The Walking Dead – Pinball FX2 Review

More bumper bashing, flipper hammering and ramp shooting score chasing from the only name in console digital pinball that matters.

2 new tables in as many weeks? We are spoiled, Zen Studios.  Taking its theme and appearance from Telltale Games’ excellent adventure series rather than the comic or TV show (and thankfully not from the God-awful FPS) The Walking Dead is the newest table for Pinball FX2/Zen Pinball.

After the relative generosity of the Guardians of the Galaxy table in terms of activating modes and acquiring score (see the review HERE) , The Walking Dead is not unlike being kicked in the knackers by a large navvy wearing hobnails.

It has to be said at this point reviewing pinball tables is quite difficult. There’s no real story or characterisation to comment on, the base mechanics are largely the same from table to table and the visual and audio fidelity tends to be consistent across them all because they all run on the same engine and aren’t particularly resource hungry hogs. It largely comes down to the design of the table and the mode activation, which is highly dependent on the skill of the person playing it. If that person seems to be a potato fisted idiot then it’s difficult to get a handle of how well designed a table is or isn’t.

The main problem is the ramps seem to be difficult to hit, especially the skill shot ramp on the right which seems to require almost pixel perfect timing (there’s a phrase from the 90s for you). The name implied by ‘Skill Shot’ means that it should be difficult to hit, but this is erring on the side of ridiculous with almost every attempt ending in Lee wondering “Did I miss something?”

The modes are triggered by hitting a walker (zombie to you and me) in the face until he drops back in his hole, then hitting the socket revealed by him. Then you’re asked to use the flippers to choose a mode, all of which are named after the 5 episodes in the first season of the adventure game, and after being asked to make a decision by the dot matrix display, for example ‘Save Shawn or Duck?’ or ‘Look for help or wait for night?’ you’re into the mode. It’s not actually clear what these decisions actually do should you complete the mode, so it feels like they had to crowbar the notorious decision making from the Telltale games in somewhere.

The modes are generally varied instead of just being of the “hit these ramps” variety, with you knocking down walkers that appear on the table, hitting the pop up zombie and then targets and then zombie again and even going into the Sniper mini game where you use the flippers to aim left and right and the launch button to shoot them down.

There are the usual ramp hitting modes, though, which are triggered by shooting for orbits and ramps, which have marvelously relevant  themes like searching for ammo and food, playing football with the kids to keep their spirits up (and the ball skin changing from silver to a football) and searching for paths around walkers.

All the modes seem incredibly difficult, with very tight countdowns and will only reward the most accurate of players. The Scout Ahead mode especially, as you have to hit specific ramps which are guarded by a walker-ball. If you hit it your main ball is reset and relaunched, losing seconds while it gets round the orbit and back to the flippers, which can be infuriating. Thinking about it though, all this is in keeping with the down-to-the-knuckle theme of the Walking Dead universe, where life, decisions and surviving are all difficult.

Zen can’t be knocked for keeping true to the Telltale games on which the table is based. The music, the vocal cues and the look of the table are all atmospheric and pretty unique, and, as played out as the genre is, it’s pretty great to have a zombie themed table that’s based on a decent franchise instead of something generic they could have churned out or, God forbid, based around Dead Island.

If you’re a Zen fanatic, chances are you’ve bought the table as soon as it was available and this review is a bit moot. Still, it’s a decent table, it’s just one of the crotch punchingly hard ones.