Hands-on With the Physical Stern Star Trek Pinball

Star Trek has had a good history with pinball, with a couple decent-to-good 70s tables and the excellent if difficult Star Trek: The Next Generation in the 90s.  Stern got ahold of the Star Trek license last year and created one of the best new tables in recent memory.  Say what you will about the two new Star Trek: The Lensflare Syndrome movies, they make a really fun pinball.

The table I got to play is brand-new, with all the lights bright and sharp and the flippers having that fresh, snappy feel.  It’s one of eight in the back of my local comics place, Coast City Comics, and the owner describes it a mashup between Star Trek: The Next Generation and Attack From Mars, albeit in a thinner cabinet.  What this means is that there’s plenty of ramps feeding off both lower flippers to zip the ball around back to the bottom of the play field, setting you up to combo one target into another.  The missions score by completing the lit ramp shots, comboing one into another to rack up the bonus.  There are several different multiball modes available for completing the objectives, and it’s pretty easy to get at least one satisfyingly chaotic round of balls flying all over the place per game.

While the layout is fairly standard, with a bumper area at the top underneath the rollover targets that activated the bonus multiplier and ramps pretty much where you’d expect, the flow of the table feels just right.  Using the upper-right flipper to whip the ball around the left side-ramp a few times in a row, or weaving a left-right-left ramp combo as one shot feeds into another back at the bottom flippers, is nicely satisfying when the ball goes where you hope you’ve put it.  The starship Vengeance is a fun toy sitting in the top middle of the board, and there’s even a button you can smack to shoot a torpedo at the Vengeance in the center below the field glass, if you don’t mind pulling a hand from the flippers.

Star Trek is a fantastically satisfying pinball, nothing overly fancy but designed for pure fun.  Each game I played made me want to play again, even when the last couple ended disappointingly quickly due to a sudden and unexpected bout of sucking really bad.  Unlike Stern’s disappointing The Walking Dead (which I’ve come to enjoy less and less each time I’ve played it since its initial write-up) there’s no boring space here, nor cheap deaths due to poorly-placed exits.  Star Trek feels like a game that wants you to have fun playing it rather than simply take your quarters and spit you out fast so the next player can be processed just as quickly, but still isn’t willing to just hand over all the points.  It’s got an excellent balance of fun and skill, and is a pinball any enthusiast should be happy to have in their collection.