Pinball contains multitudes. I mean, not just multiball – pinball has a rich history of games within games, such as the little pinball table under the court in monsters Or a small boxing game in Champion Pub. 2019’s Demon’s Tilt, a pinball game I lovedembrace the benefits of a virtual table by being multi-screen, throwing bullet hell attacks at your ball, and having more than one secret sub-table to discover (real-life bowling would be even cooler if there were Giant skull at the end of the corridor).
The Complete Video Game Sequel: Adds Guns.
But not just guns! Xenotilt (Opens in a new tab), which replaces the occult with science fiction, happily carries on the tradition of pinball games within. You can play blackjack with a waving cyborg cat, if you don’t hit him with the ball a few times he explodes. Being a merchant is a thankless job.
Xenotilt is so stuffed with… things That I could barely handle it in a couple of hours with a trial version. There’s a new system that lets you lock up to nine balls, each one granting you a bonus or power-up. When you hug the ball with a flipper, you can fire turrets or lasers to rip apart the little enemies that fly around the board, making way for the ball. There are so many explosions and particle effects flying off the screen at all times that I tend to get distracted and let the ball slide across the flippers. Xenotilt is overwhelming on purpose.
“I’m trying to do something extreme. It’s supposed to be aggressive, you know… screaming,” says designer/artist/programmer Adam Ferrando. “The franchise system is basically the louder version of each of these mechanics, but you build on it—when you start the game it’s still exciting, but you’re building something.”
Nowhere is the maximalist drive more evident than in the art of Xenotilt, which mixes 3D boss monsters and sprites of all shapes and sizes and so many particle effects, I’m really amazed that Xenotilt runs at full speed on the Steam Deck without stuttering issues.
“A lot of retro-inspired games put arbitrary rules on tiles and boards and things, but I don’t really do any of that. Pixels aren’t one-to-one. Pixels are composed at a higher resolution than most sprite art. I play with scale. I really go for it.” What looks good.”
Ferrando says he’s a fan of “bosses that fill the screen,” and Xenotilt sure has those—every game you’ll be jumping between three levels of the field (it’s taller than the already long board in Demon’s Tilt), each game dominated by a sci-fi boss in the middle of the field. . The bosses in Xenotilt are nothing like the bosses in your typical video game. that they can Throw attacks at you or summon tiny enemies to get in the way of your ball, but there’s no game over to launch a ramp to score points elsewhere on the board. “They’re not trying to drain you or be unfair—it’s not that kind of challenging,” he says. “They’re trying to disrupt the flow a bit and change up the play space. It’s an escalating challenge, which is to occupy that space and make it fun and exciting.”
Bosses are also there to make the tower mechanic even more exciting and rewarding: if you save ammo for a moment a boss explodes and generates a pulsating red ball, you can power up your towers to shoot at them for the second jackpot. “Everything in the second game is based on existing ideas, but given a new, deeper twist,” he says. If you’ve played Demon’s Tilt, you’ll get a sense of how Xenotilt remixes that game’s magic system and boss behavior. If you haven’t, the theme may be the biggest draw.
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Demon’s Tilt was apparently heavily inspired by one of the virtual pinball legends, Devil crushAnd Ferrando laughed when he admitted that following it up with a sci-fi tabletop was an intentional sparring take on that game’s predecessor, Alien Crush – but with its own aesthetic.
“I said early on that I didn’t want to make HR Giger,” he says. “I like Giger a lot…but the tone of this was less Giger, more mystery, Warhammery, kind of chunky. Just trying to be different and find things that surprise me.”
Xenotilt will come out this year and feels close to completion, though Ferrando and publisher Ralph Barbagallo are still considering an early launch. It will be fully playable, with all planned launch content – including a new time attack mode inspired by speedrunning.
“It’s been a long time since the first game was when we started early access,” says Barbagallo. “Getting community feedback was an important part of the development process, so I still want to do that.” Ferrando points out how the Demon’s Tilt situation was – it turns out that if someone is playing a game of very early access pinball, they tend to get good feedback.
Here’s a starter to get you hooked so you can play for yourself: A complete game* of Xenotilt.
* A short game where I only see a small piece of what Xenotilt has to offer but I don’t have hours to play it here
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