Hey guys, I am not a Pinsider, but I have been following the production of Thunderbirds from its inception. I created this account to post my feedback on the final production machine that I played on site. One of the complaints that people make is that there are no 'unbiased' reviews of this machine and people can't separate the company, from the machine. With that in mind, here is my unbiased review. I will be up front right now and say I didn't like it, and the feedback below is why. This is not me hating on the company, or hating on the machine. It is just my thoughts after playing it on site.
I like the artwork, it's bright and colourful and seems well designed for the theme. The speaker panel on the backbox is a nice touch. The DMD is overly bright and the animations are very simplistic. Even the early Data East small DMD games seemed to have better animations and Williams games from the 90s have far better animations. The cabinet side art is great quality and feels nice and smooth to the touch. It doesn't feel like those shitty, shiny decals that so many people put on their restored machines these days. The playfield art is great, I actually really like it. The artwork on the plastics is also really nice. The whole artwork package works well together and ties the machine to the theme effectively. I expect if you were a Thunderbirds TV show fan, this machine would likely look good to you. I am not a Thunderbirds fan, and I still appreciated it.
Sound was average. Callouts just interrupt the music all of the time and then the music will abruptly change to something else when you hit a target. It's a bit jarring. There's no transitions between things, just quick changes that happen often. The music itself is fine, the callouts are fairly repetitive and basic. When you hear FAB yelled at you multiple times, you get a bit over it.
I played around 5-6 games on the machine. There are very limited rules, most of the time I was playing, I was just batting the ball around and hoping to see what happened. Twice in a row, on ball launch, I got a replay, I have no idea how. It happened directly after I launched the ball, which was really odd. There are no orbits or ramp return shots, which for a DMD pinball is just odd. Hitting the right lane sends the ball on this weird inner loop that leads back to the pops. Hitting the left lane just sends the ball up to the FAB target where it comes right back on the left side. Because of the lack of orbits and ramps, there is very limited flow.
The Thunderbirds 2 ramp is a good idea in theory, but in practice, it is fairly flawed. You need to hit standups that are under the ramp, to lower the ramp. The problem is that you can't see the standups, as they are hidden by the ramp. When the ramp lowers, you hit a ball up there and it locks for multiball. However, if you then lose your ball while there is a ball locked for multiball, the pinball just releases the locked ball and you can keep playing. I have never seen this in a pinball. I lost my ball with a ball locked and was like oh well, onto the next ball. But then the game immediately released my locked ball and it was game on again.
The ramp also leads to a major stuck ball problem on the right hand side of the machine. Every time I hit the ramp (not an exaggeration) instead of the ball going up the ramp, around the ramp bend and into the lock, it jumped off the ramp, became an air ball and then either landed in the lock spot anyway, or ricocheted off stuff. This airball issue is where the big stuck ball problem comes in. At the top right of the machine, there is a metal bar with a spring that shakes the palm trees for multiball. When the ball goes airborne, it gets stuck behind this bar and there is literally no way to unstick it. This happened to me on my first game. I spoke to the owners of the venue and asked to get the glass off, they said that stuck ball was a problem as it was happening so often and they were going to make their own plastic to try to prevent it in the future.
The metal ramp is a big improvement from the original proto machine. The plastic ramp on that machine was downright terrible. The metal ramp allows the ball to roll up that ramp a great deal more easily. However, it doesn't go anywhere. The ramp just drops the ball into the rollovers or the pops, it seems a bit pointless. Also, you have to hit it so many times for it to spell out International Rescue. I think on my 5 games, the closest I got was spelling most of International.
There are no jackpots in multiball, it's just playing the game with more balls, no extra goals or anything like that. When I get a multiball, I want to be rewarded with something new to do. For instance, I was playing Simpsons Pinball Party right before I played Thunderbirds. Get a multiball and you've got heaps of lit jackpot shots to shoot for, this is what is needed.
There are two wireform ramps and I am a big fan of wireforms over plastic, something about coloured wireform just rubs me the right way. However, the ramps really do not add anything to the gameplay. All each wireform does is release balls for multiball, that's it. If you get a multiball, two balls drop down the right wireform and one drops down the left wireform. Because of the way the third multiball is launched from the Tracey Island pool, there is a large section of the playfield at the top left that just doesn't really do anything, until you get multiball.
The cabinet was very solidly built and I can't fault the build quality there. However, the plastic lockdown bar was really bad. You can literally get your fingers under the edges of it and start to bend it upwards. I didn't bend it too far, as I sure as hell didn't want to break a sited machine. I know for a fact that any normal person would be able to break that lockdown bar off the machine, absolutely no doubt about it. There's been a lot of conjecture about the plastic lockdown bar, but if I can get my fingers under the edge and bend it enough so that I know I could damage it, it's not a good product for a sited machine.
I noticed that on the PET playfield overlay, there was a solid marked line under the edge of the Thunderbirds 2 ramp. Much like what would happen over time under the slam ramp of a NGG. This doesn't bode well for a brand new machine to have that mark already. It was clearly noticeable and I expect that overtime, this damage would get worse.
The game looks nice, but is just an average playing machine. The biggest thing the game needs is a solid code update to allow for better modes and jackpots during multiball. The playfield design can not be changed, but the code could certainly be updated to make the game play better.
Anyway, I hope this feedback helps people who were looking for honest feedback from someone who has played the game on site. I do not own one, I am not in the market to buy one, and I am not a pre-order customer. I'm just a dude who likes a game of pinball.
Please don't flame me for supporting Homepin. I do not support Homepin, I just wanted to play the machine when a production model became available nearby. Thanks for reading.