On May 31, the Hexa Pinball team announced the imminent release of its first Space Hunt pinball machine. By 8pm the following day Paris time, the model was available for pre-order. Hexa Pinball is the only French manufacturer in operation, and that alone deserves the encouragement of the French-speaking community.
A quality reveal video
First and foremost, Hexa Pinball’s entry on the pinball scene has been carefully crafted. The video is soberly edited, but shows enough to give a fairly accurate idea of the machine. The visuals are underscored by an original metal/rock soundtrack, which will be heard in-game.
If there’s one criticism to be made, it’s that the video perhaps doesn’t dwell enough on what sets Space Hunt apart from its many competitors. And yet, there are significant points of differentiation.
Space Hunt: an original theme, not a license
The first distinctive feature is obvious: Space Hunt is an original theme, designed by Luis, a member of the Hexa team and also the designer of this pinball machine. Initially imagined as a home brew (a prototype), Luis’ meeting with other team members enabled this machine to become a “marketable product”, without any pejorative notion.
The scenario is as follows: you are Spherus, the last free survivor of your species, and you must defeat the enemy, the Space Hunters, and free your people.
Obviously, an unlicensed theme is also the result of economic constraints or simplicity. But whatever the reasons, the community appreciates unlicensed pinball machines, and this is one of them.
Funnily enough, science fiction is also the theme of Galactic Tank Force, and an alien attack the basis of Stern Pinball’s Foo Fighters scenario. Space battles are in with the times, it seems, because there’s no link between these three machines released in 2023.
Striking pink artwork
Don’t get us wrong: although Pinball Mag. appreciates the Hexa team, it’s not our fault that pink dominates the visuals! It just so happens that pink, when used wisely, is in good taste 🙂
On a more serious note, the backbox artwork is striking. Listeners to our special Space Hunt podcast were surprised to be able to choose between two versions. And we’re pleased to say that the one they voted for has indeed been chosen. The image is simple and dynamic.
The decals are similar, but more static. The “cell-shading” that forms the graphic basis of the pinball machine is also used in the LCD screen animations.
A sober playfield
The playfield is indeed sober, when compared with the productions of Stern or, even more so, Jersey Jack Pinball. In other words, there are no toys or figurines on the board. There is one exception, however: the villain who graces the back panel has its three heads represented by three flashing beacons, which we assume will react to the game phases.
So it’s all about ramps and trajectories. You get the feeling that the team didn’t want to promise more than they could deliver, but that they did take care with what they chose. Among the details that count:
- all railings are metal, no plastic here! In fact, finding a French blacksmith to make them was one of the designers’ challenges.
- The speaker panels spare us the generic grids all too often seen at Stern, and elegantly reproduce the pinball machine’s initials.
- As for the hardware underneath, Hexa has designed its machine to be easily maintainable.
In terms of quantity, the pinball machine includes :
- a double-entry central ramp serving the left flipper
- another ramp serving the upper playfield (see below)
- a backflip ramp feeding the right-hand flipper
- a loop to be traversed in both directions
- two flippers plus a miniature version
- two bumpers in the bottom plate
- a spinner (a small piece of metal that turns on itself)
- three drop targets
- at least three fixed targets
An intriguing upper playfield
Let’s move on to the main course: the playfield is overhung at top right by a small, raised platform, on which a mini-flipper allows loops to be chained around a hole.
A sort of plumb line runs through the center of the hole. How it works is still a mystery. Will it be necessary to target it in specific missions? Probably, as this feature is called “single pendulum shot”.
Other innovations to discover
The pinball machine’s description sheet specifies other points that raise questions:
- A pin hidden somewhere, but which doesn’t seem to be placed between the two flippers.
- A “pause system”, the operation of which raises questions. How do you pause a game? Can the flipper be held up without pressing the button? Is it more sophisticated than that?
- A “digital menu service”, which suggests that there’s no need to open the coin door to enter the settings. Is this what it’s all about?
Space Hunt and its “elegance” package
I like this French term, far removed from the American canon of “collector”, “limited” and the like. In concrete terms, you can order an upgraded version of the pinball machine including :
- A mirror-effect back glass
- A RadCals-style case decal, i.e. a case decal printed in hard plastic, as on JJP pinball machines
- Different “purple Bordeaux” paintwork
- Art blades
- Anti-glare glass
- Pinsound sound system and shakers
As you can see, the gameplay doesn’t change between the two versions; the improvements are aesthetic and in terms of playing comfort.
Price, sales outlets and delivery times
The standard version of the Space Hunt pinball machine is priced at €8,900 incl. VAT, considerably less than the Pro version of a Stern pinball machine (€9,600 incl. VAT for the latest Foo Fighters). Add another €2,100 incl. VAT, for a total of €11,000 incl. VAT for the elegant version.
If you’re interested in the pinball machine, three distributors have been selected, in mainland France only:
- Loisirs & Technique in Bordeaux
- Maxipinball in Hauts-de-France
- Fliptonic near Nantes
Sellers will ask for a deposit to reserve your pinball machine. There are no limited quantities advertised, but the order of reservations will determine the order of delivery. First come, first served.
First deliveries are scheduled for the 4th quarter of 2023.