars Pinball: Solo. It feels more like the table they’d make for Call Of Duty: Black Ops 4 or some similarly gritty war game, especially given that the scene’s significance is not the battle itself, but who Han meets in it.
Even with the misstep of “Star Wars Pinball: Battle Of Mimban,” though, the other two tables in Star Wars Pinball: Solo are as solid as the ones in Star Wars Pinball: The Last Jedi and the rest of the Star Warstables available for Zen Pinball 3. Leaving the only open question being whether Han will enjoy the inevitable Star War Pinball tables for the upcoming Episode IX more or less than the one’s he’s in.