To mark the 30th anniversary of sci-fi classic Aliens, Zen Studios have put together a pinball pack for Pinball FX2 inspired by the Alien franchise. Considering their general horror style, would the developers be able to convey this on a pinball table and deliver a truly authentic experience? Have they even chosen the best parts of the franchise to focus on?
Where better to start than with the legendary Ellen Ripley as she heads up the table based on the Aliens film; the table which is easily the stand out moment of the pack due to the way it encapsulates everything a fan could ask for. Voiceovers have been taken directly from the film, fitting perfectly with the accompanying soundtrack – which might I add is superbly suspenseful and fit for purpose. It really helps the player to get engrossed into the action and be able to enjoy a thoroughly great table.
But creating the ideal atmosphere isn’t always enough, so it’s a good job that it’s actually a lot of fun play too. The playing field consists of three ramps, a couple of lanes and three flippers, which doesn’t sound much on paper, however, one of the main modes ensures a good time is to be had. There’ll be a point where the whole table becomes infested by the Queen’s alien horde to attack your team.
In the build up to this infestation, you can prepare a Sentry Gun to lend a hand and take down the moving targets closing in on you. Hitting them with the ball will be enough to eliminate the aliens, but should any get close to the main flippers, the squad’s health will deteriorate. Spelling out the name of Hicks will increase, whilst hitting a spinner nearby will reduce, the damage potential of the aliens. It’s a well thought out mode that incorporates different parts of the table to enhance it.
I spent most of my time on the Aliens table, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only quality offering from this pack. Now, Alien vs. Predator may not have been the greatest movie associated with the Xenomorphs, yet Zen Studios have managed to squeeze out another cracking table as you take on the role of a Predator. In stark contrast to Aliens, Alien vs. Predator doesn’t rely on an atmospheric feel; instead it focuses on gimmicks… very cool gimmicks.
The layout allows for many of the mini-games and modes to be triggered fairly easily, which I find is key to attracting the casual pinballers. There are all manner of quirky parts such as hitting drop targets using the trademark thermal imaging, going into camouflage and even smashing the ball around whilst the table is upside down. One of the mini-games works on the mental side of a player’s attributes by matching symbols, whilst another requires epic reflexes to rotate a circle to trap balls within.
Last but not least, the Alien: Isolation table, based on the 2014 video game of the same name, follows Amanda Ripley on a mission of survival. Again it brings a couple of interesting ideas to the pinball world, mainly in the form of having to hide and survive whenever that darn Alien appears to be on the prowl; hiding in the cabinet and using flamethrowers seems to do the trick. It doesn’t really matter if the Alien does damage to Amanda, apart from it hindering your highest overall score.
I won’t sugar coat it, this one wasn’t as enthralling as the other two and despite having a long playing field, therefore making hitting the lanes and ramps a bit simpler, the position in which the main missions are activated is extremely difficult to get the ball towards. It didn’t particularly keep me interested as it all felt a little over-complicated and the ball seemed to be bounce out into the drain far too often.
The Aliens vs. Pinball pack of tables is almost faultless. Aliens brings all the suspense of a sci-fi horror and Alien vs. Predator throws a few very cool gimmicks into the mix to ensure both are stellar pinball tables. It is on the Alien: Isolation table where things falter slightly, but maybe that’s one which those whom have experienced the game will appreciate more. Although all three share the same franchise, Zen Studios deserve credit for making sure they don’t all feel the same to play, with each giving their unique spin on proceedings.
I’d be happy paying £7.99 for just two of the tables faithfully recreated from their inspirations, so pinball wizards out there shouldn’t hesitate.