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Which Console Did You Buy/Receive Over The Holidays?

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Game Profile
Game Boy
Wow Entertainment
GENRE: Puzzle
June 18, 2002
House of the Dead: Overkill

The House of the Dead 2 and 3 Return

Typing of the Dead II

The House of the Dead III

Zombie Revenge

More in this Series
 Written by Matt Swider  on July 19, 2002

Review: The Pinball Wizard rises from the grave?literally.

In shooting hours away with House of the Dead in the arcades and following the same pattern with its sequel on the Dreamcast, I have to say that Sega developer Wow Entertainment has clearly delivered zombie filled chills and thrills like no other. With Sega opening its doors to other systems and the company's tendency and fondness for Game Boy Advance, it's not surprising to see many high profile and trademark titles coming its way. However, it's impossible to imagine a light gun based series landing on the Game Boy Advance. Since there's no way to hook up a such a device to any portable platform available, Wow Entertainment has taken a different approach from the usual shooting style of House of the Dead one, two, or the upcoming third edition. Instead, it has opted to bring us a pinball game based off of the series in an innovative process. Much like the developer's novel idea in combining its HotD series with the Dreamcast's keyboard to replace the gun, Wow has taken a different angle with the series that's farther from the original, but just as entertaining.

The use of House of the Dead as the game's background is a wise choice, as it's something anyone could easily expect to see in the local pinball gallery?if they still existed. The game consists of three giant sized tables that make room for some extravagant pinball action. Each features the undead theme that House of the Dead has come to thrive on through its light gun and its counterparts by including horror filled settings. The first level, dubbed Wondering, resembles a zombie-infested city. Movement dons the look of an experimental laboratory. And the final board, Cemetery, is what you'd expect from the name: a graveyard of sorts.

Before each play, gamers will start out by firing at a zombie. They must first wait until a moving crosshair lines up with the zombie shown on the screen, and then proceed to shoot. Successfully doing this will earn them a random bonus. After that, the game continues by automatically launching the plunger and dropping the ball onto the board. The entire screen will shift up and down with the ball's movement, as each board is much longer than the actual length of the Game Boy Advance display. From here you'll see an elaborate board filled with walking zombies that are strewn throughout each table being used, acting as both obstacle and targets depending on the situation. Hitting zombies is kind of like taking them out with a bullet. When the ball sharply speeds towards them, it rolls over the miniature zombie body and blood splatters in their place. The options menu allows players to pick four different colors for blood from the default green, to red, or even odd shades of blue or white.

Besides racking the points by knocking off the undead, players can bounce off many of the House of the Dead themed objects within. Each of the tables is filled with a unique set of flippers, bumpers, ramps, loops and other devices that allow the ball to travel around the board. One of the more clever items in my opinion happens to be the two bumpers that in the final board lie above the final flippers. Instead of designing just any ordinary set of bumpers, the developer decided to implant two chainsaws with the same function. Whenever the ball bounces off of them, they emit a chainsaw sound clip that instills a creative edge into the game that fits perfectly into its premise. Although keeping the ball out of the gutter is challenging enough, the real feat that inspires the most fun is exploring many of the conditions and gimmick events that are available. When the ball rolls into different pits, players can earn letters that eventually spell out a word. Once all of the letters are lit, various actions occur just like on a real pinball table. Bonuses will be had, extra balls will be earned, and boss chambers will open up, which is a key piece to completing the game.

Each level contains a set number of bosses for you to defeat. When collecting enough letters or defeating certain enemy types, players can go up against a boss taken from House of the Dead 2. While the boss sometimes appears on the board, other bosses call for the ball at times to roll the ball into a pit that will take them through a separate corridor for battle. Here, they must use the two available flippers to lob the ball around the room and hit the boss. Though the makeup of each is just as creepy as House of the Dead 2, none of them happens to be too hard a task to overcome. Once each boss is defeated from a level, players will earn a large bonus. If the player is then positioned within the challenge mode, they will then advance to the next level.

By default, all of the flippers are controlled by the right and left shoulder buttons, mimicking the style of a real pinball machine. Many of the pinball wizard moves are also available, letting players hold the ball, slap it for a long shot, or simply roll it off the edge of the flipper. However, no matter how the ball is tossed, it still feels like it floats around the board and is lighter than it should be. Since the physics aren't up to par with the realistic nature of a metal ball, precise shots aren't always easy to manage and therefore not all goals can be achieved so easily. Nevertheless, its bouncy nature makes the game great arcade fun, which is what the game really sets out to do. In addition to launching the ball with the flippers as well as bouncing it off bumpers and zombies, players can always vouch to nudge the table to line up the shot that they want in using the corresponding directional pad and trigger button to tilt the board in the appropriate location. Weirdly enough, it's almost unheard of to manage a tilt in the game. Of course, if the standard controls aren't suiting your style, the entire scheme can be changed around in the options menu.

Like each version of House of the Dead before it, this pinball title contains the same digitalized speech that poorly represents any actor out there. Nevertheless, it wouldn't be House of the Dead without it. Characters make random comments as play progresses, and as the ball rolls past certain spots, you receive a number of zombie moans and groans. The rest of the music samples and sound effects that accompany these voices also fit the game and sound like something coming out of a pinball machine as you play along.

Since there are only three boards available in the game, and that the tutorial mode doesn't add up to anything much after you've mastered each table, beating the high score is really the only reason to return for some replay action. Thankfully, Pinball of the Dead includes a battery backup displaying the high scores of each board. Furthermore, it also keeps track of the number of zombies killed, bosses defeated, and balls lost. During the middle of the game, you can check out more information on your progress of the board and even save midway through a game if needed. Beating the high score is what can make the game so addicting just like each and every pinball machine out there in the world.

Bottom Line
Those interested in playing pinball outside the environment of an arcade will likely be consumed by this title, which can turn out to be almost as addicting. Sure, it can't compare to the real thing. Although, most of us can't afford an actual pinball machine in the home or office, so here's the next best thing. With the House of the Dead theme involved, Wow puts the other Game Boy Advance pinball title featuring the Muppets to shame. If you enjoy a good game of pinball, love House of the Dead, or are just looking to waste away the hours, this game will turn you into a real pinball zombie for en entire weekend, at least.

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