Having had the chance to put in about 20+ games on the Alien at the UK 8bitflip event over the Easter weekend, here are my thoughts on the machine.
The artwork on the playfield is great, sets the mood and tone for the theme very well.
The music and sound are also great with lots of well placed call outs from the films
Heighway has nailed the theme overall, great use of the licence and also the toys on the playfield are all nicely detailed (face huggers on slings, pop bumper eggs and the Xeno head), they don't look like cheap Poundland toys
The shot layout is so unique compared to the standards of more modern games. Not just the shots up the playfield but across too with very good use of both upper flippers as both have a number of shots each. Also the outlane setup felt very different and posed their own challenges. I could see bits of Williams Indiana Jones (right outlane nudging), Wheel of Fortune (left outlane nudging and U shape return right ramp), Metallica (Xeno head targets and magnet infront of it), Xmen (the upper right flipper shots) and Transformers (far left scoop to left orbit to left ramp area)
The lighting was so good and great GI effects in particular all over the playfield
The ruleset (although confusing, see below) seemed well advanced for a recent release, not like some newer Sterns that are bare bones on release
My biggest issue so far is that the ruleset not being very good at giving the player feedback, at times you felt a bit lost in what you are supposed to be doing both during modes, multiball and single ball play. The display does help show things but so often it is showing clips and animations that the info is not there. For example when you start a mode the display tells you what to shoot but then if the shot needed then changes, it will only say so after the video clip has finished and by that point you're often not in a position to be able to read it. The insert colouring could be made better to help with what you are to shoot too. Finally its not obvious either say for Ambush multiball how many more Xeno hits are needed. It works the same way as Sparky multiball in Metallica but at least that has 3 progression inserts by the shot, here there is no clear indication of how close you are to starting it. Obviously continued work on the code can help make all this better
I never heard the use of 'Game over man, game over' at any point. Such an obvious one to use, surely this will be added in a later code release
The left ramp on the odd occasion has a wierd ball spin causing the ball when dropping from the ramp to go upwards toward the left outlane, kind of how some Hobbit machines are with the right wireform ramp exit. Maybe the ramp exit point needs lowering slightly.
The Xeno tongue grabbing the ball, whilst it looks great is a bit inconsistant. When it works it works well but it all seems to depend if the magnet grabs the ball correctly. Again on Metallica its rare that a shot to start Sparky multiball will not stop on the magnet as the targets infront of it have a small funneled area to contain where the ball goes, on Alien there is nothing bar the 2 large standups so the ball can go anywhere after hitting them. I've seen the tongue go to grab the ball while the ball goes toward the upper right flipper, if the tongue was at ball level then hit by a fast moving ball I can see it getting damaged very quickly.
One very minor issue, in Queens nest mode it tells you to shoot the pops yet shots to the orbits don't make use of the up post to drop the ball into the pops, seems very odd
Overall I was very impressed and the early signs are excellent. It has such a unique layout with some fun and tight shots, plenty of modes, multiballs and well designed toys. It just needs some code polish and a couple of mechanical adjustments. If Heighway can get them built in good time then they will have a winner on their hands.