Adieu, Game Boy Advance: PINBALL OF THE DEAD

The Pinball of the Dead
Genre: Pinball
Developer: Sega/Wow Entertainment
Publisher: THQ
Release Date: 06/18/02

I’m a big pinball fan, and I also love The House of the Dead games. So when this game came out four years ago, I was chomping at the bit for it. Three different pinball tables, all with a crazed zombies hungering for human flesh theme, complete with boss fights and the ability to mow down zombies with your giant silver ball o’ doom. How could anyone not love this game?

Much like The Typing of the Dead, PotD stays very true to House of the Dead 2, containing voice clips and even cinematics from the original Dreamcast release. You also encounter all the bosses from HotD2 in order in a repeating loop if you’re good enough o beat them all. Unlike Typing of the Dead though, this isn’t a remake with a keyboard exchanged for a controller; PotD is a straight up pinball game with skill shots, insane flipper action, and objects to hit. It’s just instead of bumpers, you might have to hit a giant zombie head. To activate a ball save, you might have to get your ball into the secret lab.

Each of the three tables has its own unique theme and play format. Even the space of the hole between the flippers differs on each table. On one, the flippers are actually severed human hands. Nice touch. “Wandering” has a clock tower/small town invade by the undead feel, “Movement” resembles a laboratory, and “Cemetery,” well actually, it doesn’t resemble a cemetery at all. The board appears to be made of human muscle.

For those of you who feel they might miss the rail shooter aspect of the parent series that spawned this game, not to worry. Before each ball, you have a first person shooter mode where you have one shot, and one shot only, to shoot down a rampaging zombie. Hey, at least it’s staying true to its roots, right?

Pinball of the Dead is quite possibly the hardest pinball game I’ve ever played on a console system. It’s unrelenting, the ball is much faster than in a normal pinball game and it has little regard for true pinball physics. Oddly enough, that’s a great deal of the fun. Killing zombies, banking shots, and hearing the game tell you that, “You have no future here.” When all your balls are exhausted is just plain cultish fun. It also features the longest tables I’ve ever seen in a pinball game.

One of the reasons this game has stayed so prominently in my head is that the GBA was my main source of gaming from May 2002 to May 2003. That’s what I call my “Year O’ England.” Pinball of the Dead managed to give me snippets of escapism while I sat there with those bastards in the Home Office in Croydon, England waiting to see what insanity they were going to pull on my Work Visa that day. Plus it allowed for some good natured competition between myself and my fiancee. PotD is the only game I can think of that she was actually better than me at. Okay, that and Tomb Raider, but f*ck if I care about Tomb Raider.

Like yesterday’s Bubble Bobble Old & New, Pinball of the Dead is hard to find, but very much worth tracking down. The cheapest I’ve seen it on Ebay is twenty-five dollars, so that gives you a rough idea of what you’ll be paying for it. believe me though when I say it’s worth every penny. PoTD is probably the more original and challenging pinball game you’ll find, and for those of you who are fans of this sadly dying genre, this is a game you need to own for your GBA. Jesus, four+ years old though? My, how the time flies.