from Mars Mini-Saucer LED Kit
by UFO Pinball
Review by Kevin Steele
Attack from Mars, produced by Bally/Williams
in 1996, is a particularly flashy pinball machine, and I mean that literally — featuring
a strobe light and a large number of #906 flashers, Attack from Mars is
a bright, blinking spectacle of light. Everything on the playfield is awash
in animated lights.
Well, almost everything — I couldn't help but
notice that the six smaller saucers that surround the main saucer were
pretty bland. Sure, they had a flasher dome, but other than that they just
sat there during gameplay, not doing much of anything.
The "Attack from Mars Mini-Saucer LED kit" from
UFO Pinball adds a lighting feature to this classic pinball machine that,
to me, looks like it should have been "factory original": namely,
filling in the holes on the six smaller saucers with animated LED lights.
Looking at a saucer with its normally empty holes, it seemed obvious what
should have been in those holes. With this kit, the saucers look complete.
Lots of blinking lights...Ahh...
The LED kit from UFO pinball does more than just provide
LED lights, however. Those LEDs have a common controller board, one that
provides a large number of animation patterns for those lights. The patterns
aren't just limited to the LEDs on each individual saucer, either: they
race back and forth across the entire fleet, strobing and flashing in an
The LED lighting controller board is one of the most
professional pieces of hobby equipment I've seen: a clean board layout,
one that includes such great touches as diagnostic LEDs and a fuse. There
are even mysterious "expansion connectors" on the board for future goodies
(Oh, and note the cute picture of a saucer and pinball/flipper in the upper-right
The UFO Pinball LED Controller Board
The attention to detail on this board extends even to
its mounting point: an unused corner of the backbox, complete with mounting
holes already in the backplane.
Looks like something should be installed here, doesn't it?
The kit includes standoffs and screws for mounting the
board in this corner, making installing the board an extremely simple procedure.
The board is powered by an unused connector on the power driver board,
once again making this kit look like missing original equipment.
Mounting hardware is included
In fact, there
is no "hacking" involved at all with this kit, with the minor
exception of one cable that is screwed to the top of transistor Q25 to
detect when the main saucer is hit. Everything is easily removable, and
no modifications or changes to the original equipment are necessary
at all to the pinball machine.
The finished board installation
Once the board is installed, the LED harnesses must then
be installed in each of the saucers. This part of the installation
process was tedious — not
really difficult, just time consuming (it took me about an hour and a half
to complete the installation).
Bill Ung's attention to detail shines again
here: he's included a mini-screwdriver set, which is perfect for poking
the ring of LEDs on each harness up into the unused holes in the mini-saucer
shells. The LEDs are held in place by friction, which means that no gluing
An LED harness, ready for installation
The LED harness was the most "amateur" looking part of
this kit, with the LED leads soldered together with big balls of solder
to form a ring. Still, I'm hard pressed to think of a better way to do
this, and it certainly works fine for the project. All of the harnesses
are numbered according to their position on the playfield, and the harness
cables were sized according to their distance from the backbox.
Once you've installed all the LED harnesses, the second-most
tedious part of this installation has to take place: namely, routing the
cables and reinstalling the saucers. The "lobster ramp" needs
to be removed to route one cable, and a couple of the rear saucers actually
use a previously unused cable routing hole in the playfield (once again,
it's as if this machine was designed to accomodate this mod!)
Most of the other cables can be simply slid into position
without removing anything else from the playfield, although I did loosen
up the main saucer bracket so I could reach underneath it. I did use zip
ties to attach the new cables, the one small oversight in an otherwise
all-inclusive installation kit (Bill even includes a spare fuse!)
The LEDs look factory-installed
Once everything's in place, just turn on the machine
and be amazed. The LEDs on the mini-saucers begin to spin and flash, with
patterns racing across each of the saucers and the entire fleet. The patterns
change about every five seconds, which usually coincides with some new
mode during gameplay.
Even better yet, when the main saucer is hit, all of
the mini-saucers' LEDs change to a pattern that matches the main saucer's
LED animation pattern. It's a great effect, and really adds to the "damage"
you've just inflicted on the attacking martians.
Bask in the unearthly glow, tasty human...
Are there any negatives? Just a few minor nits: one,
I would loved to have seen a few pictures in the otherwise detailed instruction
guide. Two: the lights are a bit distracting at first — I missed
the ball several times in the first few games when I stopped to stare at
the mesmerizing pattern changes! You soon learn to concentrate on the ball,
however. And three: it would be nice if the animations stopped during periods
when the whole playfield goes dark, such as Strobe Multiball and Video
The Attack from Mars Mini-Saucer LED kit sells for $149.99,
which may at first seem expensive for a pinball mod, but now to me seems
like a bargain after seeing the kit in action. Does it improve your game?
No, not really (I've found myself focusing more on destroying
the saucers than working towards Total Annihilation or Multiball), but
it does really add to the overall gameplay experience, in my opinion. If
you've got an Attack from Mars pinball machine, this is an excellent addition.
Recommended by RetroBlast.
UFO Pinball Home Page
Video of the LED Kit in Action
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