Zen Pinball 2: The Walking Dead (PlayStation 4) Review

By Gareth F 10.09.2014

Review for Zen Pinball 2: The Walking Dead on PlayStation 4

By propelling a steel ball at high speed across all the main console, handheld and mobile platforms via the excellent Pinball FX/Zen Pinball series, Zen Studios has stealthily wormed its way into the hearts and minds of pinball fanatics worldwide. The latest feature packed table to join its already sizeable roster is based on Telltale Games' award winning story set within Robert Kirkman's Walking Dead universe. Also available on Wii U, PS3, PS Vita, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Steam, Mac, iOS, Android and Amazon Fire, Cubed3 sneaks past the walkers to take the PS4 version to forage for supplies.

Way back in 2003 The Walking Dead started life as a graphic novel which chronicled the hardships of police officer Rick Grimes who, upon awaking from a coma, found himself seemingly abandoned in a hospital and knee deep in a good old fashioned zombie apocalypse. Being a story rife for the picking it was no surprise when several years later AMC picked up the television rights and turned it into an immensely popular series that is currently four seasons deep, with a fifth season in production. Pitting zombies (or walkers as they're commonly referred to) up against the endurance of the human spirit and its sheer bloody mindedness to survive during an end of days scenario is always going to be a winning formula, so it was fairly inevitable that at some point the video game industry would jump into the fray with its own interpretation of events.

Jump in it did, with not one, but two games facing off against the walker threat. Activision took a swing and a miss with a lacklustre first-person shooter called The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct that positively screamed 'cheap cash in' and was poorly received by both critics and fans alike. Thankfully Telltale Games chose a totally different direction for their pitch, opting for an episodic, drama-filled adventure set within the same time frame as The Walking Dead graphic novels, but concentrating on a totally different group of survivors. Central to Telltale's story is the burgeoning relationship between Lee Everett and Clementine, two disparate strangers who have been thrown together in adverse circumstances and form a bond that grows stronger with each passing chapter. As Lee, the player is forced to make some fairly horrendous decisions throughout the course of the journey with repercussions that impact on how the rest of the story unfolds and how the other characters react to him, which may ring a few bells for those familiar with the Mass Effect series. Telltale did such a great job with the story that even the most hard hearted would struggle not to get emotionally involved with these characters as they're thrown from one ordeal to the next.

How on earth does Zen Studios propose to encapsulate this in pinball form?

Screenshot for Zen Pinball 2: The Walking Dead on PlayStation 4

With a sizable selection of Star Wars and Marvel pinball tables already under its belts it's safe to say that Zen Studios is no stranger to tackling a big license or two, and if Plants vs. Zombies is included then The Walking Dead is actually its second steel ball foray involving shambling corpses. Whereas Farsight's The Pinball Arcade specialises in recreating actual real life physical tables, Zen, unhampered by the limitations of reality, is able to add an additional dimension to its output with animated characters that interact with the play field and occasionally get involved with the action. Employing a central hub to access all the tables makes it very easy for Zen to deliver a smooth, consistent experience across the board, so players with previous Zen time under their belts should know exactly what to expect with The Walking Dead. Multiplayer is catered for locally with hot seat 'pass the controller' style play for up to four players, but there is also the unusual option (for a pinball game, at least) to have a split-screen head-to-head mode for two people. Unfortunately Zen seems to have abandoned online multiplayer for the latest generation of consoles, but there are a variety of leader boards that do a great job of emphasising exactly how much better at pinball everybody else in the world is than oneself.

One thing always apparent with Zen's work is that the team has a genuine love of what it's doing and approaches each license as fans first and foremost, which definitely comes across with the attention to detail it lavishes on each table created. The Walking Dead covers the events of the first season of Telltale's story, which would suggest the possibility of a season two table making an appearance somewhere down the line, and anybody familiar with the first five chapters should recognise the locations dotted around the outskirts of the play area, such as Clementine's treehouse, the Everett's Pharmacy, the motel that provided a temporary refuge for the survivors and the St. John's Dairy. Each chapter of the story has its own mode on the table, which, when activated, brings up similar life or death choices to those the player faced in the original game. It's probably worth pointing out at this stage that there are some very mild spoilers for Telltale's opus contained within The Walking Dead pinball, but taken within the context that they appear it's unlikely to give too much of the story away for those yet to play it. Amongst other things, the player will also be tasked with sniping the walker menace from a safe distance, foraging for scraps of food for the hungry mouths at base and keeping the group morale up via the medium of kicking a football back and forth.

Screenshot for Zen Pinball 2: The Walking Dead on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

It's actually refreshing to see Zen release a table that isn't affiliated to Marvel or Star Wars for once, and as per usual the team has pulled out all the stops to deliver a product that does Telltale Games' franchise justice. The Walking Dead is an easy recommendation to anybody with more than a passing interest in pinball, and it's certainly one of the nicest tables Zen has released in some time. Picking this up should be a no brainer.

Developer

Zen Studios

Publisher

Zen Studios

Genre

Table Games

Players

4

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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