Alien Crush

. . . Though I would not necessarily call this a must-have game, it does make a nice addition to your TurboGrafx library . . .

front cover for Alien CrushGrowing up, I was lucky enough to have two pinball machines in our house. One was a rather basic little machine with a World War II fighter plane motif, while the other one was, I believe, a Williams Pinch Hitter machine, which was fun as hell . . . whenever it was working.

Now that I’m away from home and can’t afford a place large enough to store a pinball machine, let alone the machine itself, I must take my love of the game to the virtual arena. Luckily, games like Alien Crush exist.

One of the first things you will notice about this game is that it is obviously inspired by the HR Giger designs used in the Alien movies. I have seen the game criticized elsewhere because of this, but I think the influence of Giger’s designs is so widespread that singling out this game isn’t necessary. Anyway, we’re not here to talk about copyright infringement—the question should be, is the game fun to play?

To that, I have to say, “yes, yes it is.” In fact, it is my favorite video game version of a pinball machine that I have played (of course, I have yet to try Devil’s Crush).

The game is not without its flaws, though. For one, the main playing area is divided into two screens for the upper and lower halves. Instead of scrolling from the top to the bottom (and vice-versa), when the ball moves to the other half of the area, you switch between screens. This would not be so bad, but whenever a ball passes between your flippers on the upper screen, it is most likely going to hit a bumper that is placed at the top middle of the bottom screen, which will force the ball back into the upper screen and very likely into the bottom of your flipper. This can be very disorienting, as the screen switches quickly back and forth, and it takes a moment to locate exactly where the ball is afterward. I also found the controls to be unintuitive at first, as the left flipper is actually controlled by the left directional key while the right flipper is controlled by button I. I understand that this was likely done to make it easier to use both flippers at once, but I think I would have preferred if button II had been assigned to the left flipper and the directional key had been used to nudge the machine (which is the function assigned to button II). I think that would have allowed you to nudge the machine in different directions and would have permitted a little more control.

Those minor complaints aside, Alien Crush is a good game. It is perhaps limited when compared to games that came after it, as it only offers the main table and four small bonus areas, but as a whole, the game is solid and enjoyable. The alien theme is what really makes the experience. You will have cocoon bumpers open up to let scorpion-like aliens out, you will destroy segmented centepede aliens, and you will even knock about a floating skull or two. Though I would not necessarily call this a must-have game, it does make a nice addition to your TurboGrafx library.

Recommended.

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