Game Review – Thunderbirds Are Go: Team Rush (iOS / Android)

Reboots of classic television shows or films has been the “in thing” for some time now but hasn’t always been with great success. We’ve been treated with works that have manged to capture the spirit of the original works masterfully and gone on to build strong reputations of their own, and then there have been others that have been nothing but parodies of the legacy that has come before them, almost guaranteeing that the franchise will never be hear from again.

Over the years there have been several attempts to bring Thunderbirds back, both to television and the big screen but all have been lacking in one way or another… until ITV stepped in with the latest incarnation and the innovative Thunderbirds Are Go – a hybrid of model work and CGI animation bringing the show bang up to date, while retaining the feel and atmosphere of the original. It’s definitely worked, building a brand new fanbase while bringing fans of the original series back to the show as well, myself included.

Mobile game developer Miniclip realised that there was potential in the brand and secured the rights to bring out a game based on the show and in September 2016 Thunderbirds Are Go: Team Rush was released. To my dismay, I’ve only just discovered this game but is it any good and is it a worthy download for Thunderbirds fans or mobile gamers…?

Essentially the game is a free to play 3D endless runner. At first glance you’d be forgiven into thinking that the game is based on Temple Run in its styling as there are coins and other objects to collect en route and obstacles to jump over/dodge along the way as you head towards the end of each stage, but the game is far deeper and more involved than that and much more than the screenshots would imply… There are two main aspects to the game but both lead to the same core gameplay. The story mode is spread over a series of seasons and episodes, the completion of which unlocks additional characters, vehicles and scenarios that no only appear in future episodes but also in the standalone levels. Each episode or level (depending on the mode you play) takes place over several stages which varies depending on the level itself and each stage has its own objectives.

The stages diversify between vehicle based which require you to collect various objects, fly towards certain points or reach the end of the stage safely (depending on the vehicle you are using) or on foot stages. These again vary between simple targets to reach the end of the stage, ones where you need to collect a fixed number of objects or more active ones which need you to use a sliding attack to destroy objects or enemies out to attack you.

Now here comes the real selling point for the game and the key part of the title, Team Rush… you don’t just have one team member at your disposal. At the end of each stage you are presented with a choice between characters (or a character and vehicle) and the next stage changes accordingly so you can change between members of the Tracy family, or from a foot based mission to a vehicle one in the same level offering plenty of gameplay variety. To add even more to the stages, those based on foot offer players the chance to alter their route when the path occasionally forks in two different directions. While this doesn’t necessarily alter the game’s outcome, it does add a little more variety instead of the basic left/right/jump/duck movement offered by these games.

Regardless of the mode you play, or whether you are on foot or in a vehicle you’ll see a number of objects that you can collect along the way. First up are the gold Hexacoins which are the game’s currency which is used to purchase upgrades to the various parts of Tracy Island. Primarily these upgrades will allow you to earn more free coins and other rewards throughout play. Secondly are the Powercells which are used to unlock new episodes. Hypercrystals are next and these are mainly used for buying extra credits when you want to continue playing a level if you are killed part way though and clues – briefcases that help you to locate the Hood’s hidden base. These then give you access to bonus missions later on in the game.

Each time you complete a level you’re rewarded with a set amount of the above dependent on the mission along with other random awards including Holocubes (boxes that offer ship and character upgrades and other boosts and rewards). As with all free to play games of this nature, there is a catch… You need to use Fuel to be able to play each level and only have 8 units available and with some requiring two or three to play gaming sessions can be quite brief. It does recharge over time but it’s certainly geared up to encourage players to buy Fuel bundles and these don’t come cheap.

It has to be said however, that the micro-transaction element isn’t essential to be able to enjoy playing the game. Yes it can make progression easier and quicker but I always thought that the whole point of gaming was to play them, not to fast forward through to the end as rapidly as possible? If I have to play through 100 levels to reach the end of the first season of gameplay then I’d rather do that than pay to boost my way through them and just play 20-30 of them. That just seems pointless.

Controlling the game and navigating the menus are simplicity themselves. The ship controls are fluid and respond well simply by holding your finger (or thumb as I found more comfortable) on the screen and moving it in the direction you wanted to go. The response time was minimal and left very little frustration apart from your own ineptitude at navigational control – certainly no chance of blaming the game on this one. Same with the foot based levels and everything seemed quite responsive. The menus were just the same – all of the upgrades and bonus collection was handled from the Tracy Island menu where missions were selected from the Hologlobe – a map of the Earth highlighting story missions and individual optional random missions to be played for bonus rewards.

I can’t finish without talking about the presentation of the game. The game is accompanied throughout by an orchestral score including some themes from the series itself although sadly there is no speech (which I was disappointed with to be honest). The visuals look superb and really do capture the look and feel of the series, both in the in-game graphics and cut-scene stills. It doesn’t matter here whether it’s the vehicle based or land based levels, they all really do look the part. An added highlight for me is at the start of each mission, there is a short animation recreating the launch sequence of the lead ship featured in the mission (thankfully this can be skipped if you don’t want to watch it). Again, this looks great and adds to the atmosphere.

As you can probably guess, I’ve been impressed up to this point, but what about the most important part – the playability? I’ve played a lot of endless runners over the years and I’ve found that the ones I find myself drawn to are those that have at least some character to them. Whether there’s personality behind it, a character license or a loose storyline it does help give the game a sense of purpose hence some of my personal favourites being Run Sackboy Run or Z-Run on the PS Vita. In this instance, not only is Team Rush based on a show I love giving it a head start but it’s got added depth and variety to its gameplay and it’s solid enough to keep me hooked to the point that I keep checking my phone constantly to see if my Fuel has built up enough to play “one more mission” throughout the day.

It’s got me hooked in a way I hadn’t expected a runner to do on a mobile phone and within a couple of minutes play it’s managed to have the same addictive effect on my 16 year old daughter (even though she has no interest in Thunderbirds) so Miniclip have obviously done something right with the game. Definitely one to add to your download list.

  • Title: Thunderbirds Are Go – Team Rush
  • Publisher: Miniclip
  • Format: iOS / Android
  • Cost: Free (in-app purchases optional)

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