Urgh, that title. Usually add a ‘z’ at the end of a word that can usee an ‘s’ and I am immediately turned off. But I do like pinball, so sure I’ll give Zombie Rollerz a pass…For now!
Wow that sounds like I am about to put both boots in and give this game from Zing Games a right old kicking. Actually that couldn’t be further from the truth. I have a mixed experience with games with pinball mechanics.
From the great in ‘Yoku’s Island Express’ to the mediocre with ‘Creature in the Well’, to the outright dreadful.. I am looking at you ‘Roxy Racoon’s Pinball Panic’ in the Steam Next Fest. I went in to Zombie Rollerz with a bit of trepidation, especially as I played it after my awful experience with Roxy Racoon.
I mean it mixes Zombies with poor use of language (yes hypocritical I know) so expectations were low. But I was left with a pleasant surprise. You see for pinball to feel good it needs one things over all else… decent physics. Not realistic physics (more on that soon) but decent. It is why Yoku felt so good, but Roxy Racoon was terrible. In the former there was a connection withg the world and the ‘ba;;’, whereas in the latter it felt floaty and had a complete disconnect.
We’ll come back to the game shortly but first some context.
I am big into pinball right now, especially virtual pinball. You have likely heard of Pinball FX, The Pinball Arcade, etc. However delve deeper and you have VPX and Future Pinball who aim to offer 1:1 recreations of real world tables along with realistic fantasy tables.
Now, these are top of the league in terms of ‘real’ physics, lighting, etc. Which means the tables feel great to play on the software. A bad table is still a bad table, but it is a faithful recreation of that bad table. I played a LOT of The Addams Family in my youth and the VPX version is so close to the real world table in how it feel to play.
Now when I talk about physics being important you can look at the Pinball FX games over the last decade or so. The physics in those are not even close to that of ‘real’ or in VPX/FP, but they work for the game. The tables you play are super enjoyable, especially their fantasy tables. The Pinball Arcade did a better job of recreations personally. But get your physics to feel right with YOUR game and you can still produce something fun.
This is why Yoku felt so good as I alluded to earlier and it is why I am having a blast with Zombie Rollerz. What you have here isn’t a recreation of pinball, more a game that takes the ideas of pinball and runs with them, but stays closer to a table than Yoku does.
The first thing you notice is the art-style. Yes it helps to give the game an identity. but in Zombie Rollerz it has an extra effect. The cartoony cell-shaded look immediately gets me away from the mindset of playing a real table. So already I am open to the idea of some different things being possible. It is pure fantasy and doesn’t need to be grounded.
The other most important thing is how the game feels and within moments I feel I know how to play, it is pinball controls and that means I can at least do something. A few tutorials give me some extra buttons and features and they compliment the core mechanics really well.
Lobbing balls into area, hitting weapon and AoE targets all add to the experience as you try and fend of an advancing zombie horde. As this is what the game is in the end. Zombie Rollerz is a horde mode in a pinall game. It works so well and is instantly enjoyable.
It adds in some light RPG elements (I mean very light) as you unlock various new skills as you progress through the levels, with each new discovery tweaking the feel of the game just enough to keep it interesting.
Levels are challenging enough that some might require a couple of extra attempts to complete, but never too difficult that you feel stuck. Impressive for a title that started life as a mobile game. The are 11 bosses to fight too which again add a little something different to proceedings and keep interest levels high.
There are 10 different ‘heroes’ to choose from and the game’s four worlds are sort of randomly generated so you will get a slight different experience with each new playthrough. That’s the idea anyway, which leads me to my one major criticism.
After beating the game once, I did try to play again, but felt that I was doing so for the sake of this article rather than wanting to. It is pinball and I think the random generation works against the game in the long run. I would have happily played some levels over and over to compete for leaderboard scores, because that is one of the joys of pinball.
That isn’t saying Zombie Rollerz isn’t fun and enjoyable, it is just a one and done type game. Which if I am being honest with myself. Is just fine. I played this on the Switch, but it is also available on PC and I highly recommend giving it a chance.