Star Wars Pinball VR succeeds in immersing you as a fan, not as a character.
Developed by Zen Studios, the same team behind the Pinball FX, Star Wars Pinball VR is easily one of the best Star Wars-themed VR games I’ve played on any headset. You can bet all of your Naboo and Coruscant credits combined that the developers did not cut corners when designing this expertly-crafted arcade experience.
For my preview I only had access to two pinball machines; one based on the very popular Mandalorian series on Disney Plus, and another on Gareth Edward’s stand-alone movie, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The full game features eight pinball machines, each based on a different Star Wars storyline.
The Mandalorian and Rogue One pinball games are both chock full of awesome ramps, bumpers, mesmerizing lights, as well as authentic sounds from the Star Wars universe, from lightsabers and blasters to the roar of an Imperial Tie-Fighter. In between rounds you’re treated to short videos featuring iconic moments from the franchise pinball. There are also cool 360-degree mini-games, including a full speeder bike chase on Endor, the Bespin carbon-freezing chamber duel between Luke and Vader, and much, much more.
Located at the top of the pinball headboard is a pixelated video display of your score. Earn a combo and the headboard triggers a memorable scene from the Star Wars universe that spills out of the display and into your world. As you continue to rack up points you’ll hear encouraging soundbites from your favorite Star Wars films. Then, of course, there are multi-ball opportunities where you can light up the scoreboard brighter than an exploding Death Star.
But it’s not Star Wars without the Force. You can use a variety of Force Powers to help power up your gameplay and earn bigger scores. Of course, the game of pinball is all about the leaderboards and having your initials at the top. Star Wars Pinball VR lets you compete with your friends and other players around the world through a global scoreboard.
The mechanics of Star Wars Pinball VR work really well. You use your virtual hands to pull back on the plunger in order to launch your pinball into play. Once you do that, your hands automatically align to the flipper buttons. From there, it’s just a classic game of pinball.
Here’s a tip: learn to incorporate a basic move called the “dead trap” into your gameplay. That’s when you hold your finger on the flipper button in order to hold up the flipper and trap the pinball during gameplay. This lets you take a moment to plan a strategic hit to unlock a multi-ball opportunity, or maybe slide your VR headset up so you can take a bite out of your pizza.
Using controller haptics, Star Wars Pinbal VR does an excellent job at replicating the sensation of slapping a classic flipper button, minus the gross unidentifiable stickiness you’ll find on most public machines. The joystick on your left thumb gives you the ability to bump the machine like a real pinball game. Just be careful not to bump the game too hard or you will tilt the machine, taking your pinball out of play.
While you’re playing, you’ll find yourself naturally keeping your hands apart as if you were actually playing on a physical pinball machine. Once I realized that it didn’t matter where my hands were, hoever, I found that I was more comfortable with my hands in my lap as I played. Of course, it will be different for everyone and you might find a better hand position to help you rack up big scores worthy of Grand Moff Tarkin’s lackluster and unenthusiastic approval.
One of my favorite moments so far was playing The Mandalorian machine and seeing Mando himself show up in his shiny Beskar armor to offer me some much-needed moral support. Just be sure you don’t disappoint him by losing the ball or tilting your machine because he’ll then make a snarky comment and fly off.
Arguably one of the coolest features, however, is the abulity to shrink yourself down in size and actually play from inside the machines themselves. Personally, I found it a little harder to play from this perspective, but it’s still a super cool addition that you should definitely check it out. Just another example of VR’s ability to immerse you in a way that would be impossible to replicate in the real world. And we haven’t even mentioned the customization…
The setting of Star Wars Pinball VR doesn’t take you to a galaxy far far away. Rather, it takes place in your own personal Star Wars-themed den that includes a kickass bar and a jukebox filled with music, from John William classics to Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes biggest hit (which is also written by Williams..shhh). There’s also a Dejarik table straight from the Millenium Falcon (make sure you let the Wookie win), a giant size Jabba the Hutt, and a Speeder Bike!
Look around and you’ll see rows of empty shelves lining the walls of your space. As you progress throughout the game you’ll unlock unique Star Wars memorabilia you can use to decorate your personal den, such as posters, helmets, life-size stormtrooper armor, and other goodies.
In an interview with VRScout, Ákos Szabó, Project Lead on Star Wars Pinball VR said, “When we first started this project, I was very excited simply by the concept of eight Star Wars Pinball tables in VR – but then we added the fan cave, and that’s every bit as fun to me, especially with the added layer of completely customizing it with Star Wars-inspired decorations,” Szabó adds, “I also love that when you’re actually playing pinball, some of the most iconic characters in pop culture are there right beside you. It’s really something everyone with VR should experience.”
Navigating through our Star Wars den is easy. Using your VR thumb controllers you’re able to walk around your Star Wars den and explore. The game does offer you the option of using teleport movement or locomotion movement with additional tweaks such as discreet turning.
Overall, Star Wars Pinball VR is an extremely addictive VR arcade experience. What I love is that you’re not there to take on the role of a character. Instead, you’re immersed as a fan of the series, allowing you the opportunity to geek-out in your own personal Star Wars sanctuary while enjoying a one-of-a-kind VR-enhanced pinball experience that would be impossible to replicate in the real world.
I give Star Wars Pinball VR four enthusiastic General Grievous thumbs up! That’s literally all of his thumbs! Star Wars Pinball VR will be available on the original Oculus Quest, Oculus Quest 2, SteamVR, and PlayStation® VR on April 29, 2021.
*This preview was conducted using an Oculus Quest 2. Preview copy provided by Zen Studios*
Feature Image Credit: Zen Studios