It would seem unfair to say a The Walking Dead Pinball review could only come from fans of the TV show. Yet considering everyone seems to be a fan to begin with, that doesn’t exactly put limitations on things. The Walking Dead has taken American zombie lovers by storm, but seeing a pinball table based on the show is still a bit surprising. Luckily, the team at Zen Studios knows what it’s doing and has crafted one of its finest tables to date.
The Walking Dead Pinball table has the unique distinction of having narrative elements alongside pure pinball mechanics. It seems odd at first, but Zen Studios has created several Star Wars tables built on specific plot points, and they’ve brought those lessons to bear in this latest pinball table.
The Walking Dead pinball table explores episodes and locations from the five episodes of Season One. The episodes follow the model from previous Pinball FX2 tables in that players can at certain points choose from a list of “mini games” that are tied to plot points and require players to hit certain targets to finish the narrative. You have to make some choices pretty quickly, and in some cases you may even make them accidentally because the interface isn’t always clear that you’re supposed to be making a decision.
These choices span locations such as Clementine’s treehouse and Everett’s pharmacy in Macon, and there are a few decisions to make on the walker-infested streets of Savannah. The choices are very simple, so it’s not like you’re exploring new The Walking Dead lore here. Some scenarios include choosing who to save and who to leave behind in a walker attack, finding rations or acquiring important tools. Others often involve yes/no types of things, like whether you tell your peers you’ve been wounded, or whether to fight or run away.
Depending on what you choose, the objectives, targets and recorded dialogue changes to reflect your decision. In a nice touch, the game’s original dialogue was actually recorded by the TV show’s cast.
The Walking Dead Pinball table is short and fast, but unlike the Star Wars Pinball Boba Fett table, it’s not so fast that it becomes less fun. Where some of the overhangs in other tables make the ball appear to come out of nowhere, the overall layout of this table lets you stay aware of the ball’s location at all times.
The game’s lone overhang doesn’t interfere with your view, and its reverse paddle mechanic provides a nice test for your brain if you make it up there. The one downfall in terms of table navigation is actually the thematic decor.
The Walking Dead TV show has a lot of similar color palettes, lots of rotting flesh and a ton of outstretched zombie arms flailing about. The Walking Dead Pinball table spices up the palette with vibrant lights, bumpers and props, but those elements can at times be distracting. It’s not the blinking itself that’s the problem, but the colors’ combination with all of the other moving parts on the table such as zombie arms, spinners, and ball-eating “ghosts.”
I found the speed of the table to be quite nice; not overpoweringly fast but also not too slow. In those few instances where the ball does seem to get away from you, it’s not due to the speed itself but the speed with which the ball gets “lost” in all the multimedia stuff.
The graphics in The Walking Dead Pinball table are astounding, but like Zombie Driver Ultimate Edition, all that detail in a small space ends up looking muddled in a few cases, and it has the adverse effect in many instances of compelling you to look at the environment to tray to make out what’s going on rather than focusing on the ball itself. This doesn’t happen regularly, so it’s not enough to be a “fatal flaw” for the table, but it’s enough to justify mentioning in this The Walking Dead Pinball review.
Still, I found myself going back for “just one more round” on a pretty regular basis. That’s generally a sign of a good pinball table. If you’re a fan of The Walking Dead TV show, you’ll probably enjoy going on a sort of Cliff’s Notes tour of Season One’s five episodes via this game. But even non-fans can find reasons to enjoy this new pinball table, because the narrative elements are pretty pedestrian and the general pinball action is really well executed.
If you’re looking to drop a few coins into the ol’ Pinball FX2 bucket, don’t rack your braaaaiiiiinnnnns too hard before deciding to pony up for The Walking Dead Pinball table. It’s really worth the investment, perhaps even more than a few of the Star Wars Pinball tables that seem to get all the geek love.