It wasn’t like pinball machines hadn’t been sexy before – many a lad had pumped his pocket money into Slick Chick just to spend more time with those painted-on bunnies – but there was something about Xenon that just dripped honey-drenched sexpot goodness.
Part of it was the alluring female robot on the backglass, part of it was the cool blue light of the bumpers, but mostly it was that voice . . .
Vocal samples had been used in pinball machines before, but each one had been male (reportedly, the naturally higher frequencies of the female voice required more storage space).
For Xenon, Bally turned to Suzanne Ciani, a composer famous for her synthesized electronic creations. Ciani recorded her own voice in very small bursts – enough to say “Welcome to Xenon”, a few more phrases, and some very sultry “ooh”s and “aah”s.
Back at Bally, designers programmed the voice to be triggered by coin drops, target hits, and so on.
In fairness, Xenon would have been a fun pinball game even without the voice. The blue light design, the double-mirrored ‘strobascopic infinity backbox’, and cool Heavy Metal-style future/fantasy artwork made the game a visual treat.
Gameplay was spiced up with a ‘Xenon transport tube’ shooting your pinball over from a ramp on the right side to the ‘exit chamber saucer’ on the left. And with Super Bonus multipliers and multi-ball play, Xenon had all the features that kept early 80’s pinball players coming back to the arcade.
But it was the voice that made Xenon a classic and had male fans dreaming of a big-eyed, silver-domed future girl of their very own.