While there are a lot of things to like about AAA video game studios, in recent years I have really started to shift my attention more to indie developers. A lot of this is due to the cost of AAA games being so high that few developers can afford to try something new for fear that it will fail and they will lose a lot of money. This is where indie video games can jump in as the financial risk is much lower allowing them to try unique new ideas. I bring all of this up because as soon as I saw Zombie Rollerz: Pinball Heroes I knew that it was a game that I wanted to check out. I have played a lot of different indie video games, and I can honestly say that I don’t think I have ever played one quite like Zombie Rollerz: Pinball Heroes. The game originally started as a mobile game, but with some additions the game is making its PC and Nintendo Switch debut today. Zombie Rollerz: Pinball Heroes is one of the most original game ideas that I have played in a long time and is a blast to play, even if it is better in shorter doses.
Zombie Rollerz: Pinball Heroes is an unconventional combination of video game mechanics. At its core the game plays like a tower defense game. Zombies will spawn and will proceed to try and attack you. You need to try and hold them back for as long as you can. Each zombie that reaches you will start to attack which will deal damage to you. You only have a limited amount of health so you need to limit the number of zombies that are able to reach you.
Where the game differentiates itself from most tower defense games is that instead of using towers to defend yourself, you will use pinball mechanics. You basically have a giant ball which will damage enemies that it bumps into. You will use your paddles at the bottom of the screen to hit the ball trying to hit the zombies as well as other items on the screen to damage and slow down the zombies.
All of this is combined with rogue-lite mechanics. You are dropped into a hex grid world where you can move around and choose where you want to move next. In the world there are various enemy positions that you can fight and other things that you can interact with. The map is randomly generated each run. The zombie horde slowly encroaches on your position though so you need to pick and choose where you will go. In your journey you will acquire various items and abilities which will make you more powerful. This is needed as you face off against more powerful enemies. Each world has a final boss that you must defeat in order to move onto the next world. Your ultimate goal is to try and survive for as long as possible. Should you die you will lose all of your progress and will be sent back to the very beginning on your next run. Based on your previous successes, you will unlock additional starting items which should improve how well you will do on future runs.
When I first saw the premise of Zombie Rollerz: Pinball Heroes I knew that it was a game that I wanted to check out. I really appreciate when games try something new and I can’t say that I have ever played a video game quite like it before. While I haven’t played a lot of tower defense games recently, I have always been a pretty big fan of the genre. The idea of combining a tower defense game with a pinball game might seem odd at first, and yet it works surprisingly well.
I don’t know exactly how to explain it, but the gameplay of Zombie Rollerz: Pinball Heroes just feels so natural. Instead of hitting the ball into specific sections of the board in order to score points, you are trying to hit the ball so it will collide with the zombies dealing damage and ultimately destroying them. While I don’t mind an occasional game of pinball, I wouldn’t call myself a huge fan of the genre. A lot of this is because I am not really the type to chase after high scores. Zombie Rollerz: Pinball Heroes plays a lot like a typical pinball game, and yet it feels different as well.
I think this comes from the fact that instead of hitting static elements on the pinball board/table, you are trying to hit moving targets. Enemies will come from all areas on the screen so you always need to be aware of when enemies are near your paddles so you can defeat them before they start hurting you. There is just something really satisfying about hitting a pinball straight into an enemy that is nearing your position. I can’t exactly explain why, but it is quite addicting when you set off a chain that mows down a bunch of zombies.
The addition of special abilities and different characters that you can choose from has an impact as well. Whenever you beat a group of zombies or interact with different locations in the world you will acquire various abilities and items which will help you in your journey. Some of these just make your pinball stronger, while others give you special abilities that can apply status effects to zombies or impact them in some other way. Your choices are usually limited to one of two options, but between the choices you make and the character you choose to play as you can create a unique character/build that works well with how you like to play the game.
I was quite intrigued by Zombie Rollerz: Pinball Heroes, and yet I think I was still a little surprised by it. If the concept doesn’t sound all that interesting, it is unlikely going to be for you. If the concept intrigues you at all though, I think you will really enjoy playing it. The game on its surface is simple, and yet it works really well in action. Each stage only takes a couple of minutes to complete, but you will want to jump into the next right away.
While I really enjoyed my time with Zombie Rollerz: Pinball Heroes, there were two issues that held the game back a little in my opinion.
The first issue comes from the rogue-lite mechanics. I personally wouldn’t consider the rogue-lite genre to be one of my favorites. One of the reasons I don’t love the genre is due to the reliance on luck and the fact that you have to keep replaying the same levels over and over again in order to make any progress. The levels in Zombie Rollerz: Pinball Heroes are procedurally generated so no two games will ever be exactly the same. Thus the skills/abilities/items you acquire throughout each run are also pretty random. Because of this your success can rely on quite a bit of luck. Get a good combination of abilities and items and you will likely do really well. If luck is not on your side it will be much harder to make progress in the game. With everything in the game being randomized, there really wasn’t a way to avoid this happening. With most runs taking around an hour to complete though, it kind of sucks getting stuck in one where you don’t have much chance of winning because you didn’t get the right abilities/items.
This indirectly leads to the other issue I had with the game. I really enjoyed playing Zombie Rollerz: Pinball Heroes, but I wouldn’t say that it is the type of game that I would play all of the time. While everything in the game is randomized, the whole gameplay experience doesn’t change all that much. You will have access to different abilities and world to explore, but the main gameplay doesn’t change all that much. Thus after a while the game can become a little repetitive. To get the most out of the game I would recommend taking your time playing it. Play a run and then come back to it another day. I just don’t really see the game being the type that you will want to play for hours at a time as it will then start to feel “samey”.
As for the game’s length, it really depends on the type of player that you are. Being a rogue-lite it is the type of game that you are supposed to keep playing trying to do a better job each run. Each stage only takes a couple of minutes at most while the length of a run is going to depend on how successful you are. If you make it pretty far into a run it likely will take at least an hour. How much time you get out of the game is ultimately going to depend on how much you are going to want to play the game to try and do better than your last run. If you are the type of player that will only play a couple of runs and then move onto something else, you may not get a lot of time out of the game. If you like to keep playing a game to get better at it though, I think the game has a lot of offer as there are ten different characters to play as, and there are a bunch of things to unlock.
When I consider checking out new video games, one of the first things I look at is creativity/originality as I would rather play something completely different than another game utilizing the exact same mechanics. This is what initially intrigued me about Zombie Rollerz: Pinball Heroes and one of the main reasons that I really enjoyed the game. I have played a lot of different video games and yet I can’t ever recall playing a game that combines elements of tower defense and pinball. The concept might sound odd but it works surprisingly well. The gameplay is quite addicting and the game gives you a lot of options to customize to optimize how you like playing it. If the concept intrigues you at all, you likely will get a lot of enjoyment out of it. Zombie Rollerz: Pinball Heroes does rely on some luck at times though. The biggest complaint that I had with the game is just the fact that I think it is more enjoyable in shorter doses as it can get a little repetitive after a while if you play it for long stretches of time.
Does the concept of a tower defense game mixed with pinball sound like something that you would enjoy? If not I don’t see Zombie Rollerz: Pinball Heroes being for you. If the concept interests you at all though, I think you will enjoy Zombie Rollerz: Pinball Heroes and should consider picking it up.
We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank Zing Games Inc. and Daedalic Entertainment for the review copy of Zombie Rollerz: Pinball Heroes used for this review. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to review, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this review. Receiving the review copy for free had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.