Retro Game of the Day! Alien Crush
Alien Crush by Compile/Naxat, released in 1988 for TurboGrafx-16. Ah yes, video pinball, "how the tables have turned" (that would be a good title for a documentary about pins..)
And so I give you another TurboGrafx-16 launch title, as opposed to some of the other offerings this looked rather tepid at the time. You had Legendary Axe which looked.. legendary, Blazing Lazers which had a goofy name but beautiful screenshots, you had Vigilante which had a chick to save, and I don't really need to explain R-Type at this point. And so too you had this Alien Crush, which also had a goofy name (Orange Crush, with xenos? Wha?) and also some nice looking visuals - "but, it was pinball."
My not-quite-15-yr-old-self did give this game the once-over at the TG-16 Pre-Launch event that year (I think I just blew my budget for hyphens for the whole of 2010) and my attentions quickly scattered to some of the other offerings noted above. I never was much of a fan of any kind of pinball, video or otherwise (with certain exceptions) and I should expect that may from my generation felt the same. Well that is a shame, as I would discover years later, that Alien Crush is a pretty well-assembled little piece of software!
As it has been alluded to, my knowledge of the more intricate workings of pinball is not quite stellar, though I do know that this particular game has been critiqued a bit for how the physics are portrayed. Certainly no deal-breaker, as anyone who sits down to play this will have a hard time not getting sucked in anyway. The game does a fine job of melding classic pinball gameplay with options afforded it that could never be done in the physical realm (satisfying my rule of "why does it have to exist as a videogame?"). The whole affair is tastefully done, the graphics and effects are crisp and clean, and the game is quite addictive.
So what is the overall problem then? I'll hold that video pinball as an idea, on the whole, is a bastard child of sorts. It never received much love from either side (the dedicated pinball wizards, the serious videogamers). There's been more than a handful of very well-presented efforts, Alien Crush amongst the most famous of them, and these games are so timeless between their design and execution to merit classic status - but will forever be considered a mere sidestep in the annals of gaming unfortunately.
All of that being said, I implore the reader to seek out such games, they are sadly under-represented and offer a blissful experience for pure gaming, for what they are these games are quite unique. At some point I will dig through the sequels in the Crush series (Devil's Crush, Jaki Crush) but for now, get it on with some GutBusters...
And just for fun, some (vague, and odd) notes on the development that produced this game. Pink shirts!