Pinball games still feel a little like a slice of ‘classic’ gaming in many ways. The rush of hitting a high score, that laser-focus on just having a good time. No arbitrary grind, no overbearing loot or monetisation - just a whole lot of fun.
I’m pleased to report, then, that Star Wars Pinball not only brings that perfect storm back in a big way but shoves it through your eyeballs on Oculus Quest 2 in a way that feels more than a little magical.
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A Long Time Ago, In An Arcade I Guess
The first thing that’s worth mentioning is that Star Wars Pinball VR comes from Zen Studios, a team that knows more than a little about pinball.
Having worked on licenses from Marvel, to American Dad, to.. um, Star Wars, the team has been working on pinball titles since 2007, and while this humble writer hasn’t played them all, I can tell you one thing – this one is fantastic.
While many of the eight tables have been repurposed from the developer’s earlier dalliances with the licence, they’ve been rebuilt from the ground up, and the two new tables fit in particularly well (especially the Mandalorian-themed one which takes on a mission-focused structure.).
As for the pinball action, don’t let the previously static viewpoint fool you. Leaning in to take in all the details of the table felt incredible, and there are plenty of them, too. Characters move around the table, ships fly above it, and players can contribute points to the light or dark sides of the Force.
Between the pinball, players are dropped into mini-games that allow for speeder bike chases, lightsaber duels, and plenty more. It’s a great way to change things up, and that’s not all.
Coolest Basement Ever
It’s a strange situation to be playing pinball and get the feeling you’re being watched, but it’s not uncommon here.
That’s because ‘life-sized’ recreations of some of Star Wars’ most iconic characters can often be found milling about beside the table. Sure, it’s cute to see Grogu sat there, but it was a bit of a shock to see Darth Vader leering at me from a few meters away.
The set-dressing doesn’t stop there, though, as the pinball action is all set within an area Zen Studios calls ‘The Fan Cave’. It’s the ultimate shrine to Star Wars, and feels like a playable space in itself.
Players can switch items around, examine collectables, and even redecorate the posters. It’s a little like having that 'nerdvana' you always dreamed of, except you actually have space for it now, and items are unlocked via playing, rather than shelling out on eBay.
If I have one complaint about Star Wars Pinball VR, it’s one of comfort. The game is engrossing to the point where you’ll want to lean in and examine every inch of it, but it’s nigh-on impossible to play seated. When doing so, the launcher feels adrift, and you feel almost as if you’re resting your chin on the table’s edge. Here’s hoping for some adjustable options in the future.
I didn’t realise that pinball would be my favourite VR game in the year of our lord 2021, but here I am, having a great time in my virtual space basement.
A few tweaks for the sake of comfort would be ideal, but for now, this is pure, unadulterated, high-score chasing fun in a galaxy far, far away.
Reviewed on Oculus Quest 2
Review copy provided by the publisher