Zen Studios is known as the purveyor of awesome pinball videogames with most dedicated to famous IP’s such as The Walking Dead as well as its own original creations. It was very surprising back in 2016 when the developer launched Pinball FX2 VR showcasing how well this style of videogame ports into virtual reality (VR). April will see the studio return to VR with one of the biggest franchises around, Star Wars Pinball VR, not only offering a selection of exciting tables to beat but a fully customisable fan cave to geek out in.
For this early hands-on look at Star Wars Pinball VR VRFocus tested the Oculus Quest version with access to two of the eight tables the final release will feature, The Mandalorian and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. As you may already realise the rest are then based on the original trilogy plus a couple of extras. Unlike Pinball FX2 VR which had several tables set out in a very swanky apartment, for Star Wars Pinball VR there’s one solitary table from which you can select all the rest.
Before doing so and diving right in it’s nice to have a wander around this cave of Star Wars wonder, a proper homage that you could very well imagine exists somewhere in the world. However, to begin with, it’s fairly sparse, there are posters on the walls but they’re all the same, you’ve got some bare shelving and a rotating shelve plus some empty plinths on the floor. There are a couple of statues, an AT-AT and Jabba the Hut as well as a kitchen and jukebox to give it that proper den feel. All the blank spaces are there for a reason though, collectables.
Through playing each table you’ll be able to unlock various iconic vehicles like the Tie Fighter or Slave 1, Strom Trooper helmets, new posters, new music and more. All so you can customise your virtual Star Wars space just so.
That means heading to the pinball table to start racking up the points as some of those unlockables cost a billion points! If you’ve played any of Zen Studios’ pinball titles you’ll know each is richly detailed and full of Easter eggs. What makes the experience in VR even better is the ability to peer closer and inspect all the various mechanisms. In Star Wars Pinball VR, you can even play from inside the table, with three positions available (left, central and right). While it can be quite novel playing right behind the central flippers, it didn’t quite gel, the more traditional top-down viewpoint was far better.
Even with just two tables on offer, there’s a massive amount going on although it doesn’t look like it from the first inspection. That’s because each table had story chapters to unlock, hitting particular bumpers or launching a ball up a particular ramp would then unlock the next section, with new objects appearing on the table or even in the environment. A good example of this was on The Mandalorian table. Get the right sequence and you’re suddenly in his shoes, using his wrist-mounted flamethrower to knock the ball around the table until the fuel runs out.
You don’t just have to step right up to the table either, there’s a big flat-screen TV which offers missions. These can range from hitting a certain score to unlocking features like multiball. Completing them earns you tokens which can be spent on activating and upgrading Force Powers and Talents. Tables can be played in Classic Mode or Arcade Mode and it’s the latter where those special abilities can be used to give you a chance of hitting those really impressive combos.
Even from this brief look at Star Wars Pinball VR, it’s easy to tell Zen Studios is packing a great deal of content that’ll give players hours and hours of entertainment. Naturally, Star Wars fans are going to get the most out of this but even those who aren’t particularly fussed with the franchise will find an enjoyable pinball experience. With a month to go until the official release, this is one Spring VR release VRFocus is looking forward to playing at great length.