The Walking Dead Pinball: DLC review

  • Format: Pinball FX2 (PC, X360, XB1), Zen Pinball 2 (PS3, PS4, PSVita, Mac, Wii U), Zen Pinball (iOS, Android)
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: Zen Studios
  • Developer: Zen Studios
  • Players: 1
  • Site: http://blog.zenstudios.com/?p=4848

Telltale’s The Walking Dead was one of last year’s most critically acclaimed games, so that there is now a  spin off is no real surprise. What may be a little surprising is that it comes in the form of a pinball table in Zen Studio’s Pinball FX2 and Zen Pinball.

If you’ve ever played pinball, you should know what to expect mechanically: You guide a shiny ball around the table with flippers and try to rack up the points. There’s nothing new here on that level, but the reverent touches that give it a coat of The Walking Dead paint are great.

For example, there is a zombie on the board that reveals a hatch upon being hit a few times. When your ball enters the hatch, you are given the choice of the five chapters from the first season. Selecting one of these will give you one of the big choices of that chapter such as saving Carley or Doug, which you’ll do by carrying out an action like racking up a million points. This is a great way to pay homage to one of the original game’s selling points and draws upon your own memories to retell the story in a drastically different way.

There’s also a small enclosed area where you must take down a number of zombies to gain a point bonus which is fairly similar to moments where Lee had to shoot approaching hordes. It’s pretty great to see the way familiar scenes have been adapted like this.

While Walking Dead Pinball doesn’t really take advantage of the fact that it is a videogame, instead being limited to the confines of genuine pinball conventions and physics, there is a pretty good diversion from this when the game enters its night cycle. Either a zombie horde will appear marching down the table for you to hit and gain some points from, or a zombie head will roll around and make your ball disappear on contact. It’s restrained enough to keep pinball loyalists happy while also injecting some unique game elements – a good middle ground. While that’s a good start, it would have been great to see the fundamentals of pinball messed around with some more rather than such strict adherence to the limits of the real thing.

The table is surrounded by miniature elements of the original game such as Saint John Dairy, the train, and most of the other central locations. These are rendered in great detail and are a great trip down memory lane.

Lee and Clementine are also stood nearby, and they can even tug on your heartstrings in pinball! The ball will occasionally turn into a football, triggering a small scene to play out with the two kicking their own back and forth. When activating a mission, Lee will also kneel before Clementine. It is just another fantastic little touch that shows a reverence for and profound understanding of the source material.

This is also helped by a dose of voice acting from the original voice actors themselves, with Lee offering words of reassurance to Clementine or yelling when you screw up. You’ll also hear some familiar music.

Since the table is based on Season One rather than Season Two, if you aim the ball in a certain direction it will actually go there (Ha!). Sure, it will eventually end up somewhere else, but it will do so due to a natural sequence of events based on the elements within the table rather than completely and immediately invalidating your choice of direction.

The Walking Dead Pinball is a fantastic and faithful tribute that capitalises on the unique strengths of its source material in intelligent ways. While it would have been nice to see more implementation of the strengths of being a videogame, it stands on its own merits as a great pinball table.

critical score 8

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Written by Adam S

Hailing from Parts Unknown, Adam grew up with a passion for three things: Videogames, anime, and writing. Unfortunately his attempts to combine the three have yet to form Captain Planet, but they have produced some good byproducts.

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