Version Reviewed: 1.0
App Reviewed on: iPhone 5
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It is no secret that the folks over at Zen Studios have had an extremely busy year making sure that no pinball fan gets bored. In the past eight months alone, they've tackled the likes of Star Wars, Guardians of the Galaxy, Deadpool, Dr. Strange, and now Telltales’ re-envisioning of The Walking Dead. The resulting, The Walking Dead Pinball, is a curious take on an already critically-lauded series. Can it live up to the high bar of excellence or will the end result lack the emotional resonance associated with the brand?
First off, lets not lose sight of one key factor: The Walking Dead Pinball assumes that you're familiar with the story from the game's first season. There's relatively little explanation short of knowing that there's a collection of folks that are trying to stay alive, foremost amongst them Lee and Clementine. Outside of that, the table acts as a Sparknotes retelling consisting of several pivotal “decisions” from the game.
Upon starting missions, players will need to hit certain lit ramps and environmental elements or play mini-games that take place beyond the confines of the table. For example, why not participate in a first-person shooting gallery where you're looking down the barrel of a gun? It makes for an interesting juxtaposition against a later mission where you're playing soccer with the kids in order to try and raise their spirits. Feel free to scoff, but as pinball games go The Walking Dead Pinball shows extensive variety.
If there's one key place that the table proves a letdown, it's the decision trees. In Telltale’s original storyline, decisions had a significant impact. When the player is given the chance to relive these situations here, rarely (if ever) does it actually affect the way a mission plays out. Heck, it doesn’t even influence the objectives. Honestly, it's nothing more than a superficial callback to the original subject matter that feels out of place.
Also, can we please stop it with the "pay money to continue a round" notice after draining the last ball? This is most certainly not the first game to try it, but it feels tacky and wrong every time it appears.
Despite the lack of continuity with the base material, as a proper pinball game The Walking Dead Pinball is a well-designed table that still warrants playing. However, given that the game doesn’t really offer any of the special features found in Zen’s other standalone hubs like Star Wars Pinball, players may be better served picking this table up as a DLC pack instead. But regardless of how you consume it, this just another example of why Zen is the modern master of virtual pinball.