Virtual reality offers players a gaming experience that nothing else can quite match. You aren’t just watching a TV as your character slays hordes of monsters or explores fantastical places, you are doing those things yourself.
Now, Star Wars Pinball VR is showing that virtual reality can breathe new life into classic experiences too. Not only is Star Wars Pinball VR the best entry in the series, but it’s already one of my favorite VR games. Star Wars Pinball VR proves you don’t always have to be doing battle with Darth Vader, or piloting your own X-Wing to have fun.
The way Zen Studios uses virtual reality to make something simple shine gives me hope that other developers might start doing the same too. Hopefully, more VR projects can find more ways to soup-up existing gaming experiences for players. Here’s why I want to see that happen.
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In a galaxy not so far away
What makes Star Wars Pinball VR so fantastic is that it does exactly what it sets out to do: make a great Star Wars pinball game. The pinball tables feel more alive than any that pinball video games have offered before.
You have an in-the-flesh perspective on the mechanics of the game, being able to actually pull the launcher and push in on the buttons. The lights and sounds all make it feel as if you’re actually standing in front of a table, and there’s been more than one occasion where I’ve tried to lean on the damn thing only to nearly fall over.
Sure there are some minor letdowns - only six of Zen Studios’ previous 19 Star Wars tables have been adapted for this game, and the game’s menus could be streamlined to better fit the new VR format - but none of that matters once the machine lights up and the game kicks off.
Star Wars Pinball VR features a ‘Fan Cave’ - a space filled with Star Wars memorabilia, much of which you’ll unlock as trophies by playing. My only wish is that I could spend more time in the room, perhaps while having a multiplayer pinball hangout or even watch a Star Wars movie surrounded by posters and statues of my favorite characters.
None of this might seem special, particularly when compared to the likes of Pistol Whip or Vader Immortal (two relatively ambitious VR titles), but there’s a beauty to the simplicity of Star Wars Pinball VR. The tables are able to come to life with animated ships and characters that react to your playing, in ways that real-life pinball tables can’t match, including with mini-games that bring you face to face with the likes of Yoda and The Mandalorian himself.
A new hope for VR
These opportunities for augmenting real life is an area I hope VR explores more deeply, as there are some easy opportunities out there if developers want to take them. On the same trend as VR pinball, I’d love to see a virtual arcade filled with different cabinets.
The sounds and lights from each arcade machine could transport us back to the early days of gaming, but this time you won’t have to wait in-line to play that one machine everyone loves. With multiplayer you and a mate might even be able to play next to each other; both racing for that high score at the same time.
Or perhaps imagine a Lego VR game where you can sit and construct whatever you please with an endless supply of pieces in an array of shapes and colors, or a tabletop game where you can see the world from the perspective of the pieces. You could roll your dice by swinging your sword or waving your wand for added immersion. Both of which you could do alongside other VR players, where games take more advantage of the growing popularity in both virtual hangouts and VR.
For people who aren’t used to VR, these more relatable experiences are a great introduction too. Everyone’s familiar with games like pinball and classic arcades, and because you don’t have to move anywhere, you don’t have to worry as much about motion sickness.
Just because VR is so new, developers shouldn’t feel they have to do something crazy and different from what’s available. Star Wars Pinball VR shows there’s loads of potential to take something good from real life, like a classic pinball machine, and make it truly great with some extra virtual reality bells and whistles. I hope more developers follow the lead of Zen Studios soon.
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