Star Wars Pinball Review

Star Wars Pinball Review

May 24, 2013

Pinball is an interesting state of flux: the genre as a physical form is not in great shape, but it is doing fantastic in virtual form. Fans of the silver ball have series like Pinball Arcade and Zen Pinball which both provide regular amounts of new tables to freshen up the experience regularly. Star Wars Pinball, a standalone release of the Zen Pinball table based off of Empire Strikes Back, is a great way to check in to this series.

While the game includes in-app purchases for two other Star Wars tables, the base purchase includes just the one table. That’s hardly a bad thing – there’s a lot going on here. There’s multiple missions to complete by hitting various triggers, lots of targets to go for, and plenty of flashing lights and loud noises. The fanservice is strong with this one – there’s all kinds of art and sounds from the movie. This isn’t a cheap cash-in, a lot of love was put in to this game.

The physics feel realistic enough, though as someone who’s not a pinball expert, I’m not the best judge of this. Still, it’s easy to tell when a game’s physics feel fake, and this definitely does not. The game is a natural fit for the Nexus 7 with its portrait mode display, but for those that want to play in widescreen, well, that’s possible too. Pretty much every camera orientation that a person could want to play a virtual pinball game with is supported here.

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However, Star Wars Pinball just does not do a whole lot for me on its own, without much in the way of context. I’ve heard pinball experts raving about it, but to a relative neophyte like me, it doesn’t really come through. I tend to enjoy my pinball experiences as more fantastical games (I have sunk countless hours in to Pokemon Pinball: Ruby & Sapphire for Game Boy Advance) rather than as more realistic ones.

So, for the casual or lapsed pinball fan, this is definitely worth checking out, or even in the context of the larger Zen Pinball series – this table is available as add-on content for the main app as well. Star Wars fans should check it out because it’s a pinball game that pays great homage to the series. I hear only rave reviews from the pinball-obsessed as well.

I don’t know if this is the game to get people in to pinball for the first time, but for those with a pre-existing interest in pinball or Star Wars, this is a must-have.

The Hills Are Greener: Are Cross-Platform Releases Improving?

The Hills Are Greener: Are Cross-Platform Releases Improving?

Mar 4, 2013

Usually, when it comes to Android releases, I’m subject to at least a little bit of disappointment that games don’t work as well on Android as they do on iOS, or that the game doesn’t release on time, or whatever issues may pop up. But this doesn’t have to be the case.

One of the biggest things that impressed me about Real Racing 3’s release on Android was both that they managed to push it out at about the same time, and that they got the game working about as fluidly as it does on iOS devices. The game on Nexus 7 doesn’t look as good as the iPhone 5 version, but that’s to be expected based on the ages of the hardware. Still, it’s absolutely and perfectly playable without any of the hitches that sometimes come with major Android releases. I honestly expected something to go wrong, especially since it requires a 1.7 GB download, but no, right at launch it all downloaded and installed properly.

As well, Zen Pinball released Star Wars Pinball as a standalone app for Android recently, and not only does it work very well, but it also boasts the fact that it has actually released where the iOS version has not. While there could be approval issues in play, usually it’s Android versions of games that wind up getting delayed, like Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, or Temple Run 2.

What’s the reason for this? Well, Android is becoming a bigger player in the mobile gaming world just based on its size. There’s too many devices to ignore. And while EA/Firemonkeys and Zen Studios are both big players, what both of these apps show is that there are developers taking things seriously on this OS. More tools are being developed with both iOS and Android in mind. Unity is still huge and its momentum shows no signs of slowing down.

It may even be an on-the-ground perspective that some indie devs might bring to the table. When I was at a Chicago indie developer meeting recently with Julie Uhrman of OUYA, she asked the crowd how many people used Android phones, and how many people used iPhones. There were more hands raised for Android. While developers will try to go where the money is in order to succeed, there’s certainly interest from those who make these devices.

Granted, a lot of work still needs to be done in order to make Android a quality gaming contender. Issues still exist. But they’re definitely shrinking in number, which is miraculous for an OS known to have problems with its releases.