Review: The Walking Dead Pinball – Zen Pinball 2 (Sony Playstation 3)

ZP2_PFX2_TWD_logoThe Walking Dead Pinball – Zen Pinball 2
Publisher: Zen Studios
Developer: Zen Studios
Genre: Pinball Arcade
Release Date: 08/26/2014

Zen Studios has been on a roll with their Pinball tables for me. The Star Wars tables they’ve put out have been fantastic and a lot of fun, but more importantly they were really inventive with it too so I was really excited to get my hands on their table based off The Walking Dead game franchise, in this case Season One. While we’re not getting a plethora of tables like we did with Star Wars, what they’ve packed into this one table covers the whole season in some interesting ways. Is it worth plunking down the few bucks to add the table to your collection? Let’s take a look.

There is a multiplayer option for the table to go with your single player experience. This table works much like the Star Wars tables in the way it plays and the way things interact. There are special scenes that kick off for each of the episodes with choices from those episodes in each that you can select with your bumpers and then trigger with the launch button. The board is laid out with several key events and settings from the first season and there’s nothing quite as satisfying as pinging the zombie that pops up out of a trap door with a pinball to the head. I really do like the layout of the table. It feels like you have room to breathe if you can keep control of the ball which seems to be fairly easy to maintain here. Like the other Zen Pinball 2 tables, the left and right bumper are controlled by L1 and R1 respectively with your X face button being the launcher. The idea is to keep the ball in play and trigger off the different events around the table and try to trigger all the events from the season.

The Walkind Dead Pinball - Protecting ClementineThe other thing they’ve put in is a few mini-games that trigger off different events like sniping zombies which require using the bumpers to move the scope and then the launch button to fire off a shot. You also have a few involving stopping zombies before they get to the bumpers. My favorite element is what stands in for the Everett Pharmacy where you have the ball in tight quarters trying to peg all the portraits around there before your ball passes by the smaller bumpers there. My one big complaint with the design is when you kick off a scene from an episode, the ball comes back into playright on top of a bumper which is going to make you lose your turn right away if you’re not on top of it. This happens on every scene, so once you’ve been nailed with it a few times you can anticipate it and be ready, but it’s a bit of an in your face thing that will really annoy most players off the bat.

Visually they’ve done a great job with the table and keeping the feel of The Walking Dead. All the character models look like they’re from the game and the same with the different sets around the table. They’ve done some neat things with lighting as well and threw in a night time setting to the table that really adds to the flavor they were going for. On top of that they’ve done some neat things with the balls. My favorite is switching it out for a soccer ball while Lee and Clementine kick one back and forth between the two of them. To tie into the visuals they’ve got a good selection of snippets from the voice cast from the first season as well, not just Lee and Clementine although you’ll hear those two the most. If you tend to launch your ball in the same areas you’ll get lots of repeated dialogue but they’ve hit the right balance of a good line chosen and not being terribly annoying if it’s repeated too often.

The Walking Dead Pinball - Dark EffectThere’s definite replayability here in trying to finish up the table, but also competing with friends and on the leaderboards for the higher score. That and being pinball, no two games are ever going to be the same. I think one of the neat things that’ll have me playing this one is the little touches that remind me of playing the first season of The Walking Dead. They’ve hit on the right bits that send you right back to the other game and they’ve kept it pretty personal which is how those moments were in the Telltale version. I think the only thing that has me balking a bit is the price tag which seems a little high for a single table, but actually playing it, I’d gladly pay for it as it hits all the things I love about this version of pinball. The table is definitely designed with some real challenges in mind so people who just enjoy a good table will like this one and those buying it for the tie into The Walking Dead can as well.

While this is a different license than I’m used to with Zen Pinball 2, there are a lot of similarities to other tables. Granted there’s only so much you can do with the pinball game before it ceases to be pinball anymore, but there’s a big air of familiarity even within the different modes and the way they do the different episodes and choices that reminds me a lot of the Star Wars tables based off of the specific films. They’ve definitely designed them differently in how they play out and things happen on the table, but the mechanic is very similar so people who’ve played the others will have a comfort level coming into this one. The table is well designed enough that I didn’t get bored with it. I’m kind of an erratic player but I managed to get huge chunks in playing this one before I put it down while I’d usually swap tables often playing other designs. This one has enough going on that you’ll be figuring out it’s in and outs for a while before you’re looking for something else to occupy your time.

The Walking Dead Pinball - SkyviewI think this is the first game based off of Telltale’s take on The Walking Dead as opposed to the TV show or comic and they managed to incorporate different elements from that first season that really made it great. On top of that it’s got the whole relationship between Lee and Clementine to play off of so even though it’s not been all that long since the first season came out there’s a great nostalgia factor to this as you remember the different moments as they come up while you’re playing. There are a lot of neat bits to it that make it stand out and I was intrigued just by the fact they made a Walking Dead themed table regardless of which part of the franchise it took after. Now I didn’t have any issues with this one at all. The only thing I did take issue with was a design choice and not a game glitch and I already mentioned that. The table is laid out well, the ball moves great, the collision detection is solid and overall it’s a great table to spend some quality time with. Well worth adding this one to your collection.

Short Attention Span Summary
The Walking Dead Pinball is a great addition to anyone’s Zen Pinball 2 collection. The table is laid out well, the ball moves great, and there’s that extra little touch that cues up as you play through it that really ties this one into the first season of the Telltale game series in a great way. Opting for the more subtle moments between Clementine and Lee as well as some of the bigger moments with the rest of the group from the first season was a great move that really makes playing it kick in that familiar feeling from Telltale’s game while you’re still having a blast with the pinball table. The table design has a lot of great elements from that first season along with some great audio choices that don’t get overly annoying with repetition and some lighting effects and choices that work perfectly with the license for the game. If you’re a pinball fan there’s enough challenge there and if you’re a Walking Dead fan it’s not so hard that you’ll be cursing your decision to pick it up.


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