It used to be carloads of people on the road to see the Dead playing. Now we will be seeing carloads of people playing the Dead on the road! Pinball Of The Dead lets you take the undead with you wherever you may roam. Pinball's feeling zombified!
Zombies! Who would have ever imagined that a mindless bunch of violent monsters would ever become the stars of so many video games? Well, besides the WWE games of course. All jokes aside, however lame they may be, the zombie has always been a favorite character in video games most prominently made (in)famous in the survival-horror Resident Evil series and the first-person, light gun toting, if-it’s-undead-shoot-it House of the Dead series. As any successful series tends to, both of these series have branched out into other genres. Resident Evil brought us the horrible first person shooter Resident Evil Survivor and now House Of the Dead finds its way into the expected genre of survival... pinball?! Horror pinball is a genre not since visited Alien Crush and Devil’s Crush for the PC Engine/TG-16. And it’s a genre I personally coined and am trying to copyright so I can rake in the millions as it explodes in the next few years.
The presentation of each of the three pinball tables is top notch. Each of these tables brings you into a setting straight out the House Of the Dead series and creates a nice individual atmosphere that makes each board its own unique world in itself. Each playfield has a dark, yet highly visible, feel to it with zombies and other undead roaming around as moving targets for you to bash with your ball. These “enemies” are well animated and the programmers even paid as much detail to their realism as to add perfect shadows that are cast on the ground as they stalk across the playfield. Before each boss battle you are also treated to a nicely animated FMV introduction to prepare you for the confrontation ahead.
The sound is another area where this title really shines through the darkness. Each of the music tracks sounds straight out of House Of the Dead 2, with its dark cyber beats that fans of the series have come to love. As with any pinball game worth its weight in quarters, Pinball Of the Dead is loaded with cheesy sound bites from the series, including my personal favorite: “Go Kuarl!,” when you face Judgment Type 28 in a boss battle. Zombies also groan when you hit them, scream as they explode, and tons of other sound effects set off as your ball rockets around the board.
Control of course is a non-issue in this game. It’s simple and effective, as anyone would expect. You can use the L & R shoulder buttons or the much more comfortable Left on the D-pad & A button. No pinball game would be complete without the bump option which can executed by hitting Up or Down on the D-pad.
With three pinball levels to choose from there is plenty to do gameplay-wise. Each level also includes several triggers or objectives that, when met, result in bonus points, boss battles or even a giant zombie head bursting through a manhole waiting to taste the vengeance of your cold steel ball. The boss battles warp you into a cool stylized room that represents a boss encounter from past House Of the Dead first-person shooter games. Unfortunately these confrontations consist of nothing more than smacking the ball around the room and smacking them upside the head, so the only challenge involved is making sure you keep the ball from slipping past your flippers. There is also a nice little tutorial mode that will show you around each board and explain objectives to you. The only slight problem I have found in the gameplay is the ball is a little too light for my liking, which reduces a well aimed shot to a lucky slap of the flipper as the floating ball happens to hit what you’ve lined up.
Even after I pretty much consider what’s shown above a praising review, I still cannot honestly suggest anyone that is not either a die-hard pinball or House Of the Dead fan pick this game up. While it is true there are a nice number of “machines” and a few modes to check out, once you have beaten all the bosses and completed the objectives of the boards there is little to go back for. After all, pinball just doesn’t have the hands on experience and novelty on a video game platform as it does on an actual stand-up pinball machine. Overall, Pinball Of The Dead is a solid first effort, but I have to wonder if there is honestly a need for a follow-up. You really can’t take the restrictive nature of bringing the pinball experience to video game systems much further.