At PAX last week, I had a chance to sample three new Zen Pinball tables set in the Star Wars universe. The Balance of the Force pack builds upon Zen's years of experience crafting smart, enjoyable silverball experiences and surpasses even the studios previous best efforts.

The three tables included are Episode VI (Return of the Jedi), Starfighter Assault, and Darth Vader. All three of these tables are a departure from Zen's previous work, in that they are more playground than replica.

The tables offer no backing and no top glass, as Zen has chosen to make them appear more like action figure playsets than pinball tables. The Ewok Village that makes up the Episode VI table reminds me of the coveted toy from my youth. That layout also has a larger than life Luke Skywalker, hints of Jabba's palace and the rancor pit, and a duel to the finish with Darth Vader. 

The Darth Vader table begins with his reconstruction at the end of Episode III, as players have the opportunity to rack up huge points while putting the former Jedi back together. This is the most traditional of the tables, with hard edges, lots of red, and whirring machines.

My favorite of the three was Starfighter Assault. At the beginning, players choose to represent either the Empire or the Rebellion. This has a significant impact on the entire game, as the table is split down the middle.

If players choose to fight on the side of good, the ball launches from the traditional, right side. If they side with the Empire, balls launch from the left, which is extremely disorienting. 

The table appears to be floating in the vacuum of space, with a ramp in the back that leads to different areas depending on its configuration (controlled by a bumper). A ramp leads to a starfighter battle minigame that takes place in first person view.

Players take the stick of either an X-Wing or a TIE Fighter, scoring points for destroying enemies. Ships start with shields that are whittled away as enemy craft are allowed to escape. Controls are handled with the bumper buttons for side to side movement and launcher for lasers. It's a fun diversion, and one I didn't get tired of.

Should players last long enough, the board gets extremely hectic. Fighters come swooping in, covering the play area with laser fire. It's one of the most frenetic pinball experiences I've had and one  I can't wait to return to.

Zen Studios' Star Wars Pinball: Balance of the Force will be coming soon to Xbox Live, PlayStation Network, Wii U eShop, iOS, Android, Kindle Fire HD, Mac App Store, Steam, and Windows 8.