Let’s get this out of the way at the outset: Star Wars Pinball VR ($24.99)is a must-have for any Star Wars fan and for anyone interested in virtual reality. The designers have created something that is not only a blast to play, but a visual treat full of “wow” moments.
I tested the game on an Oculus Quest on May the Fourth, so I was perhaps a bit more stoked than usual to try a new Star Wars game, but let’s face it not every installment in this brand has been at an Empire Strikes Back quality level; too often we’ve been served up Solo: A Star Wars Movie mediocrity. Perhaps to right the bad taste left by that movie, the developers added an extra pinball table based on Han Solo as free downloadable content after the game launched.
If every critic comes to a game with built-in, baked-in biases, you should know this about me: When I lived and worked in upstate New York, two seven-foot long Star Wars spaceships hung over my desk, and the shelves behind me held precious Star Wars replicas I collected or built. Only when I relocated to a much smaller space in New York City did much of my collection have to go into storage.
So, when I first launched Star Wars Pinball VR I was shocked. The virtual game room looks much like an homage to my old office. Instead of the Naboo fighter and Millennium Falcon I had, the ceiling over the virtual pinball machine features Imperial and Rebel ships locked in battle. Posters and memorabilia decorate the room, including a fantastic AT-AT, and there is even a working R2D2 jukebox. (I never did collect one of those in real life, though I sure would have loved one!)
Nine virtual pinball machines provide lots of variety, spanning a good deal of the Star Wars chronology, from the original to the Mandalorian. Each table has its own quirks, bonuses, and special trick shots. These are more than “faithful reproductions” of the arcade machines; they go beyond the limits of reality. The designers take advantage of the 3D medium, giving the machines capabilities they could never have in real life, like holograms. Some also have “plastic” elements that seem to break through the glass.
And while the game may be set in a basement “fan cave”, that doesn’t mean you’re down there by yourself. As you play each table you’ll be joined by figures from the Star Wars universe, not life size replicas, but the “actual” characters, like Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker. You might have a toy-drone hovering nearby, or be distracted by droids, or even find yourself in the middle of a battle while you’re trying to concentrate!
You’ll collect virtual posters and collectable models that can be displayed on the shelves of your play room. The attention to detail of the models is remarkable and you’ll want to play just to get them all!