Attack From Mars
Model No: 50041
Released: December 1995
Designed By: Brian Eddy
Art By: Doug Watson
Software: Lyman F. Sheats Jr.
Mechanics: Robert C. Friesl
Sound: Dan Forden
Music: Dan Forden
Attack From Mars was one of the bigger hits of the pinball boom of the 90's. For this one, extravagant playfield toys and gadgets took a backseat to strong, basic pinball play and some of the funniest dialogue ever recorded for a pin. The game is obviously a takeoff of Mars Attacks!, a so-so Tim Burton film released at about that time, but without that oh-so-expensive license. It turned out to be the correct decision – it is difficult to play pinball games based upon, say, that Flintstones movie that was released a few years back, or Demolition Man, or The Phantom. The only exceptions to this rule are licenses that have a somewhat more timeless basis – The Addams Family, for example, or my all-time fave Twilight Zone.
Only one playfield device really affects play – a bank of three targets mounted on a motorized platform, that can be raised into the playfield to block the "saucer" target bank, or lowered to provide access to same. The other toys are entertaining, a saucer suspended from a wire that shakes when damage is scored in the game, and rubber Martians that shake and dance around during a certain mode, but the ball doesn't touch them (or shouldn't, at least). The playfield is wide-open and unobscured. Besides the saucer, no major shot is blocked. There isn't a lot of fancy stuff happening on the table. It is a very "pure" machine in this respect.
There are two primary objectives to the game. The more reasonable one is Conquer Mars. During the game, completing the target bank blocking the saucer cause it to eventually lower and allow access to the banked targets behind. Lowering the bank begins an "Attack Wave," a special mode that doesn't end if the player loses a ball. Most other modes and even multiballs overlap with an Attack Wave. Once a wave is started, it continues oblivious to almost anything else until completed or the game ends, the sole exception being Strobe Multiball (which simply puts it "on hold" for awhile). During an Attack Wave, all hits to the saucer targets score large point values. Multiple hits during one animation are counted, and tallied up accurately, with a special message ("5x Damage 250,000,000"). Do enough damage (more is required in each succeeding Attack Wave, of the five available) and the drop target at the back of the saucer bank goes down. A shot into the hole it blocks destroys the saucer, worth an ever larger point award, starting at 200 million and going up a hundred mil each time, up to 600M for completing the fifth wave, and raising the target bank again. At default settings, completing the second wave also lights Extra Ball.
The problem with completing Attack Waves is that it is easy for a shot to the saucer targets to go Straight Down The Middle (SDTM), and it takes a lot of hits to complete the fourth and fifth waves. This is why having a wave going during multiball is so important – with the balls bouncing around randomly, and the somewhat generous ball saver at the beginning of multiball, it is a fairly easy task to complete the current wave. Once a wave is over the blocking target bank resets and doesn't allow you to start a new wave until multiball ends, but if, during multiball, you manage to get a ball trapped behind that target when the bank goes up, and then use another ball to hit the target, causing it to knock the trapped ball up into the hole, you automatically clear the entire next attack wave, and even get the points for destroying that saucer (but not the saucer hits leading up to it). The scoreboard flashes "DIRTY POOL" when this happens, an homage to Addams Family, which also had secret awards to give to players who made a shot that shouldn't be possible, prompting Gomez to quip: "Dirty pool old man... I like it!"
Once five Attack Waves are completed, completing the target bank one last time starts Attack Mars, which is similar except that the center drop target stays down and hits to the side targets no longer do anything. Only the hole gives credit, at 100M a shot, taking a big chunk out of Mars, displayed on the scoreboard. Ten shots destroys the planet and awards 2.5 *billion* points. Then, for the rest of the game, there are no more Attack Waves, just additional awards of 100M for hitting the center, while the player concentrates on other things.
Other things, oh, like Rule The Universe. That's the other "wizard" mode on the game, and a real challenge to start. Not only must the player Conquer Mars (which requires a fairly long game, since so many shots are involved), but must also start Super Jets (which is almost impossible not to start in a game of sufficient length), start Martian Attack Multiball (not too hard), play Total Annihilation (a lot of fun, not a difficult trick for good players), earn a Five-Way Combo (once in a while this is hard, but also tends to happen accidently) and... earn a Super Jackpot during normal Mulitball. That can be tricky. Once all these things are done in one game, then the player earns the long-awaited blue light, "Rule The Universe," made by shooting the little Stroke of Luck scoop.
Rule the Universe is... intense. Only Lost In The Zone, in Twilight Zone, rivals it. Six balls are put into play, and for a fairly long period, all lost balls are returned. All major awards are lit: Martians are bouncing around, Total Annihilation is running along with Annihilation Jackpots, Super Jets are active I think, and the Super Jackpot is moving back and forth among the major shots. And of course, the center saucer hole is still worth 100M a plug. This continues until the lengthy ball saver ends and all balls are lost (not just all but one), or until the player earns five billion points. Then the player gets another five billion points and is declared "Ruler Of The Universe," a special vanity board entry complete with initials, which remains until another player dethrones him.
The basic playfield consists of the usual outlanes and inlanes, and flippers. Outlanes are pretty bad on this table. There are two ramps, both placed at about the same distance from the center, on the left and right sides of the board. Further out, just past each ramp, is the orbit, each "side" of which counts as a separate shot (if you shoot up the left orbit and it comes down the right, it counts as a left orbit hit only, and vice versa). Between the ramps is a small "lock" ramp on the left, the Stroke of Luck scoop on the right, and dead in the center of the board are the saucer targets and the motorized blocking wall. Jet bumpers, into which the ball is typically launched, are on the right side of the board near the top, with the usual rollover lanes above them. It is possible for weak orbit shots to fall into the bumpers. The bumpers also have an entry to the Stroke of Luck scoop, but the game usually doesn't award Stroke of Luck if the ball falls in from the bumpers. It "knows" the ball entered from there if a bumper is triggered within a few seconds of a scoop hit. Scattered about the board are seven lettered "MARTIAN" targets, each bank decorated with a rubber martian which bounces about during Martian Attack and Martain Multiball.
The game tends to be quite fast. Slightly strong shots are required to get up the main ramps, and there aren't many things on the board to slow the ball down. There are some nice strategic elements concerning the behavior of "Extra Ball" from Stroke of Luck, and plugging away at Attack Waves during multiball is often very lucrative. But the highest scores will go to players who manage to play Rule The Universe. Starting it is the hard part – once begun, all shots are so valuable that it doesn't take an awful lot to earn the five billion needed to win.
For a full rule sheet for Attack From Mars, check here:
The Internet Pinball Database, http://www.lysator.liu.se/pinball/IPD