Attack From Mars Digital Pinball By Arcade1Up Review

Review of the Attack From Mars (AFM) Digital Pinball by Acrade1Up. The price is right but the gameplay doesn't live up to the potential without a major software update.

Written By Will Oetting

Arcade1Up AFM Digital Pinball

After waiting months trying to get a hold of an Attack From Mars Digital Pinball from Arcade1Up, I finally got one.  I had watched videos, read the TWIP Last Week In (Digital) Pinball article by Chris Friebus where he compares the digital cabinets, and I had thought through the digital cabinet options.  I believed that I was making a good choice with the Arcade1Up cab and loved the games available on it from Zen Studios.  Unfortunately, it didn’t take me long to realize that the real thing didn’t live up to my hopes of what AFM Digital Pinball could be.

There are actually three different versions of the Arcade1Up Digital Pinball cabinets: Marvel, Star Wars, and the Williams Attack From Mars (AFM) version that I purchased.  They all are ¾ scale models of an original pinball machine with an 23.8” LCD playfield display, haptic feedback, full working plunger, and a nudge system.  There are 10 games from Zen Studio’s collection in each of the versions that match the themes.  The AFM version has Attack from Mars, Fish Tales, The Getaway: High Speed II, Junk Yard, Medieval Madness, White Water, Red & Ted’s Road Show, Hurricane, No Good Gophers, and Tales of the Arabian Nights.  These are some of the best games from the Bally/Williams 90’s era of pinball.  Many of which are now very expensive as full size pinball machines on the second hand market.

Price and Availability

Price: $599.99
Availability: Best Buy, Best Buy Canada, The Brick Canada

The Good

  • The games list is amazing!
  • The price is very affordable
  • Sound system works well
  • Great menu navigation system
  • Plunger sensitivity is good
  • Artwork on cabinet looks nice

The Bad

  • Flipper lag!!!
  • Nudging doesn’t work
  • Poor playfield screen quality
  • Small DMD display with issues
  • Weak haptic response
  • Backglass is washed out and pixelated
  • Ikea-like assembly required

The Good

There are definitely some good things about the AFM Digital Pinball.  The price tag of $600 USD for the “A” and “B” level games available is a great value.  I own all of the available games on The Pinball Arcade on my phone and enjoy playing them often.  I’ve also played them on the Zen Studios Williams app as well.  Yes, it isn’t the same as playing real pinball, but I still enjoy it and it gives me some great practice on games that I don’t own.  With haptic feedback, a real feeling plunger, and nudging, it seems like the AFM Digital cabinet should just be the next step closer to the real thing. 

The artwork on the cabinet looks pretty good.  The colors pop and definition is passable for the size of the machine.  Unfortunately, the backglass is exactly the opposite.  The artwork is washed out and pixelated and when the LED lights shine through it it looks even worse.  The backglass really distracts from the look of the whole machine. 

The last couple of positives are the sound system that provides good sound quality for the size, as well as a plunger that works as expected.  The plunger sensitivity is decent.  I am able to vary the strength of the plunger pretty reliably.  Also, the menu system is very easy to navigate and it is convenient to view high scores while scrolling through games, not that I have been able to get many high scores with the issues described below.

And Then The Bad

There are quite a few bad aspects that keep the AFM Digital Pinball from being what I would want in a digital pinball cabinet.  Granted, there are some really good digital pinball cabinets out there, but their cost makes it hard to justify buying one over a real machine.  I’ve considered trying to make my own, but that takes effort, knowledge, and time.

There are quite a few bad aspects that keep the AFM Digital Pinball from being what I would want in a digital pinball cabinet.

The most important aspect of any pinball machine, real or digital, is how well the flippers work.  Without good strong flippers, the pinball machine can’t be played as intended.  That is why when I purchase a second hand machine one of the first things I do is check (and possibly rebuild) the flippers.  Well, the flippers on the Arcade1Up machine have issues and there aren’t any rebuild kits from Marco Specialties.  There is significant lag in flipping on several of the games, especially White Water, which makes it very difficult to hit shots.  Some of the lag feels like it is coming from the button mechanism itself where there is some play in the travel of the button.  Yet, some of the games play fairly well, like Medieval Madness, leading me to believe that the lag is actually in the software.  That could mean that Arcade1Up might eventually fix the problem since they have put out updates to their other games in the past, but there is no guarantee if and when that might happen.

Then there is the nudging which is supposed to feel like the real thing.  However, it is useless as it is implemented.  The machine is so light that I can easily push it across the room and I’m sure that makes figuring out nudge sensitivity extremely difficult for Arcade1Up.  When I do try nudging the response time in the ball lags quite a bit behind the movement.  Even more annoying, about the third game into playing after turning on the machine, the nudging sound effect seems to trigger continually during play.  I don’t notice much of an effect in ball movement and it doesn’t seem to tilt out, but the sound is very noticeable and overlays all other sound effects.  There doesn’t seem to be any way in the settings to turn off nudging in order to get rid of it.

The playfield display resolution makes it hard to read inserts and it doesn’t seem to be adjusted for the best balance of brightness and color.  The whole screen seems washed out, leaving the blacks looking more dark gray.  The DMD screen is also lacking.  They have shrunk the size of the DMD dots to only use maybe half of the actual screen size.  There are some weird empty lines on the DMD where there should be background dots and the whole thing isn’t centered.  Why in the world would they not center the DMD dots!?

The last issue that makes gameplay less enjoyable is the weak haptic feedback.  You can barely feel the tiny little solenoids.  It looks like quite a few owners have started adjusting the solenoid location in order to get a better experience, but it really feels like a design issue with the casing that surrounds each one.

The AFM Digital Pinball by Arcade1Up doesn’t live up to its potential.

The AFM Digital Pinball by Arcade1Up doesn’t live up to its potential.  Without a software update or some pretty extensive modding, the gameplay is lackluster and extremely frustrating.  Some of the games perform well enough to enjoy, but you don’t really get all that is advertised.  At the moment, even at $600 the value just isn’t there yet.  Wait it out before you decide to buy and see if improvements are made.

Play With The Box
My kids have had more fun with the box.
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1 year ago

There’s a software update available now. And yes it addressed all the issues you pointed out in your review. You have to flash the update yourself because as you know there’s no wi-fi on this pinball machine. So once you do the update it’s whooooooo hooooooo!

Will Oetting
Reply to  Lonchanney1
1 year ago

That is awesome! Thanks for the info.

Devante Weary
Devante Weary
Reply to  Will Oetting
1 year ago

Hey just wondering if you’ve updated and if so, what’s your take on everything now?

Will Oetting
Reply to  Devante Weary
1 year ago

I have not since I went ahead and sold it before an update came out. I didn’t know how long it would take them to get an update out there and it didn’t seem worth it.

Reply to  Devante Weary
9 months ago

I did the update and it doesn’t address the lag or lack of power in the flippers on Attack From Mars. The only game I bought it for. Hopefully they’ll come out with a mod for it. Meanwhile, I deal with it. Better than the rediculous prices they’re asking for the real thing, right now.

Terry Burrows
Terry Burrows
Reply to  Will Oetting
6 months ago

I just got my Attack from Mars pinball today. I played it and it had significant lag. I did the software update and I am not sure if it improved the flipper lag at all. Flippers are the whole point of a pinball!

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