To mark the 30 year anniversary (18th July, people) of the release of Aliens and to celebrate Alien day (April 26th, after LV-426 which just makes me giddy with glee), Zen Pinball released an Aliens vs Pinball pack. I don’t usually (read “at all”) get excited about pinging wee silver balls around a seizure-inducing table of lights and mayhem, especially a digital one, BUT I do f**king love the Alien franchise. So, a mixed bag of emotions. How did I cope? Let’s ping some balls and find out.
From a casual/beginner perspective Zen Studios have the art of pin balling pretty nailed down. The controls are intuitive and even though the themed tables bring their own unique spin to the game, you are still definitely playing pinball. Which is a good thing in my opinion because too many “simple” games try to overcomplicate matters to make them more “game-y” and end up ruining perfectly good games when what they should be doing is perfecting their simplicity. KISS springs to mind. Not the painted rock gods, although they’re never far from my thoughts, I mean the acronym. Keep it simple stoopid.
After saying that the Alien tables are something to behold. There are three, an Aliens table resplendent in all its 80’s movie glory and complete with original soundbites and music, an Alien vs Predator table which may go some way towards redeeming the movies because they light up like Predators heat vision and an Alien: Isolation table where you must rely on your cunning pinball skills to hide from the Xenomorph.
There’s a lot packed into these tables and the attention to detail is quite touching for Alien fans, from the design of the ramps to the little touches on the table that you may miss if you don’t know the franchise.
The Aliens table follows the film plot, asking you before you begin if you want to be able to select the order in which the missions play out or if you want to recreate the magic of the movie. In-game missions are all about fighting off the Queen’s forces while she sits in the top corner, occasionally snatching the ball and eating it. As you do.
The AvP table takes full advantage of the fact that it’s a video game and everything I just said about KISS just went out the window, like a Xenomorph being sucked into space via an airlock. One mission sees Xenomorphs attacking from the ceiling and the table flips around so you can fight them off. Then there’s the aforementioned infrared vision that’s triggered when you achieve certain missions.
Alien: Isolation actually feels like it could be part of the game, if the Sevastopol was a huge pinball table floating in space and Amanda Ripley was a small silver ball. Like the game, Ripley needs to use stealth and her own cunning to outwit the Xenomorph, who can appear in various states, either by hiding, distraction or blasting it with a flamethrower. However you need to unlock the flamethrower by doing several missions first.
These missions are prevalent throughout all the tables and lend a sense of progression, making each one feel like a standalone game in its own right.
I can safely say that pinging wee silver balls around is a pleasurable past time, particularly when developers have drawn on such iconic sources, the key elements of which have been manipulated into surprising and fun gameplay. I reckon this pack is an excellent tribute to an excellent franchise.
Midlife Gamer Rating: 9/10 Format: PlayStation 4 / Xbox One / PC Release Date: Out Now
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a copy of Aliens vs. Pinball by the publisher for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of sevens days. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.