This guide is for casual non-tournament play! It focuses on extra balls and Ruling the Universe instead of safe shots. Ruling the Universe is always my goal, which has lost me a fair number of matches in tournaments.
This guide works for both Attack from Mars (AFM) and AFM remake. Beware that lowering the force field on AFM remake is more dangerous than on the original.
You must complete six objectives to get to Rule the Universe. I will go through them by priority.
You must destroy saucers to defend 5 countries, and then attack and conquer Mars.
There are three steps to destroy a saucer:
Lower the force field: You lower the saucer force field by hitting the three (red) center stand up targets. Try to hit between the center target and a side target to collect two at once. Hitting the center when already lit will spot a side target. The force field can be lowered with a single super skill shot hit to the force field (hold left flipper button down while launching the ball and hit the saucer with your first shot). Lowering the forcefield is the most dangerous shot in the game.
Damage the saucer: Once the force field is down, hitting the center drop target and the adjacent stand ups (inside the saucer) damages the saucer. Damaging the saucer is the second most dangerous shot in the game. The safest way to damage the saucer is to aim for the stand up target on the same side as the flipper you are shooting from (right stand up from right flipper, left from left). This will usually hit the stand up, drop target, opposite stand up and then return straight towards your other flipper fast. Do enough damage to the saucer and the drop target will remain down so you can…
Destroy the saucer: Hit the ball into the hole revealed by the lowered drop target to destroy the saucer.
After you destroy your second saucer the extra ball will be lit at the Stroke of Luck scoop. After you destroy your 5th saucer you get to attack mars!
To Conquer Mars you have to lower the forcefield and then hit the center hole 10 times. Each time the ball returns safely to the left flipper, so this can sometimes be completed with 10 straight shots.
Conquering Mars is the hardest part of AFM. The first two saucers take only a few hits each, so shoot for them directly to get your extra ball. After that multiballs are very helpful in damaging and destroying saucers, but you cannot lower the forcefield during multiball. Always lower the forcefield before starting a multiball.
You must collect the main multiball super jackpot to get to Rule the Universe. You light and collect locks at the ramp/scoop shot to the left of the saucer. The shot is a ramp if the lock is not lit, and a scoop when lock is lit. Lock three balls to start the multiball.
To collect the super jackpot you must hit each of the 4 main shots (right orbit, left orbit, right ramp, left ramp) and lock ramp and then hit the moving super jackpot shot.
For the first multiball, the light lock ramp lights all three ball locks. After that you must light each lock individually, so try to get the super jackpot on your first multiball.
Make each of the main shots (right orbit, left orbit, right ramp, left ramp) three times to start the Total Annihilation multiball. The inserts show your progress on the shots. This is the safe play in tournaments, just Total Annihilation all day.
Martian Attack Multiball
Spelling M-A-R-T-I-A-N by hitting the green stand ups lights Martian Attack at the Stroke of Luck scoop. Hit the scoop and you have 30 seconds to hit the four martians wiggling at you (right bank, left bank, and one on each side of the saucer). Hit all four to start Martian Attack Multiball. If you have a martian bomb (the launch button will flash) you can press it to instantly kill one martian. Martian Attack can also be lit as a random Stroke of Luck award and by hitting the lit martian during Sneak Attack (also a random Stroke of Luck award).
This goal sometimes just happens through normal play, and sometimes is the most annoying goal to get. During single ball play, making any ramp or completed orbit (your three shots completed towards Annihilation) starts the combo timer. You just have to hit another one of those shots to continue getting combos. Collecting a lock even continues it. But the Stroke of Luck scoop or an incomplete orbit ends the timer immediately. I have found that completing the right orbit makes finishing the 5-way combo much easier. If you get to a 3-way combo during normal play, I recommend trying to finish the 5-way right then.
You will just get this in normal play. Don’t every worry about it unless it is the last thing you need.
Rule the Universe!!!
Once you complete all six goals, Rule the Universe will be lit at the Stroke of Luck scoop. Hit the scoop and you start a 5-ball multiball where everything is lit. Your goal is to score 5 billion points during multiball. I recommend hitting orbits for jackpots and to park balls in the pops, and to occasionally hit the lock ramp for big Annihilation jackpots. During ball save the saucer can be worth quick big points.
The Necessary Extra
Stroke of Luck (SoL) is the necessary extra when going for Rule the Universe. Stroke of Luck is a semi-random award collected at the SoL scoop (only from the bottom, not the top). It starts lit at the beginning of each ball and is re-lit by completing the yellow inlane rollovers (which can be moved with the flipper buttons).
Stroke of Luck is where you will get extra balls to extend your game. Rarely it will simply award an extra ball. In the first half dozen SoLs you should get Strobe Multiball that lights the extra ball after 10 force field hits. Soon after that, SoL should award the Video Mode, and if you can last long enough an extra ball will show up to be shot. Finally completing 10 sets of inlane rollovers will light the extra ball.
So of the four common ways to get an extra ball, SoL and the associated inlane completions accounts for three of them. It is way easier to Rule the Universe on seven balls than it is on four balls (three plus the second saucer extra ball)! So always shoot SoL and always move the inlane lights.
In tournaments, SoL always awards 50 million. Boring!
The Cool Billion Extra
When you complete the third shot of any of four main shots, you start a 100 million hurry-up at the saucer. If you add additional completions before hitting the saucer the hurry-up will reset at a higher value, 300 million and then 500 million. Any completion that starts Total Annihilation will automatically collect the new hurry up value, and if you can stack four completions it will auto-collect for a cool Billion points! Truly one of the most satisfying shots in pinball!
A Final Note
You can only Conquer Mars once in a game. This may seem like a bummer, but it means that repeating Rule the Universe is significantly easier after the first time. It also means that if you are close to starting Rule the Universe, you might want to delay finishing a difficult goal that you have already completed. Save it for the next Rule the Universe.
Now go Conquer Mars!