Thunderbirds, PlayStation 2, Blast!
Thunderbirds is a passable attempt at recreating the feel of the classic 60s TV show. But without the character interaction or using any actual material from the show, it comes across as a wasted opportunity throughout.
( votes)Gerry Anderson’s Thunderbirds was one of the most iconic and instantly recognisable children’s TV shows of the 1960s. Despite only lasting for 32 episodes, it’s still loved as much today as it was back then, even spawning a modern remake in Thunderbirds Are Go. But did this PlayStation 2 game, released in 2007 under the Blast! label, do the show justice or did it fail to make it off the launch pad?
Thunderbirds – No Strings And No Budget
The Blast! range was built around licensed properties, whether it was film, television or popular characters. While the quality of most were somewhat hit and miss, there was no shortage of established brands being licensed including a few from Gerry Anderson including Captain Scarlett and Thunderbirds.
But in order to secure the licenses, some corners were cut with the games to keep costs down. Games were often formulaic and produced with relatively small development teams. In the case of Thunderbirds, it was created with a core team of just seven people – tiny compared with most games of its time. The most notable of the team being composer Richard Joseph who was best known for his work in the Commodore 64 and Amiga days.
Thunderbirds – The Game
This isn’t the first Thunderbirds game to be released for any home platform, with the first dating back to 1985 on the Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum from Firebird. Things have moved on a long way since then and this game attempts to recreate the feel of the series giving you a total of 50 missions set in various locations around the world using all of the different Thunderbird vehicles at your disposal.
The game is split into eight primary missions, each set in different locations around the world. Within these are separate sub-missions (hence the total of 50). The missions themselves rely on one or more of the different Thunderbird craft to be completed and are quite diverse. From rescuing civilians from areas under threat of terror attacks with Thunderbird 1, to removing radioactive waste with the cargo transport capabilities of Thunderbird 2, each mission differs enough from the one before it to keep the game varied.
Getting To Grips With The Missions
Mission briefings are provided throughout on-screen from Thunderbird 5 and there’s an on-screen map so you always know exactly where you need to fly next. A total of four vehicles can be used during the game, the choices varying depending on the mission at hand.
Each mission starts off with a cut scene featuring the launch sequence for the primary Thunderbird craft used in the stage to set the scene. As with the series itself, it’s something that no die-hard Thunderbirds fan could ever grow tired of. Despite the visuals being rather basic by PlayStation 2 standards, they still work well enough.
The first stage focuses on a series of training missions to get you used to the controls and abilities of each craft and what they can be used for, along with the general gameplay mechanics. These are played against the clock and as well as mission objectives shown on the on-screen map, you’ve only got a fixed amount of time and limited number of lives in which to complete them. Run out of time and you lose a life. Lose all your lives and it’s game over – even in the training missions.
The craft themselves are relatively easy to control, all using the left analogue stick for movement and depending on the flight mode X as the main action button. In flight this is used to fire the craft’s primary weapon, and in rescue modes it’s used to control vertical thrusters to land Thunderbird 1 or to use the grappling hook on Thunderbird 2 to pick up objects for transportation.
While the basic flight controls are straightforward, all the craft are subject to inertia and the effects of wind for rescue operations, so precise control is needed for missions themselves so a little mastery is needed. While most missions follow the same format of fly and land for Thunderbird 1 or fly and collect/drop off for Thunderbird 2, they can still be quite challenging with the clock in place.
Thunderbirds 3 and 4 come into play in later stages and these switch over to the form of arcade shoot-em-ups and while they are quite basic they make a welcome diversion from the flight and collect stages with the other vehicles.
An Audio And Visual Disappointment
Throughout play there are various pieces of music from the show in the background. While none of it has been taken from the show directly, Richard Joseph managed to do an admirable job of converting them to the PS2. However, apart from sound effects for explosions and the craft, that’s it for sound.
Sadly there are no voiceovers in the game – either taken from the show itself or using soundalike voice actors. Even the launch sequences for the Thunderbird craft is missing the iconic countdown sequence. These may only be minor quibbles to some, but for me sound is an integral part of a game and for a licensed title even more so and it does have an impact on the overall experience.
Onto the graphics and to be frank they’re nothing particularly special either. They certainly don’t push the PlayStation 2, but they’re functional and inoffensive. They do the job and without any glitches and they’re reasonably well defined but they’re not going to win any awards.
But How Does It Play?
Most importantly is the gameplay. It is repetitive and each of the missions, regardless of the story behind it, has the same basic structure of alternating between craft to perform similar tasks on each. It is something that you’ll soon get bored of though and even the change to Thunderbirds 3 and 4 do little to lift the game above average.
When this was released it wouldn’t have set the world alight for its depth or originality and it’s certainly no classic. It’s not a particularly bad game as such – it’s just bland and fails really to capture the spirit and emotion of the series. Thunderbirds was more than just the vehicles and it feels as if you’re only getting half of what the show was all about.
This is certainly rough around the edges and this definitely betrays its budget origins. Saying that, if you’re a Thunderbirds fan you’ll certainly get some fun from it. But for anyone else it’s really only one for the die-hard collectors.