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It is time once again to over-analyze expensive toys! TWIP had a chance to play Alien for the first time last weekend thanks to a local collector that owns one of the Alien pins sold at the Texas Pinball Festival earlier this year. Below are Five Things We Know, Five Likes and Five Dislikes on Highway Pinball’s Alien. Thoughts below are based on 5-10 games on the machine and watching past videos such as those by This Flippin Podcast, along with the recent stream from Buffalo Pinball (twitch channel here, full stream here). On the machine TWIP played, the code was 0.94 and the Xeno head was disabled.
Five Things We Know
1. Choose your movie to start
You can play modes from either Alien or the sequel Aliens, and when you start a game you pick which one you want to play. You’re then locked into that movie until you reach the mini-wizard mode for the film you chose, then you can play the other movie’s modes.
2. No visible switches on playfield surface
The playfield switches are all under the playfield (!), and sense when the ball rolls over. It makes for a clean look.
3. Different glass removal option
Unlike most modern games, the glass lifts off the top of the playfield instead of sliding out which makes it easier to remove when space is tight.
4. Code update coming soon
Heighway Pinball recently announced an update to v0.99 that should be available later this month. To check out all that has changed, click here.
5. It is a mode-based game
There are four modes each for both the Alien and Aliens movie, plus a mini-wizard mode for each. There are also many multi-ball modes, including the ultimate wizard mode, “All Out War”. Someone has started a rules sheet which you can check out here.
1. Unique layout
This layout has some familiar shots but is very unique. There is a shot from the left upper flipper to the right upper flipper that you can basically “pass” the ball from one to the other to set up a shot. Check out an example here. There are also a TON of shots on this game:
2. Theme integration
You want a world under glass? This is a world under glass. Between the Xeno head (watch it capture a ball here and here), the flickering screens, the egg pop bumpers, the tilt (see here), the very immersive and unique modes, the clips from the movies, etc., clearly a lot of thought was put into this game to make it feel like you’re in the movies. Yes, Ripley is missing but you don’t really notice that when you’re playing (you’re kind of playing as the main character). Outstanding theme integration overall.
3. The look, the art
In pictures, the machine looks unusual with the skinny head and the side art only being on part of the cabinet surrounded by black. In person, it looks really well done, better than expected. The sides are back lit and fit the machine and the theme really well. Same with the playfield, the screens, and the back box – none are over the top but fit the theme perfectly and are very impressive. It is a good looking machine.
The lighting looks good in both the playfield and the GI and has a ton of potential. Check out a very short example here.
5. Satisfying shots
This is a wide body? Check out this 90 second video of Kevin from Buffalo Pinball beating a mode.
The video shows many of the shots, and it takes a lot of them to beat a mode. The ramps feel smooth and return the ball to the flipper quickly. Ripping the spinner on the orbit shots is very satisfying (along with a slightly throw back spinner sound that is also very satisfying to hear). It is a quick game and doesn’t feel like your playing a “typical” wide body that have a tendency to play slower or floaty. (Also, note in the video the directions on the playfield display during that mode to help you know what to shoot for.)
1. No artwork under flippers
Why does the artwork not continue underneath the flippers? Under the flippers there is a black filler. Was the purpose to help with lining up the flippers? Artwork would’ve looked better. ***EDIT: The black plastic is under the flippers to allow the flipper assembly to be removed completely (the flipper passes through the playfield). This makes it simple to take out and work on away from the machine.
2. Need more feeds to the upper right flipper
The lock shot from the upper right flipper is harder than it should be, due in large part to it being so difficult to get the ball in position to feed to that flipper.
3. Plunger shot
This is nitpicky, and yes there are several options for skill shots from the plunge. But it just seems like the plunge always feeding down to the right flipper is a bit dull.
4. Third screen necessary?
In a time when everyone is complaining about stripped down playfields, is it crazy to complain that there are too many features? Yes! But this is pinball and we’ll complain about anything 🙂 While playing – granted it was only 5-10 games – the third screen was never even looked at. Doesn’t hurt anything and it is probably very useful at times when you know the game better, but three screens seems like a lot going on.
5. Lastability of screen in playfield
The example TWIP played showed some wear and scratches on the playfield screen. Granted this example had over 1,000 plays. Hopefully this isn’t something that will be an issue, but something to keep an eye on.
Disclaimer: All opinions are subject to change because I’m fickle with pinball machines the more I play them 🙂