Wednesday, October 22, 2014

MIchigan Pinball Expo Part 3.5

Time for Part 3 and a half of my Michigan Pinball Expo 2014 report! Elvira's Scared Stiff was the table of the first half and kicked off our little Halloween Hootenanny here on Bumper City! Now I know that martians are moreso based in the science fiction genre but I already did a sci-fi theme for my MPE trip reports and I figured that aliens would work well for Halloween despite not being a part of the horror genre. HEY people like to dress up as martians for Halloween right? RIGHT! So let's take a look at Attack From Mars!
Attack From Mars is basically pinball distilled. Tables of the 90's, like Twilight Zone, were revolutionizing pinball, though they were not without their faults, what with clunky playfields or complicated rulesets. Instead of trying to re-invent the wheel, designer Brian Eddy, opted for a more basic design on AFM.

Attack From Mars' playfield is considered by many a "fan layout"; it has symmetrical ramps and loops with a central bash toy, target banks flanking each side of the playfield and a bumper cluster hidden in the upper playfield. Though some would prefer a more complex playfield, Eddy fine-tuned the "fan layout" of AFM into something that plays fast and has amazing flow. Hitting the ramps and loops in succession is a beautiful example of pinball design; each shot just flows into one another so organically. You can spend all day just hitting the ramps and loops and the gameplay will never stop! You might even start a multiball or two in the process.
It is not just the design of Attack From Mars' playfield that speaks to its first-class quality; the art package is top notch. Everything from the playfield art to the backglass and even the cabinet art is high-caliber. Doug Watson is the individual responsible for AFM's art package. Watson's style is ubiquitous and is easily recognized throughout many of his tables. His approach to playfield artwork is quite geometric by using bold shapes and lines to define a table's objectives and shots.
Watson's style is most evident on Terminator 2: Judgement Day and Demolition Man.

While Watson's playfield art lends itself more towards the design and shape of the playfield. While artists like John Youssi and Python Anghelo stuff all manners of little details and references into their playfield art packages, Watson's artwork tends to contain much more shapes and lines to enhance the visual flow and direction of the playfield. That is not to say that Watson lacks detail though; look at that T-800 exoskeleton! (thanks for the correction, Joe! maybe I should finish watching Terminator) The level of quality in that T-800 alone is outstanding! Watson's backglasses are pretty wild too. The Martians on AFM's backglass look almost life-like!

The playfield design and art package of Attack From Mars aren't it's only strong points; this is a table where it's quality is the sum of all it's parts. The sound design for AFM is top notch, having some of the memorable callouts in all of pinball. In particular, the French man that makes quips while the Eiffel Tower is under attack also shows up in Medieval Madness, Revenge From Mars, and even Stern's Mustang (play the Stunt Driver mode to hear him). Doug Watson pulled double duty on AFM, having also written the script for the callouts AND performing the voices of the Martians! The quips from both humans and martians are clever and well done which serve to benefit the overall high quality of Attack From Mars.

If you want to talk about pinball perfection, I would have to say Attack From Mars is one of those tables that reaches that upper echelon. Every aspect of this table, the playfield, the art design, the soundbites and the DMD animations, are some of the best around. The gameplay is addicting and anyone, from novices to veterans of the pinball game, can feel like a champ on AFM. It is not an overly difficult table nor are there many shots whose sole purpose is to make you drain; the table's design is more focused on hitting combos on the ramps and loops rather than hitting targets. This means that as long as you remain accurate, you can play a real good game. Many people see The Addams Family as the greatest pinball table but I think some of that is based on nostalgia. Everybody remembers The Addams Family from the days when pinball was more prevalent and could be found in arcades, restaurants, malls, convenience stores, what-have-you. But if I had to speak objectively about the table that best encapsulates pinball, I would be hard-pressed to say anything other than Attack From Mars. I would consider Attack From Mars the golden standard of pinball. Everything just works so well together on this table and it is an absolute blast to play.

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