Review by Tachibana Ukyo

"Game over, man."

Browse through a friend’s game library for either the TurboGrafx 16 or import PC Engine and the chances are good that you’ll find Naxat’s popular HuCard Alien Crush nestled amongst the obligatory copies of Bonk’s Adventure and SplatterHouse. Revitalizing the forgotten legacy of pinball, Crush offers up realistic mechanics combined with a futuristic alien theme to make one of the most addictive cards for the console, all beginning with three balls and a goose egg for a score.

From the moment that first ball launches onto the skeletal board, the player faces a host of chitinous nasties ripped right out of H. R. Giger’s work for Aliens. Separated into halves, the board switches between two screens rather than scroll whenever the ball plummets to the lower level or rockets back to the top during your attempts at pulverizing various slimy space mutants into ichor. Slithery heads poke out from the sides of the lower board as you attempt to smash floating polyps and light up a many-eyed creature slumbering in the center, occasionally releasing a trio of spindly aliens that scamper off the screen if you’re not quick enough to catch them for a bonus. A pair of cocoons lurk by either side of the flippers, just begging to be bashed apart and hatch slow-moving arthropods who belligerently crawl their way to freedom. Work your way to the upper half and you’ll be greeted with bumpers that change position, delicious brains, and a toothy skull-like mollusk with slithering tentacles and a taste for pinballs. Manage to navigate into an alien’s maw and you may be spirited away into one of the bonus rounds to complete various tasks such as knocking skulls into pits or lighting up bumpers without being knocked back down.

This extraterrestrial action is always accompanied by your choice of two songs, “Lunar Eclipse” and “Demon’s Undulate;” the former an infectious, high-tempo action tune, the latter employing a slowly brooding and sinister air. Players may also choose either a fast or slow speed to match their level of proficiency, but the card’s most important feature by far is that Naxat has managed to produce a pinball game with elements unique to video games that still feels like the real thing. Controls are simple; the Turbo’s crosspad moves the left flipper while the I button manages the right, alternatively pressing the II button to “shake” the machine. The physics are always believable, leaving none to blame but yourself when the ball cheerfully sinks past your paltry defenses into oblivion.

With only one board and no tangible objective other than staying alive to garner a massive number of points, Alien Crush is somewhat lacking in terms of variety. Fortunately it more than compensates with its compulsively entertaining gameplay, begging you to try just one more game; fans of pinball or the Turbo/PCE in general should be happy to give this fine simulation and its superior sequel Devil Crash a good home. Otherwise they risk being devoured by the one-eyed monstrosities of Rigel IV, and we wouldn’t want that to happen. Or would we?

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 03/30/03, Updated 06/13/03

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