Video pinball is probably a niche genre. Action fans, sports fans and RPG fans would probably overlook pinball probably because there's not much going on or there's no story advancement. That, and the fact there hasn't been a good pinball game on any console since 1995. PC people usually don't have the same problem, and these are the people who would enjoy pinball more.
The Pinball Of The Dead is another game by Sega, which takes an another interesting twist with one of it's series. We've seen them make Sonic a racing and party game, and make the Vitrua Fighter characters into kids. Last year, Sega turned House Of The Dead 2 on the Dreamcast into a typing tutor of sorts with Typing Of The Dead. Now Sega goes another step forward with Pinball Of The Dead, probably one of the best pinball games to hit any console yet. But it does have it's problems.
The developers (WOW Entertainment, a division of Sega) made TPOTD look much like the Dreamcast counterpart with pre-rendered graphics and 3-D like sprites for the enemies. And you know what, it works! In fact, you could probably build Resident Evil off of this kind of thechnique. It looks really good. The animations are smooth and the game does move relatively fast. It does slow down when there's too much going on, but the slowdown isn't dramatic and does not affect gameplay. On top of this, they even included small FMV clips in the game! It's been done a couple of times before in other games, but this is the first time I've seen it. Impressive.
The sound is also good, unless you play for over half an hour. Then it does become repetitve. But the music is done really well. It's right up with Metroid Fusion, SpyHunter and Castlevania: Circle of The Moon. Developers are really pushing the limits of sound on this system, and I become more and more impressed with each game I buy. Who knows what's next? The sound effects are a mix of traditional pinball with screams, moans and some rather odd voice acting lifted from HOTD 2. When you lose your last ball, there's a guy who says "My God!" in such a way that it's funny. Almost insulting your intelligence in a way, because you can't keep a ball in play. Then there's other clips that don't make sense, it's just there. The sound does crackle every now and then, but there have been other games that have done so too (like SpyHunter). Overall, it sounds really good.
Now, the gameplay. You can choose from three boards: Movement, Wondering and Cemetery. Cemetery makes sense because it takes place around a cemetery (or a coroner's office), but Movement and Wondering are odd names. Movement is a city-like setting and Wondering is a labratory. Each of the boards are big and full of things to kill, as well as stick a ball into. Movement has the most activity going on with plenty to shoot at, while Wondering is farily sparse in things to do. Cemetery seems a little smaller and is designed differently from the other two tables, with only one flipper in the middle instead of two. During play, if you manage to complete a certain event, you can take on a boss for extra points. It adds a little more to the gameplay and is a little different from the average pinball fare.
As far as the story, it's pretty much HOTD 2 with pinball. It really never presented itself with a story and it doesn't advance a story either. It assumes you know HOTD 2 and runs with it. I never played House Of The Dead 2, so I don't really know what to tell you. It's pinball, after all.
The Pinball Of The Dead is a suprisingly fun and addictive game for the GBA or any console. There's a lot more to do besides hit bumpers and little tabs to knock down. You can do the two said things, plus kill a lot of zombies and activate a few secrets. Best of all, unlike past pinball experiences like Revenge of The Gator (released in 1991), you can save your score and place in the game. With only 3 boards, you will want more, and fits right under Galactic Piball for the Virtual Boy.