The year is 2063, the place is a small remote island in the centre of the Pacific Ocean. Not very much happens here, nothing that is until the cry 'calling International Rescue' goes up, because tucked away in the middle of this island is the Tracy residence. Jeff Tracy, ex-astronaut and retired industralist is the boss man behind the world's top global rescue team, aided by his sons Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John.
Thunderbirds is the latest attempt to do Mr Anderson's famous early-Sixties puppet creations justice - Firebird had a go some time back.
This is a four-level arcade/strategy game with each section representing a knd of typical TV episode, although all four are related to each other.
Task number one calls International Rescue to a mine where two miners are trapped in a cage deep below the surface far from conventional help. Worse still a leaky valve is letting the mine fill with water.
So Alan, Virgil and Horatio Hackenback III - Brains - head to the rescue. Virgil waits in Thunderbird 2 as the others rummage around the mine solving clues which will save the trapped miners. Each of the characters must take two items from a choice of torch, lamp, laser cutting tool, bag of gob stoppers, klaxon and grease can. It's your choice to work out which is necessary to each task in in each section of the game. And the characters are controlled separately, with many puzzles only solvable by a particular person.
Succeed in rescuing the miners and you're given a password to the next level, called Sub Crash. A revolutionary atomic-powered submarine has struck a deliberately planted mine and now teeters on the edge of an underwater volcano whilst its nuclear reactor threatens to go critical at any moment. Alan and Gordon's task in TB4 is to shut down the reactor and refloat the sub before it falls into the volcano and causes even more aggro. Another six items and the customary time limit apply.
After raising the sub, fragments of limpet mine discovered in its hull have been identified, although the makers are not known. The problem is that the document detailing the mine's makers are locked in a vault in the Bank of England. So mission three sees the British agents Lady Penelope and her long suffering manservant Parker sneaking into the bank. They have to negotiate faulty lifts, an overzealous guard and a variety of security devices which need plenty of thought to bypass.
Once Penelope and Parker have retrieved the document they discover that the evil Hood is behind the dastardly scheme. They also discover that he's holding International Rescue to ransom, having photographed the Thunderbird craft at the scene of the sub crash. He's also threatening to explode a 60-megaton bomb if they don't pay loadsa dosh in three hours.
Countdown To Terror takes Scott and Virgil to Arizona to battle the Hood and destroy his devilish bomb, but as always fiendish puzzles, a manic robot and the evil genius himself threaten the Tracy's plans.
Grandslam have done an excellent job in converting the puppets from TV to the computer screen. The character sprites all move around the screen as amusingly as their supermarionated cousins (and I mean that as a compliment). The puzzles are devilishly complicated (especially on levels three and four), but not so much as to kill enthusiasm.
'Neat graphics and well devised gameplay gives Thunderbirds the attraction of the TV eries. In fact, the graphics mirror the puppets brilliantly and have hardly any colour clash, though there is plenty of colour onscreen. Superb game isn't it Parker? 'Yus m'lady'!? Oi!'
It's the boys in blue! No, not the rozzers, the Traceys. They're probably the most famous puppets in the world. But not content with having a starring role on their own TV show, T-Shirts, magazines, records and badges, those F.A.B. boys of Thunderbirds fame have gone and done the only thing left for them to do - got themselves the lead in their very own computer game.
This Thunderbirds is a big flip screen arcade adventure starring all our favourite marionettes. It's basically four games in one and takes the form of a two cassette (or disk) multiload, with one rescue mission on each side of the tape. There are four rescue missions to undertake, Mine Menace, Sub Crash, Bank Job and Countdown To Disaster. Each mission gets progressively harder and the time in which you must complete them also reduces, so planning your moves becomes vital. And in each mission you must control two Thunderbirds characters at once, toggling between the two using the space bar. So there's lots going on.
The game starts with Mission One - Mine Menace. Jeff Tracey intercepts a distress call to find that some miners are trapped in their cage deep underground. This is obviously a job for international Rescue.
Alan and Brains are quickly dispatched to the scene, Alan being dropped off at the top of the mine by Thunderbird 2, whilst Brains burrows his way in at the bottom using the Mole. Their aim (of course) is to rescue the miners before the mine floods and drowns them. But before they can even go into the mine the two characters must first tool up.
This tooling up sequence occurs at the start of every rescue mission. There are six pieces of useful rescue equipment on offer (in later missions the amount of equipment changes), but as each character can only carry two objects at a time, you have to really pick your Brains before deciding what to choose. There are other useful pieces of rescue equipment scattered around at strategic points throughout each mission, so you can drop what you are carrying and swop it for something else at any point.
'Cos of the way the characters are placed at either end of a level, there are certain tasks that only those characters can complete, so you must move one character before another in certain missions. Although in Mission Three - The Bank Job - Lady P and Parker need to work together at the beginning of their mission to puzzle their way together past certain problems.
Anyway that's the basic idea behind the game, but how does it play? I'm not a particular fan of arcade adventures myself, but I must admit this had me hooked right from the start. It's bright and colourful with nice graphics. And though the actual sprites of the Thunderbirds characters themselves aren't particularly realistic, they are large and well animated with some nice touches. The characters will sometimes turn around and talk to you, giving you the occasional clue to help you out too, which is useful for dimwits like me.
Sound is a bit limited on the 48K version, but on the 128 there's a digitised sequence from the Thunderbirds theme tune. And the flip screen scrolling is perfectly paced too, so exploring can be done quite rapidly. One big gripe though is the fact that at no point in the game do you get to fly the Thunderbirds vehicles. These were the best bits of the TV show, but the only time you get to see the vehicles in the game is at the beginning of each level when the characters are dropped off at the rescue location from them. Still, the rest of the game manages to capture the intrinsic tackiness of the TV show that we all know and love. And as it's easy to get into, and fiendishly difficult to puzzle out, Grandslam is definitely onto a winner here.
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...
Reviewer: John Cook
International Rescue are go on Grand Slam.
Also known as International Rescue, Thunderbirds was formed by millionaire technology tycoon Jeff Tracy in order to help avert international disasters by utilising a range of high tech craft and equipment under the guidance of his five sons, Scott, Alan, Virgil, John and Gordon, along with a number of support staff and bit parts.
Secrecy was the word: nobody knew where they came from, where they were based, or who was behind the organisation, and it's this secrecy that almost leads to International Rescue's downfall - and the plot of Thunderbirds the game.
The first scenario is pretty straightforward. There has been a mining accident which has resulted in two miners being trapped, lack of oxygen and a rapidly rising water level make time a critical factor. Two members of IR are used for this mission, one starting at the top of the mine, the other with the mole at the bottom. The first immediate task is to shut off the main water valve to prevent the mine flooding. The rest of the time is taken up avoiding rock falls and searching for the miners.
Without even a pause for thought after the rescue of the miners IR receive a call from the World Navy saying that their new nuclear submarine has been sabotaged by hood agents, and is at this moment lying crippled on the rim of an undersea volcano. On board are the captain and the 2nd officer who are prone to a variety of fates, like being bubbled alive by radiation.
Aside from rescuing the remaining crew members the radiation leak needs to be shut down and the sub re-floated by launching its remaining missiles and working out the right combination of doors and switches to empty it of water.
Well, it's all go at IR and after the sub mission the boys find that all details concerning the mission have been withheld by the sinister World Security Executive. The Tracy family then find out that their last two missions had been videotaped and were being held in a vault deep within the Bank of England. Definitely a job for Penelope and Parker - get inside and get out with the tape and documents, thus securing the secrecy of International Rescue.
It gets worse. HOOD have managed to get hold of the secret blueprints for the Thunderbird craft and are at this very moment analysing them at their secret headquarters at the north pole. This is definitely the toughest mission and towards the end it contains a rather surprising twist.
Thunderbirds is very well presented with a cartoon caricature of Jeff Tracy presenting each mission coupled with digitised sequences of the relevant craft. The graphics are clearly designed and recognisable, though they are reminiscent of the old Dan Dare game. Best of all is the sampled Thunderbird theme tune, which could almost carry the game single handed.
Though only mildly amusing at first, Thunderbirds does create an air of urgency around the player, forcing more and more game time, and it's quite easy to follow map-wise. All in all, a pretty slick piece of software that just falls short of an ACE rating.
Reviewer: Mark Patterson
Atari ST, £24.95dk, Out Now
Amiga, £19.99dk, Out Now
Spec 128, £12.95cs, £14.95dk, Out Now
Amstrad, £12.95cs, £14.95dk, Imminent
C64/128, £12.95cs, £14.95dk, Imminent
IBM PC, £24.99dk, Imminent
Spectrum 48/128 Cassette: £12.95, Diskette: £14.95
Atari ST £24.95
FIVE - FOUR - THREE - TWO - ONE.
The year is 2063 - or 1964 if you want to be strictly accurate - and Thunderbirds are GO! Someone somewhere is calling International Rescue out from their sleepy south Pacific island and Gerry Anderson's Tracy family of puppets are on their way again.
Miners are trapped in a mine, an atomic sub is down, needed plans are locked in a bank vault and an international baddie is holding the Tracys to ransom. All in a days work for Jeff Tracy and his sons Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John (apparently when asked why John was shoved away on TB5, Gerry Anderson replied that it was a fitting place for the ugliest guy to be put).
Thunderbirds from Grandslam is the latest attempt to do Anderson's puppet creations justice (remember Firebird's attempt a few aeons back). This is a four-level arcade/strategy game which requires a fair bit of brain power to complete.
In Mine Menace two miners are trapped in a cage deep below the surface. Conventional rescue teams will take several hours to reach the scene, and to add to the disaster a valve on the mines pumping gear is faulty so the mine's filling with water.
Alan, Virgil and 'Brains' head to the rescue, rummaging around the mine shafts solving clues will save the trapped miners. Each character is separately controlled and must take two items from a choice of six with them into the mine: torch, lamp, laser cutting tool, bag of gob stoppers, klaxon and grease can.
Many of the puzzles can only be completed by a particular character and all of it against a downward ticking timer. Success is rewarded with a password so you don't have to keep starting with level one.
The Oceanic Star is a revolutionary atomic-powered submarine which has struck a mine while on tests. Now it teeters on the edge of an underwater volcano, its nuclear reactor threatening to go critical at any moment. Into this radioactive hell comes Alan and Gordon in TB4 to shut down the reactor and refloat the sub before it falls into the volcano and causes even more aggro. Another six items and the customary time limit apply.
Meanwhile British agents Lady Penelope and her long suffering manservant Parker are sneaking into the Bank of England to snaffle plans detailing the makers of the mine which sank the Oceanic Star. Penelope and Parker have to negotiate faulty lifts, an overzealous guard and a variety of security devices which need plenty of thought to bypass.
With their hands finally on the document, they discover the Hood (a nasty type with a bald dome and hypnotic gaze) is behind the dastardly scheme. They also discover that he took photos of the Thunderbird craft at the scene of the sub crash, and is holding International Rescue to ransom. He's threatening to explode a 60-megaton bomb if they don't pay £4 billion in three hours.
Scott and Virgil head for Arizona to battle the Hood and destroy his devilish bomb, but as always fiendish puzzles, a manic robot and the evil genius himself threaten the Tracys' plans.
Grandslam have done well at pixellating the TV puppets. The character sprites all move around the screen as amusingly as their super-marionated cousins, and the puzzles are satisfyingly complicated (especially on levels three and four), but not so difficult that you want to throw the computer out the window in frustration.
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