Zen Pinball 2 has received special tables linked with pre-existing properties before now, but the three-pack dedicated to the Alien license – and recently released in celebration of Alien Day – is, in theory, one of the more interesting ones. In execution, however, it's more of a mixed bag.
The Aliens vs. Pinball pack includes three new tables, with one dedicated to three different releases in Alien's history. The first, and by and large the best, of the three tables is the one for the James Cameron film, Aliens. Legitimately interesting to look at, and loaded with audio clips from the movie, this table feels like the most complete experience. Not only does this one have a "narrative" – you hit balls into certain spots, which activates a linear progression of lines from the movie – but it even has a mini-game of sorts in which you navigate the APC that appears in the movie around piles of rubble for massive point bonuses. Not only that, but the table also features a sort of tower defence mode, where you have to hit incoming Xenomorph's with your ball. For many of these encounters – they happen fairly frequently – you even have the help of the automated sentry turrets that feature heavily in the director's cut of the film.
Even with all the other things going with this table, at the end of the day, there's a limit to what can be done. It is, after all, still pinball. And the amount of effort put into the Aliens table is marvellous, as it's absolutely jam-packed with callbacks and references to the movie. Unfortunately, this love and attention to detail doesn't really extend to the other two tables.
This includes the table dedicated to the much maligned movie, Aliens vs. Predator. The design on the table, while neat looking, is far too busy, and on several occasions, we found that it was remarkably easy to lose track of the ball in certain parts of the design. Not only that, but even the way the ball moves and reacts to the paddles feels different here, as getting a good hit just doesn't launch the ball the way one would expect. Not only that, but unlike the Aliens table, this one doesn't use sound clips from the movie. Instead, it opts for new – and very poor – voice work as an alternative.
Everything on this table feels somewhat soft from a momentum standpoint, and the result is that table just isn't much fun to spend any meaningful amount of time with. Considering that the pack is $10 – a pretty sizeable sum all things considered – the fact that one of the three tables is just generally bad isn't exactly reassuring.
Luckily, the final table, based on the latest release, Alien: Isolation – one of this writer's favourite games of the generation – fares a little better. While it doesn't hit the same levels as the Aliens table, it is still better than the Aliens vs. Predator one. Sound effects and even what seems to be some of the dialogue are actually taken from The Creative Assembly's horror release, which helps to make the theme feel more authentic. The actual physical process of hitting the balls on this table also feel closer to that of the Aliens one, making it far more enjoyable to play. Not content to just ape the feel of that table though, the Alien: Isolation one also borrows the "narrative" approach. Unfortunately, without as many iconic lines or sound effects to implement, the story mode ends up feeling rather useless and uninteresting – especially when the table trots out the same tower defence style mode we mentioned earlier.
While it's interesting that there are now some Alien themed pinball tables available to mess around with, we can't help but get caught up on the price of it all. If there were ever a sale or a chance to pick up just the Aliens table on its own, then we'd say that it might worth looking into. But unless you're a die-hard Alien or pinball fan, there's just not enough here for us to be able to, in good conscience, recommend that you pick up this pack.
Will you be coming out of the goddamn walls to snatch the Aliens vs. Pinball pack for Zen Pinball 2? What other licenses would you like to see in Zen Studios' sim? Flip out in the comments section below.
I love all zen's tables except for the iron man table and the v12 table. Still want doctor who themed tables. Zen studios listens a lot to the fans and has a lot of contact with their fans on twitter.
@darkswabber Hoo boy, that Iron Man table. I picture the following conversation went down:
Dave: Hey Brad, you finished with that Iron Man table design yet?
Brad: WHAT? I thought I had until next month??
Dave: No man, it's due in an hour. You going to be ready?
Brad: Yeah. Just give me... ten minutes. Mind if I borrow your red and yellow markers?
@darkswabber The Pinball Arcade has the Doctor Who license. It's the better pinball game anyways.
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