Sinclair User2nd April 1989
Published in Sinclair User #88
Five! Four! Three! Two! One! Standby for action! Dob diddly Dum Dum dum dum dum, dum dum dum dum. Geddit? No, no - not Captain Scarlet or Stingray. Unless the sands of time have very significantly dimmed the brain we are talking serious Thunderbirds, m'lad. International Rescue and all that.
Featuring in full 48K-C-Vision Brains, Alan, Virgil, Lady Penelope, Parker, Scott - Thunderbird 4, The Mole, the works! Yes, the series that captivated a generation in the 60's has been repeated ever since and made a huge comeback recently on video is now a computer game. Again... again? Yes, 'cos this time Grandslam have taken up the banner of truth and justice, after Telecomsoft made such a bodge job of it a few years back. And this time, it's a lot better.
Those very competent people at Teque have done a great graphic job here, with really colourful screens and some nice animation but unfortunately they've been hampered by an uninspired design.
The game is certainly big - four scenarios (20-30 flip screens apiece) each based on a Thunderbird episode, plus the 'added value' of a music cassette and other goodies. All commanding the big price of £12.99, but does a big price equate with big fun?
Thing is, you see, along with the Thunderbirds licence come a few artistic restrictions. Like no-one can get hurt... that means no zapping. Grandslam have tried the arcade adventure approach.
The basic gameplay is this. You control two members of the Thunderbird team in each scenario - in the first one, Mine Menace, it's Alan Tracy and Brains, flipping between the two by pressing Space.
Before you go in, you each have to choose two items to carry in with you, from a selection of six - a different six for each level. For instance, a lamp might be useful in a mine... whereas an aqualung might be better used in Scenario 2 - Sub Crash. These items are shown by your character and strength icons, at the top of the screen. The active item is highlighted and you can toggle between them.
There is a text window above the main display too, which will put up messages from time to time.
Now, once you are in you have to finish the level within a strict time limit. You move around ine screen according to the level - again on the first you have to rescue miners trapped underground - that means shutting off the water that's rising fast and finding your way down to the trapped guys, having to explode rocks and stuff to unblock bits mend lifts and all that, from the bottom up, Alan from the top down.
All this problem solving has to be done by putting items in your active pocket and bumping into the right thing. Not necessarily that exciting. Arcade elements are kept to a strict minimum... dodging falling stalactites on screens that have a "Warning" sign. Arcade elements in the other scenarios are of the same simplicity and are too few and too slow to bring a rush of adrenaline even to those that are easily pleased. No-one is going to play Thunderbirds in preference to going skydiving.
It looks great, but doesn't catch the imagination - and is unlikely to keep you on the edge of your seat the way the series did. F.A.B.? Not this time boys...
Nice looking, but low action design makes a bit iffy.