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Pinball / Alien (2017)

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Alien is a Physical Pinball Table based on the film franchise of the same name, originally released by Heighway Pinball. Its playfield was designed by Dave Sanders,note  with Joe Schober leading development on the game's rules. After the game was formally announced during the 2014 Pinball Expo, it eventually begin shipping in 2017.

At the start of a game, the player must choose between Alien and Aliens, each of which has their own set of five modes covering various events from the source material. (The only way to switch between films is to completely finish one of them, whereupon the other modes become available.) The former set is designed to be tenser than the latter, which is more action-packed (mirroring the difference between the two films). To aid their progress, the player is able to collect five different weapons from the source material that provide various perks when used, ranging from doubling all scoring to automatically collecting the most valuable shot available. In addition to the main missions, there are four multiball modes that can be started by fulfilling a variety of conditions, ranging from repeatedly going through the aliens' life cycle to acquiring sufficient ammunition for the sentry guns. Only after finishing every single mode the game has to offer will the player be able to wage an All-Out War in the final multiball.

Physical features include an alien head with an extendable tongue that can swallow the ball to begin Ambush Multiball, three egg-shaped pop bumpers with dynamic lighting, two facehugger figures on the slingshot bumpers that jump up when they're hit, and a "hypersleep chamber" that locks balls for another multiball mode. Instead of having a display screen on the backbox, as is the norm for companies like Stern and Jersey Jack Pinball, Alien instead places it near the bottom of the playfield so that players do not need to look up. (This was a trademark of Heighway Pinball, having been established in Full Throttle, their first game. However, there was an optional version that had a screen on the backbox as well that mirrored the main display's contents.) It also features a smaller screen on an "airlock" near the back of the playfield that keeps track of weapons and time during a mode.

Two different models of the original version were released: a regular edition and a Limited Edition with a number of upgrades (including two beacon lights at the top of the game and a shaker motor). While many of these enhancements were available as standalone purchases, others (including new backbox artwork by Brian Allen) were not. The latter was intended to run for only 500 units, but a Troubled Production and internal turbulence led to the company being unable to ship that many games in total before being liquidated in 2018. Afterward, Pinball Brothers (a company founded by Heighway's investors) bought the remaining inventory and sold what they had.

In December 2020, Pinball Brothers announced a remake of the game that began production in 2021 — its differences from the original game include moving the display to the backbox, reinstating features that were originally planned during the first edition's development (including making the hypersleep chamber physically lock balls), and redesigning other mechanisms for better function. Customers who paid for Heighway's machine but never received it were eligible for a voucher worth no less than 50% of their loss. Later in 2021, they would announce their own Limited Version model with enhancements similar but distinct to Heighway's version — different backglass artwork, two beacons on top of the backbox, and changes to the apron and pop bumpers (among other things).

Alien contains examples of the following:

  • Adapted Out: Ripley is entirely absent from the game, even though she becomes a prominent character in Alien and is the undisputed protagonist of Aliens. This was due to licensing issuesSigourney Weaver's likeness needed her approval, whereas the rest of the American actors were included with the license to Alien itself.
  • Adjustable Censorship: The game has a family mode that disables less appropriate audio clips.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience:
    • Each of the three kinds of modes are given their own color: green for Alien, blue for Aliens, and red for multiballs.
    • During "Find the Acid," shots the player is intended to make are colored blue, while "acid" shots that will eventually cause them to fail the mode are colored green.
    • During "Find Jonesy," the player is required to shoot for orange-colored shots (correlating to Jonesy's fur color) while avoiding blue-colored ones.
  • Deliberate VHS Quality: Any footage displayed on-screen during a mode includes intentional distortion meant to emulate the imperfections of VHS (and, more broadly, CRTs). These include split-second glitching and simulated scan lines. As Word of God explains, it also stays true to the original films' Cassette Futurism:
    "Kelly and I worked together on a lot of tests and samples to get the glitchy analog look of the videos right. Alien is a world of CRT screens, used equipment, dirt, it's lived in. We wanted the videos to match that feeling. A little bit of VHS action."
  • Diegetic Interface: Downplayed. While the game's display usually does not qualify for this trope, certain modes will replicate the screen on a relevant, in-universe device.
    • Ambush Multiball depicts an alien-detecting radar (that can briefly be seen in the movie clip at the start of the mode).
    • Sentry Guns Multiball displays the Remote Sentry Weapons System's HUD, which includes information like the number of rounds remaining (depleting with every successful shot the player makes).
  • Mythology Gag: The remake's Limited Version is frequently abbreviated to "LV," with each individual machine being numbered as "LV-###." This alludes to the naming scheme used for various planets in the original franchise — as an example, the official promotional video uses "LV-426," correlating to Acheron.
  • Necessary Drawback: Using the Flamethrower briefly activates the ball saver, giving the player a valuable safety net from any kind of drain. However, it only lasts for two seconds, necessitating proper timing for it to be of any use. As the designer of the rules states here:
    "That's by design, I didn't want it to be too powerful."
  • Painting the Medium: The playfield lights sometimes turn a single color to reflect the events of a mode.
    • Near the end of Save Newt Multiball, the lights turn yellow and then red in tandem with an on-screen explosion.
    • During "Self Destruct," all the lights emulate a spinning emergency beacon by turning yellow and "swiveling" (by sequentially turning on and off in a specific pattern).
  • The Remake: After the original release by Heighway Pinball in 2017 (which ended up shipping fewer games than anticipated due to turbulence within the company throughout production), Pinball Brothersnote  remade the game in 2021. This version is largely identical to the original, barring the screen on the playfield being moved to the backbox (as is the norm for pinball machines) and various mechanisms being altered for durability's sake.
  • Score Multiplier: All playfield scoring can be doubled for 20 seconds through a variety of methods: spelling D-R-O-P-S-H-I-P, using the Pulse Rifle, or receiving it as a random Mother Mystery award.
  • Skill Shot: Hitting one of various shots after plunging a ball into play awards points and a unique award (such as automatically spelling D-R-O-P-S-H-I-P). While repeatedly making the same shot for each ball increases the point value, performing three different skill shots in one game awards an extra 5 million points.
  • Spelling Bonus:
    • Spelling A-P-C lights the hypersleep lock (which eventually starts Hypersleep Multiball). During the "APC" mode, it instead awards a lit shot to progress through the mode and increases the next one's point value.
    • Spelling D-R-O-P-S-H-I-P temporarily doubles all scoring.
  • Tagline: The remake's promotional material prominently uses the phrase "The beast is back!"

"Not bad for a... human."