Sometimes the best or most exciting games I’ve played were mash-ups of genres. Surprisingly, when I heard about Zombie Rollerz and its mash-up of pinball and roguelike, I wasn’t very skeptical. I have played a lot of pretty elaborate themed pinball machines, and to have progressive role-playing game style gameplay along with a pinball game sounds pretty great. Too bad that’s not really what Zombie Rollerz is.
Zombie Rollerz: Pinball Heroes is an action roguelike where the main method of defense and attack resembles a pinball machine. I say resembles, because despite its name, Zombie Rollerz: Pinball Heroes is an interesting mash-up of genres, but it’s not that great of a pinball game, at least not for those who want a true pinball experience. Instead, Zombie Rollerz is more pinball adjacent–despite having all of the requisite parts, it ends up not feeling much like pinball. But I’s not just a pinball game, it also blends together combat, role-playing game and roguelike elements.
If there was a list of things a pinball game should have, Zombie Rollerz would tick off most of those items. It has the flipper paddles, lanes, and zombies as targets. Some types of zombies act even like bumpers, and some player abilities can create objects that act like bumpers. But despite Zombie Rollerz having all of the parts of a pinball machine, it just doesn’t feel much like pinball to me. I don’t know if it has to do with the size of the levels—they’re not elongated like a pinball machine, instead they’re single screen—which naturally makes them short from top to bottom. It could also have something to do with the way the ball interacts with the paddles: once the ball hits the paddles, it slows down and you get a dotted line which shows you the trajectory of the ball. Though, with how many zombies might be bearing down on you, it doesn’t hurt to have extra accuracy.
Most levels have you fighting against groups of approaching zombies. There are lots of obstacles to destroy and traps you can use against the onslaught of the undead. Some of these levels have multiple paddle position, or tricky places where you can get the ball to activate a switch that can lower a chest that will give you access to a bonus level, or open a door so you can hit what’s behind it. The enemy zombies come in a few different types—like armored ones, and ones that throw bombs—but despite their different types, they’re always relentless marching towards your paddles—unless you defeat them.
You can play as one of several different characters, each with their own abilities. Unfortunately, unlocking these characters onlyhappens after account level progression and that can feel like a bit of a grind. And that’s one of Zombie Rollerz’s biggest problems: it feels like a lot of repetition for little progression. And the gameplay just isn’t intriguing enough to keep going. However, there are some chances for good synergy for your character through each run. As you explore the game’s overworld and win encounters, you’ll be able to choose new spells to give you the upper hand in combat, and even bestow different elemental effects to your attacks.
Between levels you will need to navigate your chosen character through Zombie Rollerz overworld. The overworld is set to a hex grid, with more of the land revealed as you explore. Certain obstacles will block your path, and most of the time these will be enemy encounters or random events. There are also vendors that can increase the potency of abilities where you can spend your hard earned coin.
It’s not like Zombie Rollerz: Pinball Heroes is a bad game, it just isn’t a great pinball game. It does have some interesting things going for it—like the different character classes and the potential for synergy. But unlocking different characters feels very grindy, and the game just doesn’t have enough to keep me coming back to it.
A Steam key was provided to us for the purposes of this review.