With all the massive posting on the Heighway Alien thread I figured this post might get lost so I wanted to create my own and delve into the game itself and give it a review from top to bottom as far as the art, gameplay, hardware and the cabinet, things like that.
People that know me personally know that I love Pinball any Pinball, doesn't make a difference who the manufacturer is how old or how new the game is, I can always find something good in a pinball machine so no one can really say that I'm a fanboy of any particular maker, model or manufacturer or genre of game.
I've been watching the Alien Heighway project ever since the beginning when it was talked about at a seminar at Expo about three years ago. Now to be honest I was never a fan of Full Throttle, I really didn't like Heighway's design of cabinets I didn't like the theme of full throttle when I played it at expo it felt clunky and just never clicked with me. However it was still fun to play.
Also with the new company and that company being out of the states across the pond I really wasn't a fan of sending any money to a pre-order considering what happened with Dutch pinball and the Predator project so even though this was a dream theme for me I've vowed not to make a pre-order until I knew games were stateside for purchase.
I've recently taken possession of an alien game and have had it for 10 days in my collection I can honestly say I'm extremely happy with this purchase.
I wanted to wait to share my experience in a review until I've had enough time on the game and let the honeymoon wear off.
I'll rank these topics in sections.
The cabinet is very well constructed and very solid. I'm not a fan of the head design it would be much easier if this was on a hinged platform for the head. There were no instructions included but between me and my son we were able to get the head on and figure it out. Only two plugs needed to be plugged into the head through the access hole.
Not a big fan of the magazine cassette style play field glass and frame similar to what you'd find on an early 60s Bally. It weighs like a tank, it's extremely well constructed but when you're playing the game it doesn't quite feel as comfortable as the other manufactures because the corners are so sharp on your palm. The corners are cut at a 45° angle and beveled instead of the normal lockdown bar that smooth and transitioned with a better feel to your palm.
For the theme everything fits just perfect I really have no negatives about the art it's well laid out, the font is crisp and easy to read. I will also say the play fields were extremely well produced I'm hardly seeing any divots at all in the playfield so whatever quality wood they are using is extremely good.
This here is a strong point with Heighway.
They are using a normal off-the-shelf motherboard CPU set up similar to Jersey Jack Pinball it gives the system lots of muscle and lots of room to work with including the sound. No fear of worrying about fixing or wondering how to get parts later down the line.
The proprietary thing is the driver board and the I/O boards speaking of the I/O boards there are four of them in the Alien and everyone is the same part number unlike Stern with their node boards that are many different part numbers that are game specific.
All of the light boards have through hole LED lights that are easily replaceable and can be repaired by a normal soldering iron and tools and skills.
There are even proximity switches underneath the play field on the left outer drain in the bagatelle area that senses the ball similar to like what you'd find on monster bash for the phantom flip. Very cool feature on Alien. And again these are through hole replaceable parts.
Flippers and coils and mechanisms feel great and not weak.
This right here is the crown jewel and high point in this game. David Thiel in my mind is a master at sound and I think one of the best this generation has seen in coin-op gaming. He has literally created a mind blowing eargasmic overload to give the player a sense of actually becoming part of the game and immersing the player into the theme. Compound that with a very nice hardware system to use and exploit the sound system is a major plus. The subwoofer in this game and the speaker set up is top notch.
Game layout and design:
4 flippers, 3 ramps, a magnet, 3 drop target bank, a saucer, a ball eating toy, the game is loaded.
It's got the goods but is it good ?
Hell yes ! The layout of this game is absolutely fantastic it's got some great unique shots, it's got hella flow, it's very fast and not clunky. I really like that they got rid of the Queen's nest rotating chamber that really did nothing in the upper play field and replaced it with a small LCD screen to give the player some quick information and heads up for starting modes.
All the flippers have nice unique shots, the ball flow to the outer Orbits is fast and smooth. For me it feels like a combination of Steve Ritchie's Spiderman and Dennis Nordman's Demolition Man, Dave Sanders has created a very nice game here.
What's here for the code is excellent thus far, there's five modes for each film which you can choose from at the beginning of the game via flipper button once you complete go through all those you complete the next film. Also there is five multi-ball modes. LCD animations are crisp and very well done, lots of movie clips culled and used integrated very well into the game.
I'm told there's going to be another big update before the end of this year.
This game is priced right around the same price as a stern premium and hands-down this game actually has the better value I feel. There is no reason why this game can't sell the numbers of a typical run say of 3000 units. The game is really well done and fantastic. The heart and soul is in this project, it's got some good people on it the quality of the game as well built.
So upon getting my game everything worked out of the box initially I was having some issues with the Xeno head, I took apart the long tongue mechanism and did some minor adjustments and put a very light film of Teflon lubricant on the slide. It was seeming to be binding just a little bit on the tongue extension the guide itself looks like it's made of a white Delrin material. It's now been working flawlessly since I've done that.
As with playing the demo games at the Pinball events for the last two years I noticed that the kick out hole always was having some chipping issues.
These games from the factory do not have any mylar on the playfield. There should be a Mylar strip on the ball kick out, there should be mylar on the drop holes at the ramps exits and possibly maybe a mylar circle around the magnet and inside the pop bumper area.
The ball launch auto launch ramp feeds the ball directly to the mini plastic ramp to the right flipper inlane. That ball drops on that plastic ramp I believe there should be maybe a spot mylar there or a hyperthin stainless adhesive square just to eliminate spiderweb cracking on that plastic from direct hits.
All the plastics are acrylic and can easily crack that's a negative for me because three days after I got my game one of my slingshot plastics cracked because there was no fender washers on the corners.
They should change to a PETG plastic.
So other than those few minor issues the game has been playing great and has been rock solid.
So really other than missing Mylar and the material made of the plastics I'd give this game a 9 out of 10 based on theme, design, build quality and presentation.
I think the more people get to see and play this game hands on they will be pleasantly surprised. This game is very special and definitely a turning point for the company