Last week, sci-fi and action fans celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Aliens movie. It’s one of my all-time personal favorite movies, so I’m a sucker for the franchise. It might have been near impossible to get your hands on one of the limited Alien Stomper shoes from Reebok, but there’s no shortage of the Aliens pinball table for Zen Pinball.
I love pinball. I remember watching others play at the arcade when I was a kid and just being mesmerized but the whole experience…the lights, the sounds, the action (and reaction)…it’s a true gaming experience. Unfortunately, real pinball tables are in short supply these days but thankfully there are two great options: Pinball Arcade and Zen Pinball.
Pinball Arcade recreates real pinball tables for digital play. Despite there not being a real ball, the tables play very well and look even better. Pinball Arcade is the best (and only) choice if you’re looking to play down memory lane. But if you want a little more out of your pinball, Zen Pinball is the best there is.
Zen Pinball has been around a while and features some of the most fantastic pinball tables you’ve ever seen. Of course, that’s because they don’t adhere to your normal pinball limitations. Every Zen Pinball table combines classic pinball with more modern mini-games and interactions that could only be done on a digital system. There’s a huge catalog of licensed pinball tables for Zen Pinball, and Aliens is certainly a jewel in the crown.
The Aliens pinball table is one of three that became available in March for the Aliens Day celebration. The other two tables reference other franchise titles and being the old guy that I am, I stuck with the Aliens I knew…and I’m loving it.
They managed to cram just about every highlight from the movie into the Aliens table. Visually, you have Ripley waiting around to kick ass with her big gun and flame thrower, and then behind her is the alien queen, who is just waiting to eat your pinballs. You’ll also notice some more subtle additions like the nuclear reactor, sentry guns, the APC and a pile of junk used to barricade the door. But the real treats only start coming as you start playing.
The sounds from the table hit you the most. The game is chocked full of sound clips from the movie. Everything from Ripley’s pre-action dialog to Bill Paxton’s “Game over, man!” It’s all very clean audio and while any sound you hear over and over can get tiresome, it’s hard not to smile when you hear Hudson call out your mistakes (and your achievements).
As with most Zen Pinball tables, you have “story mode” moments where you have to accomplish a certain goal within a certain amount of time. The Aliens table is no different but each story mode follows an event in the movie. It starts with searching for Newt, then barricading the room and on to things like landing the drop ship and setting facehuggers on fire. There’s also mini-game where you have to drive the APC down the escape corridor without crashing. I’m not a big fan of the Zen mini-games but this one is simple, fast and is a great reward for completing the mode.
Overall, the Aliens table is pretty challenging. I found it difficult to reliably hit the story mode trigger, of course, that makes all the more satisfying when you do. There’s also a far right ramp that you’ll need in several modes and it’s super hard to get the ball there when you need it. But like I said, that’s the fun and what makes pinball so wonderful. Even in video game pinball, getting better is very rewarding because it really just requires you play over and over and over again, each time trying something different until you find your strategy.
I may prefer the “real” pinball tables of Pinball Arcade rather than what Zen usually offers, but in the case of Aliens I had to give it a try just because I’m such a big fan. Zen Pinball has a ton of Star Wars tables too but many of them just aren’t that great, so I’ve become weary of licensed tables overall. But with Aliens, your $3 is well spent.