Zen Pinball 2

Who Needs The Force When You Have Zen

More Star Wars tables for Zen Pinball 2!
Author: Aram Lecis
Published: October 24, 2013
We’ve said it before, but we’ll never stop saying it. Those guys over at Zen Studios never seem to stop working, churning out new pinball tables every couple months and somehow coming up with new ideas to make them unique. I’ve long since given up hope of getting the old Pinball FX/FX2 tables ported over to the Zen side of things but it doesn’t matter much with over 30 tables now available in the Zen Pinball 2 interface.


The latest batch is a new set of three Star Wars themed tables to add on to the original three. This time around Zen has tapped into more of the original trilogy with the “Balance of the Force” pack containing Darth Vader, Return of the Jedi and Starfighter Assault tables. It’s a really great mix of tables that pay homage to the Star Wars the us older folks grew up with.

This set of tables also marks the first time I have had a 3DTV to take advantage of the 3D effects that Zen offers. I have to say, the effect is gorgeous! There aren’t a whole lot of 3D capable games floating around out there, but Zen Pinball 2 (at least for the tables designed with 3D in mind) use 3D the best. I got a much better sense that I was playing on a real-life playfield with the extra depth perception. My only complaint was that it seemed to add in a bit of lag (on top of the lag I always felt exists on the PS3 edition) but once you learn to compensate for that it only becomes an issue if you are using a view with a lot of scrolling and the ball is moving fast.

Before I break down each of the new tables I want to reiterate something I’ve said in the past. I desperately wish Zen would add some sort of ability to create your own tournaments, or even some sort of single-player campaign mode where you move through different tables and challenge scores or friends or something. Even just something simple that throws random tables at you and maybe tosses in some sort of challenge system. Zen has their own tournaments they run, but those are just “play this table for a week and get the highest score” and even then those are few and far between. I just have so many tables at this point and I would love to have a reason to go back through a lot of the old ones again.

So let’s look at the new tables in order from my least to most favorite:



Return of the Jedi – The first thing you’ll notice about this table is that it had a very organic feel. The playfield appears to take place in a jungle, with tons of leafy foliage popping in on the playfield and craggy rocks everywhere. There’s a shuttle and a speeder bike, but I never saw a Sarlac pit. I found this table to be a bit cramped compared to most tables and at times balls seem to shoot back down at lightning speed. I probably struggled more with this table than any of the others and I had a hard time activating the special events. When I did activate an event they were really fun though, and of course they follow along a lot with the plot of the film (which is also not my favorite film, but that’s neither here nor there). Overall it’s a challenging table, but the mission design and the aesthetic are excellent.



Darth Vader – What could be better than a table based on the exploits of one of the best movie villains of all time? Not too much! This table has one of those cold opens where you can choose to participate in a short “assembly of Vader” minigame before starting each match. To be honest, I’m still not sure what the goal is in that part (I should probably consult the table guide) but it LOOKS cool. Once you get into the table proper it has a neat effect where the table seems like it is set deep inside a room with high sides, almost like you are playing in a diorama. The missions themselves hit all the highlights of Vader’s storied career, so expect Tie Fighter battles, lightsaber duels and epic confrontations. The playfield itself has a nice open design with an eerie red glow reminiscent of a certain someone’s lightsaber.



Starfighter Assault – Easily my favorite table in this pack, and one that looks positively stunning in 3D. This table is one of those that offers you a choice of sides at the start (rebels or empire) and depending on which you pick the table will have a bit of a different setup. The playfield remains mostly the same, but missions change and there are different activators. During a lot of the action space battles are taking place above the table, and in 3D the effect is very reminiscent of the chess game being played between Chewbacca and the droids in Episode IV. There are oodles of nice touches, like the ball launcher alternating between Tie Fighter and X-Wing targeting computers depending on which path you chose. This is one of the busier tables Zen has made (in terms of effects more than layout) but it works well and this is a table I will keep coming back to.

Of course all these tables have the little minigames that are integral to the Zen design and obviously they integrate into your scoreboards and wizard score (or whatever they are calling it now) so you can continue to build up your score and “impress” the ladies.

Zen tables can be hit or miss (mostly hits though) but this pack is pretty solid from top to bottom and makes and excellent choice for fans of both pinball and Star Wars. If you own a Vita these tables are cross-buy as usual, so double the value. I highly recommend this set!
The Verdict
9.0

The Balance of the Force table pack is the best set of tables Zen has released to date. All three tables are well made and the 3D effect is outstanding if you are equipped to take advantage of it.

9.0Graphics:

These tables are a tiny bit busy, but they also look amazingly sharp and the color schemes are excellent. Film buffs will recognize a lot of little homages. Fantastic 3D support!

8.5Sound:

Some of the sounds seem like they were lifted from the foley masters from the films. Love those iconic laser blasts from the fighters.

7.0Control:

Ughhhhh I still can't get past the tiny bit of lag. At this point it's clearly never leaving.

9.0Gameplay:

A nice variety of tables that focus on the original trilogy that we all know is the best trilogy. Zen Studios is delivering the good when it come to mission design too. Man is it weird to say "mission design" talking about pinball.