Pinball games have always been a strong interest of mine. At its core, pinball is about getting the highest scores possible while trying to complete a variety of different objectives. To me, the Zen pinball series of games is an unrivalled masterclass in how to do a pinball game right. Zen Pinball 2 Aliens vs. Pinball is a game that manages to continue to keep the franchise in the upper echelons of gaming experiences.
Each of the three tables pays homage to one of the two of the films and one of the games in the Aliens franchise. The first table featured in this game is based on the second (and arguably the best) movie in the franchise, Aliens. The best part of this table was how you got to play through various scenes in the movie in a very pinball type way. You would begin by initiating the objective by passing through a gate and then move on to completing the objective. These provided me with fun and engaging reasons to keep coming back to the table apart from just trying to get that higher score, which is always my priority anyway.
The second table is based on the movie Alien VS. Predator. This table, while still fun to play, didn’t really manage to separate itself from the first table enough to make it worthwhile playing. Yes, the challenges were slightly different due to the movie having a different plotline, but apart from that there wasn’t really any additions to the overall gameplay experience.
While the last two tables were good, it was the third that I ended up putting the most time into. This table, unlike the previous ones, wasn’t based on a movie and instead was based on the game Alien Isolation. I wasn’t a particularly huge fan of this game when it came out and therefore didn’t really have any expectations of this table being my favourite. However, having played it, I can confidently say that in my opinion the pinball version of the game was much more appealing to me than the original game. The table added a few unique game features that I felt really made for an interesting game each time. Like the game this table is based on, your goal is to survive using stealth. You constantly have the threat of an alien stalking you and with the added addition of life and ammo, it felt as if the game would get more tense as I progressed. There is even a hacking mini-game that opens up a small screen in the middle of the playing field to frantically try and arrange glyphs with a pinball. Of course in typical pinball fashion, to maintain this life and ammo you must complete certain goals that are placed on the table but I still felt as if the introduction of this mechanic served its purpose in differentiating this table from the plethora of others that have before it.
One prominent feature across all three tables was voice acting from the original characters of the films and games. While this wasn’t the best quality sound by far and often sounded a bit glitchy, I felt as if it was still a nice touch in building the atmosphere and separating each of the tables out from each other. As well as this there was also a couple of interactive characters which added something that I had not seen in a previous Zen pinball title. In addition to all this each table managed to feel just as atmospheric as the last, really managing to make each table feel like a different experience from the last.
However, this game isn’t perfect and there are a few flaws which I fell are important to point out. For one, the game didn’t have some performance issues at some points during my play through which did take me out of it at some points, causing me to miss a ball as it flew past the bumper. Another minor issue is the fact that sometimes the 3D modelling of the characters didn’t look as good as I would have hoped.
Zen Pinball 2 Aliens vs. Pinball is a welcome addition the franchise. It manages to encompass some of my favourite movies with one of my most beloved genres.Not only does it do it well but it also adds a few new interesting features which I look forward to seeing in any future titles they do.
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