Zen Pinball HD

Star Wars Pinball: The Empire Strikes Back review

When I was a kid, I used to hang around the local arcades an awful lot, and pinball was what the men played. The machines were fascinating, but unapproachable for an eight-year-old: too big and constantly surrounded by chain-smoking malcontents. Every so often there would be the scary shunt noise, great big bangs snapping you out of a virtual reverie. Sometimes there'd be no-one around, though, and then I'd stare at the flashing lights and gaudy art, wondering if I should put one of my precious 20ps in. But Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles always won out.

So the first pinball game I ever played was Sonic Spinball and, though I've obviously been on real machines since, pinball has always been a video game for me - and as I became fascinated by its history and heritage, ironically enough, even more so. But while titles like Pinball Hall of Fame: Williams Collection encapsulate this, there's also a purely virtual strain of pinball games that do things that couldn't be done with a physical machine. And Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back is one of the best, probably the best, I've ever played. Not just that, it also manages to capture everything I love about Star Wars better than any other game has in years.

Star Wars is a cultural touch point that's become an all-encompassing children's brand, and along the way alienated grumpy sods like me who think the original trilogy is where it begins and ends. If you're nodding in agreement, this is an essential purchase. The Empire Strikes Back table is a brilliant distillation of Star Wars' finest moment, absolutely jammed with voice samples and table mechanics that evoke the movie, its scoring system both intricate and deeply bound to the aesthetics.

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