As a lot of you are probably aware I do love a good pinball game and whilst I have recently been getting stuck into the likes of Diablo and Destiny I always feel the pull of The digital pinball games and my favourite is of course Zen Pinball 2. Zen have pulled off a bit of coup with the Marvel and Star Wars tables, household names and instantly recognisable characters which have only helped to build the popularity of their game but I was a little surprised when they announced they would be making a table based on the hit Telltale Games series The Walking Dead. Sure it is a successful television series but my first thoughts were that perhaps this wouldn’t sit as well with some of the other more universally friendly tables in their library which are based on real licences purely because of the subject matter.
Zen have been very clever with the table design, rather than having a seemingly random set of targets to achieve, the goals in The Walking Dead mirror the episodes of the Telltale Games offering. When the keep out sign is flashing you need to hit the walker three times and you gain access to the mission select hole. When an episode is triggered you get a choice of two paths to follow which are relevant to that episode, be it a choice of which character to save or looking for an escape route now as opposed to waiting until the cover of night the missions and the outcomes link in incredibly well to the story. In addition to the episodes there are various other modes which have all been smoothly integrated into the table, my favourite being the wave of zombies that you need to squish with the ball before you can roll the ball up into the bell tower and lure them away with the loud noise.
The only drawback of the episode structure is that although you can do them in any order you feel obliged to approach them just as you would the original game. The skill shot takes a little getting used to, usually successful completion of the skill shot challenge is linked to how much power you put into launching the ball for the first time but here you need to first launch the ball and then within 5 seconds you need to fire the ball up to the bell tower. It’s very tricky at first but find the right rhythm and you will soon be able to pull it off.
As you would expect from Zen Studios the graphics fit the theme of the table perfectly, gone are the flashy brightly lit lanes which we have been used to seeing in the Marvel tables and instead we are met with an accurate representation of the bleakness of The Walking Dead world. Aspects of the series are replicated on the table in a suitably eery fashion and fans will recognise some of the landmarks from the show. The 3d character models are well animated and even convey some personality, the interaction between the two main characters works really well and depending on the mission you select will depend on what they get up to on the bottom of the screen.
I’ve been pretty impressed with the audio on this table, when you select a mission the sounds that kick in are dependant on the episode you are playing and this does a great job of changing the atmosphere to reflect the story. A great example of this is when you are kicking a football about, you need to get the ball through the required lanes on the table but at the same time the characters are at the bottom of the screen having soe much needed respite by passing the ball between them, they do so to a more light-hearted bit of background music. It’s a lovely touch and the audio adds a little bit of humanity to the backdrop of the zombie apocalypse.
The table features some brand new voice work from the original cast of season one which is bound to please fans of the show, there is a fair amount of dialogue in each episode and it really makes a difference to the experience. Having the original voice actors involved together with the episodic nature of the table does result in a more gripping experience and there is a definite story theme to follow.
As with any Zen Pinball 2 table you have the option of local multiplayer by way of a “hot seat” option, get some buddies together, a few beers (optional) and take it in turns to play. Once you lose a life simply pass the pad over to the next player. If you are crushing zombies on the Vita or PS3 you can also enjoy online multiplayer either against a friend or just jump into a game with a random. This feature is still missing from the PlayStation 4 version and I am beginning to wonder if it will ever see the light of day, seriously Zen come on and sort this out, surely patching this can be done soon! That said it is with the score chase that the real competition lies, get a group of pinball loving mates on your friends list (like I am fortunate enough to have) and you can have more than enough fun trying to topple each others high score!
Zen are renownded by now for churning out quality tables and this certainly lives up to their reputation but something about this one didn’t quite hit the mark for me personally. I’m not sure if it is just the bleak contrast compared to some of the more bright and flashy tables but it just doesn’t seem as fun to play to me as most of the others. Don’t get me wrong this is still a very good table and I am sure that fans of the series will love it but I just don’t feel the urge to pick up and play as I would with other tables.