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Alien Crush Returns Review

by GaryTun

Alien Crush Returns


Originally released to much acclaim in 1988, Alien Crush impressed gamers of the day with its excellent ball physics, sci-fi setting and addictive pinball action. It eventually spawned a 1990 sequel (Devil’s Crush) and another follow-up on the Super Famicom (Jaki Crush, a Japan-only release that remains an obscure and lesser-known entry in the series). Both PC Engine games, however, did enjoy Western releases and have built up something of a cult following over the years so it comes as no surprise to see Hudson resurrect the franchise with this remake of the original.

Players: 1-4
Released: 2008

Reviewed January 2009 by John Henderson

Hudson have done a really good job with Alien Crush Returns (ACR). Granted, major dramatic changes would’ve been unlikely since the concept of pinball remains largely unaffected by technological advancements, but the Wii’s capabilities have still been used to very good effect. ACR pays homage to the original, but at the same time, feels suitably freshened-up and modern thanks to the new stuff that’s been added.

The first thing that catches the eye are the excellent graphics. Like a lot of games from the late ’80s, the original featured H.R. Giger-style “biomechanical” visuals and the remake stays faithful with new 3D tables in a similar vein. These are even more organic-looking thanks to plenty of animation being employed which makes everything look “alive”. The music is also similarly moody, so overall, the look and feel of the original is nicely recreated.

On the whole gameplay is also very similar to the classic original and the tables are once again a couple of screens high with some bonus areas to be accessed. The major differences lie in the controls. ACR is played using the Wiimote and Nunchuk combo with the Z and B buttons operating the left and right flippers respectively. Shaking the remote will also “tilt” the table.

Any suspicions that things might have been made needlessly complex to utilise the Wii’s controller are instantly quelled the moment you shoot the first ball. It might be a small thing, but being able to operate the flippers independently with separate hands is quite significant and adds a lot to the experience. It immediately feels natural, just like playing a real-life pinball machine. It’s worth noting that the amount of vibration that eminates from the remote can make a long session uncomfortable, but thankfully there’s an option to disable the rumble feature.

Further depth has been added in the shape of various “action balls” that can be utilised during gameplay. These are available for a limited period once a gauge has been filled and allow the player to perform various special actions such as increasing the ball speed, splitting it in two for increased scoring, or reversing its direction – handy for those agonising moments where you can see the ball heading right between the flippers but are powerless to prevent the lost ball. Well, with some clever use of the action ball maybe those type of situations aren’t such a lost cause after all.

There are three main tables in all and each can be played individually for high scores in the standard Arcade mode. Also present is Story mode, where a clichéd yarn about Space Marines investigating a derelict Alien ship is told via simple text screens. This ties the three tables together as they are played one after the other once certain goals have been accomplished. The mode also throws in Boss battles which add a bit of variety.

Wrapping things up is Versus mode, where you and up to 3 other opponents battle it out online to reach the target score in the fastest time possible. Further WFC functionality comes in the shape of highscore rankings, and also (free) DLC. To date, a harder difficulty setting, a number of new action balls, and even an extra stage for the Story mode has been made available.

Overall, this is a nice update and an excellent game in it’s own right. The Story mode is rather easy and probably won’t see much action once cleared, but there is plenty here to keep coming back to for score-attack junkies.