You know when a game’s good when you play it until the battery dies on your Switch. Yeah, you could reach for the charger or plug it in the dock, but Zombie Rollerz: Pinball Heroes had already cast its spell, and I couldn’t put it down.
That’s not to say that Zing Games and Daedalic Entertainment’s new title is the best thing since sliced zombies, but it has that “sod the time, I’m playing until I’ve finished” mentality that often comes with a tower defence title. Let’s quickly stress that tower defence is only a part of it.
It all begins with a zombie apocalypse. Your first hero is Burnjamin – a fire-wielding hard-hitter determined to burn ’em all to hell. His mortality is promptly realised after an early death – ah, there’s the rogue-like bit of the game: frequent deaths. What else was on the checklist? Pinball.
The powers that be have agreed that the best way to stop the zombie hordes is through building a pinball-like defence. Your hero will catapult a ball infused with a host of elemental powers, obliterating the undead, taking down their spawn points, and collecting all the loot as they go along. Once the ball is in play, ZL and ZR controls the flappers and keep the momentum. Balls are unlimited, but they will eat into your character’s health.
The core part of Zombie Rollerz: Pinball Heroes is fighting zombies, elites, and bosses by firing the ball directly at them. Aside from environmental traps that work to your advantage – spinning axes, fire, electricity and toxic pools, you’ll have an ultimate weapon and three support options with unique traits.
Take Burnjamin as our first example, he’ll have the option to infuse his balls (ha!) with fire or doom, and his default support and ultimate are fire-based, but you can swap these out as you unlock them and aren’t limited to their starting load-outs. Progression in Zombie Rollerz: Pinball Heroes unlocks new characters, starting buffs like zombies fighting for you, and having extra keys or money.
What are keys and money for? Between the battles, there’s an isometric world map where you’ll pick a path. A shovel might remove an obstacle to get at loot, stopping at a campfire to increase your stats, or heading to the black market to buy new weapons, swappable in the pause menu. Coins allow the purchase of new items and upgrades, but as the game is procedurally generated, NPCs might accompany you and steal your money after each turn.
With a rogue-like, you’re rewarded the more times you play, and with each Zombie Rollerz: Pinball Heroes run, new items unlock and occasionally, you’ll get permanent stat increases too. These include the standard attributes of strength (ball power), constitution, intelligence (magic power) and luck. There aren’t a limited amount of moves, but after a battle, the day ends, and the zombie plague give chase, taking your health each time it touches you/
For the first few playthroughs, I’d beat a handful of bosses, get swarmed by enemies, or get trapped behind a flipper. In later levels, switches have to be toggled to open up routes, and with a handful of them, gates would trap my ball. The only way out was with a teleporting support power or waiting for the ultimate to charge up and get them ‘remotely’. Fortunately, this didn’t happen much, but it’s good to have the teleport whenever you can find it.
After these attempts, I finished the campaign (albeit in normal mode) and this unlocked new goodies. You have to finish the game with certain heroes to earn new characters, so the replayability is high. Each hero is different – from their starting powers to the world map dialogues – they’re… unique. One mildly annoying thing was going through a similar conversation when you played with a new character.
Anyways, I like Zombie Rollerz: Pinball Heroes. The difficulty is excellent in that the first few playthroughs have you wondering if you can beat it. After that first win, the game feels a little easier, but switch it up a level, and the challenge is most definitely there. Besides, the sheer volume of weapons and buffs in this game is vast. Even if didn’t want to unlock everything, the core gameplay is enjoyable, addictive, and rewarding. Zombie Rollerz: Pinball Heroes is brill.