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The Pinball of the Dead

Zombies. For years they’ve staggered and stalked their way into our hearts, ranging from classic horror movies to numerous video games. These days, we all see dead people; it’s as if the American culture has fallen in love with demented supernatural entities and rotting body parts. Yes, our life-deprived friends have been enjoying fame’s spotlight for years, letting us laugh at their unique dancing skills in music videos and making us jump out of our seats during mediocre horror flicks. With the advent of Resident Evil and plenty of other scary video game series out on the market, zombies have become a staple of the gaming industry. But while the majority of this generation’s consoles feature our favorite dead brethren, the GBA has only a limited supply to satiate zombie fans around the world. Thus Pinball of the Dead acts as a small treat for fans looking for some portable horror action.

You’ve shot them with bullets. You’ve obliterated them with magic spells. Hell, you’ve even hacked them with chainsaws. Now you get to kill zombies yet again…with a pinball? That’s right, all of you jaded horror fans, you get to take on an undead army using nothing but pinballs to see you through the night. For some unexplained reason, the dead have arisen from their graves to lay siege to your city. There’s no warning, no background story, just a brief cut scene of some zombie thugs trashing a car. While the utter lack of introduction is a little unnerving, your objective is made obvious. You assume the role of the gritty cop or government agent, ready and willing to stop the undead onslaught through whatever means necessary. But bravery isn’t going to ensure your survival. You must make use of your superior pinball skills and pray that the zombies don’t eat the flesh right off your bones. And if you manage to make it through this dark time, perhaps your high score will survive as well.

So you’ve got an entire city under attack. What’s a cunning pinball player to do? Luckily, the battle against the undead has been narrowed to three fronts, letting you concentrate the good fight onto pinball tables. Each of these arenas has its own unique setup and bonuses, forcing you to play for your life under different conditions. These tables have flippers, ramps bumpers placed strategically, creating a decent challenge for potential heroes. They thrust you into the very heart of evil, where buildings, laboratories, and even the local cemetery are overrun with the undead. The supernatural invasion isn’t something to be taken lightly; an infinite number of the baddies are constantly pouring out of every nook and cranny, creating a countless obstacles and a severe hindrance to your survival. Luckily, these zombies can be taken out with a single shot of the pinball, allowing you to break through the unrelenting forces.

However, you’re fighting a losing battle. You’re only one pinball player, going up against an endless sea of undead troops. A grim situation, indeed. Thankfully, you’ve got a few tricks up your sleeve. As the darkness consumes your soul and your pinball flippers falter, the high score bonuses shine like a light of salvation. The pinball boards are filled with secret holes and area just waiting to be discovered. Once you come across one of these areas, some demonic word like “Chaos” or “Nightmare” will flash across your screen. If you manage to hit these areas enough times, these words will spell out completely and grant you some sort bonus to aid you on your quest. These usually involve get more points, earning more lives, or playing with duplicate balls. If you manage to slay enough of the undead and rack up enough points, you’ll eventually gain access to the tougher bosses who lay waiting for your arrival. As the odds seem stacked high against you, you can at least go down fighting with your trusty pinballs in hand.

But as you’re waging war with the undead, take in the wonderful details of the pinball tables. The majority of the background scenery is portrayed with graphic detail, like the rotting head and giant grandfather clock on the Wondering Table or the giant mutant fetus on the Movement Table. It’s a shame the other features of the game lack the same quality. Every zombie is presented with quick and fluid attack animations, but they lack the overall detail necessary to making them look realistic. Despite the splash of blood flowing from every defeated zombie, you’ll be left wishing that more time was placed on the zombies. While the overall boards are a sight to behold, the individual characters seem a little too pixilated past the point of decency. Also, the voice acting and soundtrack sound bland scratchy, as if they were ported from an old record player. In he end, you’ll have nothing to do but turn down the volume, marvel at unbalanced details, and hopefully annihilate enough baddies to max out your high score again.

We need more pinball games in this generation of gaming. We all have our big name titles and fancy games, but does anyone actually take some time to play that forlorn and forgotten pinball machine at the arcade? Chances are, this genre of yesteryear won’t be making any strong comeback. While traditional pinball gaming has been thrown by the wayside in this new wave of popular gaming, future GBA pinball games will have to fend for themselves in a world of ports and remakes. But as the pinball genre fades into obscurity, Pinball of the Dead comes back to haunt us with its strange bland of the survival horror and pinball genres. While pinball veterans will feel right at home, horror fans may enjoy this unique hybrid. If you want to relive the good old days of the pinball era, try tracking down a copy of this game. And if you’re itching to smack around a few more zombies, look no further than Pinball of the Dead.

7 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2005.

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