- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Gamers return to a time when mall arcades ruled as they visit a galaxy far, far away in Star Wars Pinball: Heroes Within (Zen Studios, Rated E10+, reviewed with PlayStation 4, $9.99).

Zen Studios delivers yet another set of fantastic pinball simulations looking ripped from those classic, stand-alone Data East machines of old and compatible with near every entertainment console and mobile device.

This quartet of tables, paying a nostalgic homage to George Lucas‘ space fantasy, looks particularly amazing on a widescreen television paired with Sony’s latest multimedia machine.

Each table boasts three-dimensional animated characters hanging out, orangish-dot-matrix displays showing scenes from the movies, actual dialogue from the trilogies and physics-based action along with some gorgeous illustrations and details only a “Star Wars” geek would appreciate

A player’s gleeful adrenaline really kicks in with additional help from Ben Burtt’s familiar sound effects and the booming, legendary scores from John Williams.

The four, old-school adventures are worth hours and hours of time investment. Each comes loaded with surprises for those who hit the right combination of ramps, spinners, rails bumpers and kickout holes to unleash multiball frenzies, mini-games and massive point totals.

Here are some highlights of each pinball table.

Han Solo — Situated right in the middle of the famed space slug’s gullet from “The Empire Strikes Back,” the game table reveals Chewbacca tinkering in one corner with a pinball rail (he’s available to also throw balls back into play) while Han sits in the captain’s seat and offers words of encouragement. Poor C-3P0 is stuck at the bottom between flippers and in pieces.

With the ball in play, hitting a spinner rotates a shooting gallery at the top of the table featuring rogues from the Cantina Bar. At some point, Han will even get up and blast a target (looking like metallic cut-outs when they appear in the right spot).

Also, a model of the Millennium Falcon rests on the table and opens up for more events.

Now get this, hit the right combination of stuff and get jettisoned to an actual mini-video game requiring a player maneuver the Millennium Falcon through an asteroid field. The computer animation pops from the screen, but the actual game controls will frustrate.

Despite all of the above, my favorite feature is playing each round to the jazzy sounds of the Mos Eisley house Cantina band, Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes.

Geek moment: Hit a target until the word “FROZEN” is spelled out, and a Han Solo in carbonite model flips out by one of the rails to suck balls in for an eventual multiball event.

Master of the Force — The most relaxed of the tables (a soothing soundtrack and less frenetic action), yet most confusing, offers a play area split down the middle of Sith versus Jedi. One side red for Sith with illustrations of Darth Maul, Darth Sidious and Darth Tyranus and the other blue for Jedi with artwork of Yoda, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn (remember him?).

In a diorama-like setting at the top of the table, an animated Yoda on Dagobah looks about and the Emperor rests on his throne aboard the Super Star Destroyer, both offering guidance and memorable phrases during the action.

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