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Star Wars Pinball: Balance of the Force Review
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 to it.
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.