Only if You're Dying to Play Pinball
Written: Nov 16, 2005
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
Pros:complex, sticks to theme, no weird bounces or impossible ball movements
Cons:not addictive, very dark, very busy, difficult to figure out
The Bottom Line: Pokemon Pinball is better
Pinball of the Dead is a horror-themed pinball game for the Gameboy Advance. Composed of three different boards filled with zombies, monsters, and other horror flick regulars, it adheres very well to its theme. Unlike most of the other pinball games for the GBA, it's not cartoonish and it has tight, small passages and lots of very small holes, tabs, and notches to hit. This is a pinball title trying to attract the serious gamer not just fans of Pokemon or Pac-Man or cartoon character du jour.
While all three boards fit the theme, they're very different. Each covers about three screens vertically; boards one and two have three separate levels while the third level has a more open layout with a double-sized bottom level and a top level. The first and third boards are fairly generic pinball layouts; I've seen variants of both in a lot of different games. The second board is more original with a closed bottom level (there's a roller that opens access to the second level under certain conditions), a middle level with double flippers, and a top level consisting of a cyclone ramp that builds energy as you circle it.
Like most pinball games these days, there are both bonus states (awarded for completing some task or hitting certain elements in a set order or a set number of times) and one-on-one battles against bad guys (called bosses here) that take place off board. Unfortunately, other than battling bosses on the first board, it's nearly impossible to get any of these bonuses or extra games. Many of them seem to require hitting the same hole, usually in fairly difficult to hit spots, many times. These holes use words to measure progress and the shortest word is "Mercy". Each time you hit a hole, one of its letters lights up. Presumably once you've completed the word some type of bonus or special mode is awarded but, despite playing each board several dozen times, I've yet to actually finish a word and find out for sure. The words reset after each ball and they're just too hard to hit to get five or six or seven or more times with a single ball.
I haven't even figured out what you need to do to reach a battle with the bosses on the second and third boards. The boss games on the first board are extremely simple and easy to win. All you have to do is hit one or two large moving targets once or twice and you've gotten an easy bonus. I win at least 90% of my boss fights which is ridiculously high for a bonus game.
In general, the boards are so busy and so filled with things you can hit that it's difficult to correlate specific actions with specific results. I think I've figured out how to get the bonus multiplier on the first board but I'm not positive and I'm clueless about the other boards. Every so often when I'm playing something completely unexpected happens and I have no clue how I launched the mode. Pinball of the Dead is very much a "keep the ball alive and see what happens" game rather than a strategy-based pinball game. I play a lot of pinball and I've figured out the basics of most boards within a handful of games. I've played many more than that here and have yet to figure out much of anything.
Pinball of the Dead is, as expected, rather dark. It has a lot of very small creatures running around everywhere and it's not difficult to lose track of the ball for a second or two amidst all of the activity. It's also fairly easy to pick up again most of the time because the ball actually seems to obey the laws of physics very well. There are no odd bounces, no weird corners that trap balls that should bounce off, no zooming through bodies without slowing down or changing course or showing other reasonable effects of the collision. Pinball of the Dead is a meticulously planned and executed game.
By all rights, I should really love this game. I'm a pinball junkie and this is a complex, mature game. It's also extremely busy and difficult to figure out and it just isn't as much fun as other pinball games I play. I really don't know why, but it's just not very addictive. I have no trouble putting it down after a game or two. If I pick up Pokemon Pinball, I'll play until my batteries die or I fall asleep with the game in my hands or something else interrupts me. While Pinball of the Dead isn't a bad game, unless you really want the tighter passageways, hordes of monsters, and darker graphics or you refuse to support the Pokemon empire, any pinball fan would be much better off with Pokemon Pinball instead.
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