Review | Star Wars Pinball: Heroes Within (PS4)
Zen Pinball is arguably the most successful digital pinball franchise out there, and the most recent pack of tables hopes to capture some of the recent Star Wars-related excitement. Utilizing the powerful Zen Pinball 2 engine on PS4, Star Wars Pinball: Heroes Within gives players four new tables to immerse themselves in the SW universe. Though the pack isn’t quite a Super Jackpot, Heroes Within provides a great variety of tables that channel the energy of Star Wars as well as any others.
For those unfamiliar with Zen Pinball, Zen Pinball is a base pinball engine: players can purchase packs of tables ranging from popular Marvel and Star Wars properties to other individual tables and properties specially-designed for Zen Pinball. Though digital pinball may lack some of the tactile wonder of physical machines, digital pinball allows tons of unthinkable possibilities to play out on the table, like 3D warfare between superheroes, or bonuses with visceral explosions and board transformations. In addition, players can access the Operator’s Menu, allowing you to tweak everything from flipper sensitivity to overall table difficulty. For pinball wizards or casual players who don’t want to pour quarters into the nearest bowling alley’s machine, Zen Pinball is an excellent alternative.
Star Wars Pinball: Heroes Within
The Heroes Within pack provides you access to four new tables: Episode IV: A New Hope, Star Wars: Droids, Han Solo, and Masters of the Force. Each table has its own positives and drawbacks, though it’s worth pointing out ahead of time that the overall set is a blast to play and some tables are quite challenging. We’ll tackle each table individually, starting with:
Episode IV: A New Hope
Episode IV: A New Hope lets you go through scenes from the first Star Wars movie like getting C-3PO and R2-D2 off of the Death Star. Episode IV is the most visually-pleasing of the tables, with a wide range of colors and exciting events. Some pinball tables feel pretty unforgiving and lead to quick ball loss, but this one provides a quality mix of challenge with playability. Triggering bonuses like the Death Star multiball and various hurry-ups bring the table to life with enhanced sound effects and visuals, and though there aren’t many easy-to-access minigames, Episode IV is still a lot of fun to play.
Droids! is the most forgiving of the Heroes Within tables, with an R2-D2 based bonus that delivers extra balls fairly consistently. You’ll shoot ramps to trigger quests like reassembling the dismantled C-3PO. Target lanes are easy to shoot, and the objectives on the table feel simpler compared to other tables in the pack. That doesn’t mean the table is easy, though; even with extra balls you’ll still need skill to tackle some of the boards later objectives. Droids! is the most charming of the Heroes tables because of the interaction between the title characters, even if the gameplay feels a little dry compared to some of the others.
Don’t expect any fancy lightsaber combat on this table: Han Solo is a master of his own destiny, and there’ll be no putzing around with the Force here. The Han Solo table offers some of the slowest-feeling gameplay of the set, with single ramps needing to be hit 6-7 times to trigger events. Unlike some of the other tables, which feature magnets to draw the ball in various areas, the physics of this table are pretty straight-forward. But it also offers some of the easiest off-board mini-games: hitting a ramp in the Millennium Falcon multiple times triggers a scene where you use the flippers to weave the ship in and out of asteroids, dodging rocks and TIE Fighters along the way. With multiple mini-events, multiballs, and even a crane game, pursuing bounties on this table can offer some of the most fun of the pack.
Masters of the Force
Episode IV may be the most visually-pleasing of the tables, but Masters of the Force is the table where the game pulls out all the stops. Fantastic graphics, cutscenes, and bonuses await you…IF you can play the table well. Masters of the Force is definitely the most challenging of any of the Heroes Within tables, and if you’re the type to just hit the flippers aimlessly, you’ll find yourself getting nowhere fast. That said, this is the table where it feels like the team paid the most attention to visual detail, and you can even see it in painting of the center images. Masters of the Force is an absolutely gorgeous table.
That said, Masters can be utterly frustrating. You’ll need multiple hits on small targets to gain access to Sith and Jedi Holocrons, triggering a fast-moving mini-table. Hitting all the targets takes serious precision, and failing the mini-table means you’ll have to start it over from the beginning when you get back in. The table’s main action is triggered with hits on a small spinner on the center lane, which causes Jedi and Sith targets to pop up in the middle of the table. You’ll need to target either the Jedi or Sith specifically, keeping your side of the Force alive while taking out the opposite one. It’s tons of fun when it gets moving, but minor issues show up during gameplay, particularly if you hit a target too soon after its deactivated; even if it looks like it’s completely reset, you may not even get points for hitting it. Masters of the Force may have a few hiccups, but it offers the most spectacle and reward for seasoned pinball wizards.
Star Wars Pinball: Heroes Within is a great addition to the Zen Pinball franchise, and even where it faults it’s still a blast to play. The PS4 version of the game offers stutter-free gameplay with the same gorgeous graphics we’ve come to expect from the Zen Pinball franchise, and PS3 owners can import any of the tables they bought for Zen Pinball 2 on PS3 into the PS4 version. Check it out on the Playstation Store for $9.99 US. You can also buy Heroes Within for iOS, PC, Android, or the Nintendo eShop.
Final Score: 4.25/5