Until now, the only moral dilemma in relation to pinball took place in California’s Bay Area, where the popular arcade staple was inexplicably banned by Oakland authorities, who believed it to be a youth-corrupting force of gambling evil. But that eighty-year old ban was recently lifted, and now we have this mind-blowing new virtual table based on the first season of Telltale’s Walking Dead, that gem of branching moral choices and harrowing zombie heartbreak.
Whether you have played the source material or not, the claustrophobia and cloying sense of fear and desperation are obvious in The Walking Dead. You undertake missions based on key moments from the original game, each of them involving a crushing decision to make – involving such doozies as choosing whether or not to reveal that infected bite, or deciding which person to leave behind. In pinball terms, these “missions” of course translate to the table by setting targets to hit, combos to rack up, or locking down balls – but there are also some other cool touches like an excellent sniper section that employs use of the flippers, face buttons and touch screen to pick off “walkers” in the distance.
The table is beautifully designed, too. There are some wonderful, wonderful moments – like the crushingly poignant minigame that sees the ball transformed into a football (of the soccer variety) and a task that involves Lee breaking up the continuous undead horror by having a kickabout with the kids. Sound effects and music are ripped straight out of the original game, with some new voice acting thrown into the mix to boot. The music is eerie, atmospheric and perfectly measured, and sounds particularly ace when played on your Vita through a set of half decent headphones. Yet again the physics, the wealth of options, the cross-platform play, everything is just sickeningly spot-on.
Never the most obvious inspiration for some flipper-on-ball action, the dark and sombre world of Clementine and Lee is nonetheless transferred effortlessly into the realms of Zen Pinball. Fans of the game Godisageek nominated as our GOTY will love this clever companion piece and be hoping for a similar treatment for Season 2. Everyone else will love this fine table for what it is, and probably get a craving for sampling the inspiration, the same way our zombie buddies crave braaaaaains.
VERDICT: We are starting to sound like a broken record here, but Zen’s mastery and understanding of both table design and expert use of a license put them right up there with the best that gaming 2014 has to offer. There are so many more gaming worlds for Zen to conquer, and we look forward to pinging a shiny silver ball through as many of them as possible.
SUPERB. This is the mark of greatness, only awarded to games that engage us from start to finish. Titles that score 9/10 will have very few problems or negative issues, and will deliver high quality and value for money across all aspects of their design.
Review code provided by publisher.