PINBALL tables are undeniably cool, with all the flippers, buzzers, bells and lights a-flashing.
They also take up quite a bit of space and aren’t cheap, with a second hand machine running from something like $6000 all the way up to more than $12,000 for a popular table – which is a lot of pocket money by anyone’s calculations.
Fortunately, digital pinball has been a thing pretty much ever since computers were invented, allowing gamers to experience the magic of the silver ball without obliterating their bank account or finding somewhere to set it all up.
The latest in this fine tradition of digital pinball comes with a AAA licence attached to it too – giving us Star Wars Pinball for the Nintendo Switch, developed and published by Zen Studios.
There are 19 Star Wars themed tables in the game – ranging from A New Hope right through to the Clone Wars TV series – and they were all pretty good, with a great variety of bumpers, launchers, and other accoutrements. The tables even come to life with quasi-animatronic characters from the films, creating quite a fun experience indeed.
Initially I was wondering how a game designed for portrait orientation would play in the landscape-oriented screen on the Switch or TV and the answer is “very well”, with several selectable camera angles (including one that follows the ball around). Even better, on the Switch (not the Switch Lite, however) you can disconnect the Joy-Con controllers and re-orient the screen in portrait mode for a more traditional experience, and it makes a big difference.
The controls are simple and intuitive – the trigger buttons on the Joy-Cons operate the flippers, and there’s a “nudge” ability too. It doesn’t need to be complicated because it’s all pretty straightforward, and it works.
The game does a great job of capturing the Pinball Machine experience too, with a sort of LED-style display appearing in the top corner to keep track of the score and game modes.
As well as the usual “launch the ball through the lanes” type ‘missions’, the game also has more traditional video game modes that can be unlocked – I particularly enjoyed one that put you in the cockpit of a Tie Fighter or X-Wing Fighter to blast enemy ships – which really took the game beyond a simple “computer version of pinball” and added to the overall experience.
In addition to the actual pinball stuff, there’s also online leaderboards and challenges where players can choose the Light Side or the Dark Side and complete missions. The game also supports hot seat playing too, with up to four players able to get involved, switching out each time a ball is lost.
The only major criticism I have of Star Wars Pinball is the menus are bit on the clunky and there’s more screens than I’d like to get through before you can actually get playing pinball – a little less emphasis on the multiplayer/online aspect and a bit more focus on being able to Select Table -> Play Pinball would have been great.
Otherwise, however, there is a lot to like in this game and it’s going to appeal strongly to fans of both Star Wars and Pinball alike.
I tip my Stormtrooper helmet to Zen – they’ve done a magnificent job on Star Wars Pinball and I highly recommend it.
If you fancy yourself a Pinball Jedi, then you’re going to want to play this.