The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
Zen Studios has a sterling track record of identifying what
fans love about an IP and somehow turning those aspects into an entertaining
pinball experience. The developer's second Star Wars table pack doesn't have
quite the same punch as its inaugural swing at George Lucas's beloved sci-fi
franchise, but that won't stop pinball fans from getting plenty of enjoyment
out of the new offerings.
Balance of the Force offers fans three more tables to add to
their collections. Return of the Jedi is based on the acclaimed ending to the
original trilogy, Darth Vader pays homage to everyone's favorite Force-wielding
super villain, and Starfighter Assault lets players side with either the
Galactic Empire or Rebel Alliance for dogfighting-themed missions. Like
previous packs, Balance of the Force offers a little something for everyone,
which conversely means you're probably not going to be a fan of every table.
Return of the Jedi falls into that category for me, and is
my least-favorite Star Wars table yet. The playfield mixes locations from
Tatooine and Endor, and missions run players through scenes from the movie,
similar to Zen's Empire Strikes Back table. Unlike the other tables in the
pack, however, Return of the Jedi's kickbacks are difficult to activate and the
table is prone to outlane drains. Practicing the ramp and sinkhole shots helps
alleviate the problem, but I still suffered far too many unavoidable losses to
fall in love with the table. That said, Return of the Jedi does have some fun
missions and modes, including a frantic speeder bike chase complete with its
own mini playfield.
The other two tables are top-notch. Darth Vader is a high-scoring,
combo-heavy table with easy kickbacks and plenty of multiball modes. Darth
Vader also features missions taken from the movies, including Vader's fight
with Obi-Wan Kenobi, and final showdown with the Emperor. These missions are
more difficult than those on most Zen tables, but there are plenty of other
scoring options to shoot for at any given time, and the table has a great flow
Starfighter Assault is the most complex table of the pack,
and also sports the most open design. The left side of the table represents the
imperial forces, and the right the rebel alliance. Players pick which side they
wish to fight for, and although the missions remain largely the same, the
voiceovers, ships, and color of laser blasts change depending on your choice. The
table's ranking and upgrade systems provide some depth to games, and the multi-phase
missions take some surprising and creative detours like a simple Space
Invaders-style mini-game. While Darth Vader is still my favorite table of the
pack, Starfighter Assault is a close runner-up.
Balance of the Force isn't quite as strong as the first Star
Wars Pinball pack, but it still offers plenty of variety and replay value to
fans. After playing countless hours across dozens of tables, I'm still not
tired of Zen Studios' pinball formula, and these new tables are sure to tide me
over until the next offering.
Email the author Jeff Marchiafava, or follow on Google+, Twitter, and Game Informer.