Around every flipper
Zen Studios has been quite busy the past few years expanding its line of pinball tables; most of which have been in the form of licensed Marvel and Star Wars tables. There have been videogame-themed tables in the past -- such as Ms. Splosion Man and Plants vs. Zombies -- but it's been quite awhile since Zen has stepped outside of those colossal franchises.
It was slightly surprising when Telltale Games and Skybound Entertainment announced a partnership with Zen to create a table based on The Walking Dead: Season One, but welcome all the same. After spending some time with the table, it's everything I could have hoped for.
The Walking Dead Pinball (Google Play, iOS, Mac, PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 [reviewed], PlayStation Vita [reviewed], Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One)
Developer: Zen Studios
Publisher: Zen Studios
Released: August 26, 2014 (PSN) / August 27, 2014 (PC, Xbox 360) / August 28, 2014 (Amazon, Google Play, iOS, Wii U, Xbox One)
MSRP: $2.99 (Mac, PC, PSN, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One) / $1.99 (Android, iOS)
At this point, there's a few things one can expect from a Zen Studios table: phenomenal table design, art, and elements that separate it from any other table. To keep this short, that's all here. The table looks incredible and uses the same models with the same comic book cel-shading found in the game. Voice acting sounds particularly great here as Zen was uncharacteristically able to use the original voice clips. The soundtrack also sounds stellar, with a collection of atmospheric tracks playing throughout that sound like they were pulled straight from the game.
The Walking Dead Pinball is unquestionably a pinball table, but outside of where the ball is actually in play there are no walls giving the indication of playing a virtual pinball table. Instead, the field of play is set on a landscape of all the most memorable set pieces from each of the five episodes contained in The Walking Dead: Season One. Around the table, you will see scale representations of Clementine's house, St. John's barn, the Motel camp, a block of buildings from Savannah, and the train. On the table is the bell tower, boat, Everett's Pharmacy, and Lee interacting with Clementine. This is by far the most packed table to date.
Visually the table packs in every detail from Season One, but the missions do as well. Obviously the main missions are split between each of the five episodes, but how these play out is slightly different than the norm. While what is done to complete each mission is always the same, after selecting one to play the player has to immediately make a split-second decision pulled straight from the episode. Every time that same mission is selected, a different choice is presented. I don't think this adds up to anything in the end, but it's a really cool way to present the same mechanic on a pinball table.
Of course, no Walking Dead tie-in would be complete without zombies. Zen Studios sure doesn't let you forget they're there, either. Numerous zombies stumble around all the background sets, block the mission hole, are prominent all over the table art, and appear for some of the missions.
Speaking of the missions, they're as fun as they are interesting. Worth mentioning here are the sniper and defend-against-a-horde missions (which isn't to say I don't like the other missions). The sniper mission is similar to stuff that has been done in some of the Star Wars tables (a shooting gallery mini-game off-table), and the horde is similar to a mission in the Plants vs. Zombies table (hit the zombies that appear before they get too close). They were fun then, and still are within the context of this new table.
Everything we loved about The Walking Dead is presented again through a pinball table, and, with pinball and Walking Dead being two of my favorite things, it's a dream come true for me that something like this even exists. But even if you only like one or the other, The Walking Dead Pinball is still definitely worth your time and money, as it's an incredible addition to an already phenomenal lineup of pinball tables that delivers with every new entry.
Here's hoping we have future tables based on 400 Days and/or Season Two to look forward to.