Game over, man! Game over!
HIGH The Aliens table is an instant classic.
LOW The hacking minigame is way too hard.
WTF I forgot (until now) there was an Aliens film I hadn’t seen.
The wizards at Zen Studios have released another pack of tables for Zen Pinball 2, and it comes as no surprise that they’re (mostly) pretty great. The star of the show this time? Everyone’s favorite acid-dripping xenomorph, the Alien.
Aliens vs Pinball is a package of three tables, the first of which is based on the seminal James Cameron film from 1986, Aliens, and this one is unquestionably the star of the show. Not only does it prominently feature an animated figure of Ellen Ripley packing heat (as played by Sigourney Weaver) there’s also a large queen alien at the top of the board that will occasionally snatch the ball off of the playfield and eat it. I was quite glad to hear that the voice samples were taken directly from the movie and all of the most memorable lines are here, so stop your grinnin’ and drop your linen.
The table itself is of fantastic design—it’s a joy to play and has a good kinetic rhythm to it, not to mention loads of little features which pay homage to the film. The unforgettable beeping motion tracker device is present, the boxy APC rolls up and pops the ball out like a soldier, the hallway-clearing sentry gun pops up on the left of the field, and a swarm of aliens will occasionally rush the flippers when certain conditions are met.
Aliens is an absolutely fantastic table, and it ranks among the best they’ve ever done. It’s also worth noting that the game will pause when the ‘story’ mode switches, giving the player absolutely clear information about what’s going on and what they should be shooting for—this is a feature I’ve been wanting from Zen for a long time, and I’m glad to see it finally implemented, even if it’s only in this one table.
The second table is based on the Aliens Versus Predator. I’m a little embarrassed to say that I’ve never seen the film so I can’t say how much of the table is taken from that source, but of the three in this pack, it’s the one I find least interesting. The playfield itself is just average, and the bonus features are a bit dull—things like matching symbols on a stone temple or spinning a wheel to catch pinballs shooting in from all directions. It’s not terrible by any means, but I felt little desire to come back to it.
The last table is based on the critically-acclaimed 2014 game Alien: Isolation. This one in particular is quite interesting because it takes elements from the source game and blends them into this one in unexpected ways.
Those who spent time with the original Isolation may recall that there was one alien stalking the main character throughout a space station, and the same premise is featured here. The alien can be seen prowling the top of the board. If it spots the player, they have a limited time to shoot the ball into a hiding place. If they succeed, the creature moves on. If they fail, it leaps down to attack, hitting the player for “damage” which affects the score multiplier.
It’s neat twist and a great interpretation of the source material, bringing unique only-in-video-game-pinball characteristics to this table. On the other hand, it feels a bit too busy with slightly cramped features at the top, and there are a few snag points on corners when trying to shoot some of the tougher shots with the ball.
While I’d say that the Aliens vs. Pinball pack delivers great value for money overall, the Aliens table all by itself is an absolute knockout. For fans of Aliens or of Zen Pinball 2, picking this one is the definition of a no-brainer.
Disclosures: This game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS4. Approximately 3 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and no time was spent in local multiplayer modes, although my scores were uploaded to online leaderboards.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game contains fantasy violence and mild language. That said, it’s hard for me to find anything offensive here. If you ask me, it’s 100% safe for kids. It’s pinball!
Deaf & Hard of Hearing: Although you may miss out on the voice samples, they’re not necessary for successful play and there’s no story. It’s fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: Certain functions are able to be changed, like assigning the flippers to the shoulders, bumpers, or both, but the controls overall are not fully remappable.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.
Currently, he's got about 42 minutes a night to play because adulting is a timesuck, but despite that, he's a happily married guy with two kids who both have better K/D ratios than he does.
Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody at the office is looking, and his favorite game of all time is the first Mass Effect -- and he thought the trilogy's ending was Just Fine, Thanks.
Follow Brad on Twitter at @BradGallaway