Are you ready to crush aliens by hitting them with a metallic pinball? Yes? Then Alien Crush Returns is for you. Not much has changed with Hudson’s Crush series of action pinball games, even though the last game was released nearly a decade ago. Alien Crush: Returns is Alien Crush with a few tweaks and a slimy 3D pinball table.
The controls are different since you use the Wii remote/nunchuck to play. You start the game by holding down on the analog stick or D-pad to launch the ball. Pressing the Z button on the nunchuck activates the left flipper. Hitting the B button under the remote swings the right flipper. The A button makes the ball perform an action move, one of the new features. There are three action moves you can use, but only the forward boost is usable at the very beginning. Playing through story mode unlocks the reverse boost which changes the direction of the ball and a temporary multi-ball. We’ll get to those in a bit.
There are three tables and two boss fights to clear in story mode. Yes, Alien Crush: Returns actually has a story, but it’s barely noticeable. Story mode primarily differs from arcade mode since you have specific targets, indicated by a floating red triangle, to hit. Defeat all of the marked aliens to clear the stage. Aliens don’t actively dodge a ball coming straight for them. The aliens are mostly stationary and no match for a player using the three action moves. Once you hit an alien you can activate the reverse skill to turn around, hit it again, and finish it off. Each action skill has a refresh rate so you can’t reverse twice in a row, but action skills still make clearing the aliens a lot easier. The temporary multi-ball action makes your ball split into two and allows players to cover more area. Clone balls aren’t created equal. If the cloudy looking clone ball falls into a pit you don’t have to worry, but if the original ball falls into the hole you lose a life. Under regular multiball conditions either ball can fall into the pit and the game continues with the remaining ball.
Action skills also help you conserve lives. If your ball is about to plummet between the two flippers, activate the reverse skill and you’ll avoid losing a life. This is pretty obvious, but the forward boost can save you too. If the ball bounces upwards before falling into the abyss a well timed boost will shoot the ball back on the game board. These moves are easier to execute compared to “tilting” the table by shaking the remote/nunchuck. You can’t gently tilt the table upwards and steadily hold it in place. Tilting is more like flicking the table upwards.
Two bosses interrupt you in story mode. A large alien with a huge grin sitting on top of a ramp is waiting for you after stage two. It occasionally sprays purple gunk on the two flippers which locks them. You can still lift the flippers to save the ball from falling into the pit, but sticky flippers can’t fling the ball very far. You need to mash the flipper buttons to get rid of the viscous purple slime. The final boss has a more dangerous ability that impales your ball and instantly takes a life. Action commands are the main way to dodge the last boss' deadly tentacle. Both boss fights take place in the same arena where you need to aim for the center to do damage.
Running through story mode shouldn’t take more than an hour. If that sounds too long save points allow players to take breaks between stages. However, story mode ends when the final boss explodes. If you want an endless challenge arcade mode is the way to go. You can select one of the three tables and play until you lose all of your lives. Hudson has plans to release extra stages for Alien Crush: Returns, but it is unclear how this will happen in the future. The other online connectivity lets players test their skills against another another human via worldwide versus play. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to try this mode since the three minute timer runs out before anyone joins my room. Up to four players can join and in the dozen times I tried to get into an online match I haven't seen a single person.
Images courtesy of Hudson.