Star Wars Pinball: Heroes Within Review – PC/Steam, PS4, PS3, Vita

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Zen Studios has finally released their third installment in the Star Wars Pinball spinoff for their Pinball FX2 franchise.   Star Wars Pinball: Heroes Within is the latest bundle of tables to get added to the growing library of fantasy and franchise-themed virtual pinball games, and in my opinion these are some of the best ones yet.  While past bundles have featured three themed tables, Heroes Within delivers four exciting pinball games, each with their own heroes…and maybe a few villains.

Heroes Within is available for all the consoles as well as PC and mobile devices, but the focus of this review is going to be PC and Sony platforms.  To get the technical stuff out of the way first, the PS4 and PC versions are virtually identical in both visual fidelity and framerate.   The PC offers slightly faster load times getting into the game or when switching tables while the DualShock controller seems slightly more responsive with nearly no lag time between tapping triggers and seeing your flipper move.   Using an Xbox 360 controller on the PC works great as long as you are using the LB/RB buttons, but the extra play in the triggers can create just enough delay to complicate your shot.

I’ve been saying this ever since Pinball FX2 came to the PlayStation 4 and I still cannot explain it, but for some reason the game just looks a tad better on the console despite my gaming PC clearly having higher specs.  And if that weren’t reason enough your cross-buy purchase of the PS4 version will also allow you to download and play these four new tables on your PS3 and PS Vita.  Speaking of the Vita, Heroes Within is just as amazing on the handheld as it is on the big screen with functional touch controls and my favorite feature – the ability to play the game vertically.  Sure, things get a bit small in this view but nothing can beat the experience of seeing the entire table fit perfectly on a non-scrolling screen.

So, let’s break down these new tables.  First up is Han Solo, the dashing space smuggler whose table is set inside the Millennium Falcon, which, if you zoom out, seems to be inside the giant space slug from The Empire Strikes Back.  Han overseas the gameplay from his swivel command chair while Chewbacca attends to the ship.  Key features include prominent 3D models of the Death Star and the Falcon, which can pivot and open up for a crane game type of experience where you have to drop the ball in one of several slots.  The back of the board has all your favorite lowlife scum from the cantina presented in something that looks like a shooting gallery.  Apparently they don’t know that HAN SHOOTS FIRST!

Next up is the Droids table starring C-3PO and R2-D2 who scurry about the interior of a giant Jawa sandcrawler as it slowly moves across the desert of Tatooine.   If you love chutes and rails then you are going to love the design of this table that rewards your precision flipper work with seamless and sometimes endless looping ball movement.  The more consecutive chutes you hit the higher your multipliers and score, but the speed can get out of control at times…in a good way.

Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope is one of those multi-mission tables that captures all of the best moments from the movie that launched a legacy.  At first glance the table appears to be deceptively simple in design with only a few horseshoe ramps and chutes and not much else.  Even the secondary pair of flippers seems to be missing until you spot the secondary pinball table hidden beneath the glass surface. This inverted ramp tilts back up toward the player and has its own set of flippers.  The only thing more challenging that getting the ball into that secondary table is keeping it there once you do.

Last, but certainly not least is Masters of the Force.  The design of this table reminded me greatly of the Starfighter Assault table from the Balance of the Force bundle with its dual design elements of good vs. evil that seamlessly blend in the middle.  Rather than choosing your side prior to starting the game, this table balances the Force between Jedi and Sith based on your gameplay.  Masters of the Force has it all including all your favorite villains and heroes as well as iconic locations from the movies like Yoda’s hut on Dagobah to the sinister tree where Luke must confront himself.  Even the emperor can be seen taunting you from his massive throne.   The core component of this table is the Holocron target that brings up a secondary circular mini-table for some intense action.

All four tables are simply amazing and capture the very essence of Star Wars and the particular people, places, and events filtered by their respective themes.  As always, the music, sounds, and dialogue have been captured and generously sprinkled throughout the game, which does lead to a bit of repetition if you play the game for hours on end…like I do.  The tables are surprisingly complex with hidden missions and secret goals, so you may want to actually read the manual for each table to figure out your objectives; especially if you want to climb those leaderboards or play in the tournaments.

If you were wondering how you were going to celebrate this May 4th (Star Wars Day) after you finish watching all of the movies in sequential order (NERD!) I highly recommend Star Wars Pinball: Heroes Within.  It is the perfect finale to Zen Studios trilogy of Star Wars themed bundles with some of the best tables released to date.

May the Force be with you…

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