I’m not a diehard gamer, but sometimes nothing beats sitting down after a long day, turning on your Xbox, PC or whatever you have, and immersing yourself in some virtual storytelling. Exploring the vast universe of Mass Effect, escaping the Labyrinth of Portal or squaring off against your friends on the ancient battlefield in 1999′s classic Age of Empires. Through gaming I’ve been able to interact with some of my favourite franchises in many of the Star Trek, Star Wars, Knight Rider etc games but the one I always wanted to see was Thunderbirds.
Now to be fair, there are Thunderbirds games out there, but like most transitions of the concept, they often leave out a very important element of the show – the rescuing.
The PlayStation 2 and Gameboy games are pretty much side scrolling shooters which then involve Thunderbird 2 lifting something from A to B – things like cows. The closest we ever really got was a series of downloadable 3D games used to promote the 2004 Thunderbirds movie. These games let you drive Fab 1, fly Thunderbird 2 to rescue the crew of a sinking ship, pilot Thunderbird 4 to diffuse a minefield, and navigate Thunderbird 3 through an asteroid field to dock with Thunderbird 5. They were fairly simple but well executed. A trailer premiered for an SCI Thunderbirds game which looked really promising. However, it was eventually cancelled.
But at least Thunderbirds has games. Other Gerry Anderson productions aren’t so lucky. Captain Scarlet has one commercial outing in which you pretty much race Spectrum Saloons and SPV’s against Mysteron cars. The game company Batfish released some tantalising images, and even a trailer, for a strategy game based on Captain Scarlet that appeared to be in the style of Commandos: Beyond the Call of Duty. Sadly, this also was cancelled.
Bar a Terrahawks game in the 80s, that is pretty much it.
The question I have to ask is: Is it really that hard? Surely there’s a lot of commercial potential. There are easily over 100 Star Trek games; surely there’s something to make a game worth playing from the vast Gerry Anderson universe. Silent Hunter V: Battle of the Atlantic gave players a U-boat and the entire Atlantic to explore; surely something like that could be adapted to Stingray?
Couldn’t the movie-like adventures of Nathan Drake work for Captain Scarlet too?
Lets make a game!
Here at the Fanderson Blog, we like to go one step further. Instead of just complaining about the lack of Anderson Games, how about we design one? Let’s go for Thunderbirds, easily the most marketable, and with the new series just around the corner, most likely to become a reality. Allow me to tantalise you with some left over models I have lying around.
As a fan, I have always wanted to get behind the wheel of International Rescue’s hardware; fly Thunderbird 1, drive the Mole, etc. But I also want to be at the heart of a rescue controlling and coordinating. On paper this is a big ask, but not impossible. The key could lie in what is known as “Sandbox gaming”; famous examples including Grand Theft Auto, Just Cause and Far Cry. Put simply, this allows the player to navigate a vast, diverse and constantly evolving map with multiple characters and events to interact with. It also allows players to control a large array of vehicles including cars, planes, boats, submarines etc., and seamlessly jump in and out of them.
So first what we need is a story; something that could bring together as many elements of Thunderbirds as possible. Here goes…
Fairhaven is an internationally funded city dedicated to research and development, based on a remote island in the Pacific. It is a place where thousands of scientists can come together to work on environmental projects with their most experienced peers. When a sudden earthquake hits the island, International Rescue is called in to assist the hundreds of people trapped across the city. However, the deeper they delve into the island, the more things don’t appear to be what they seem.
So there we go, an island filled with broken monorails, underground bunkers, tall buildings, underwater power plants, and maybe even a melting down nuclear reactor. This is showcasing the scientific peak of the 2060′s, and an underlying mystery for players to solve along the way.
Gameplay could be prominently 3rd person, controlling the Tracy brother of your choice. On the ground you could manipulate an array of grappling hooks, lasers, your side arm, and of course the “totally safe beyond all shadow of a doubt” Oxyhidnite cutting gas. This is in order to conduct small rescues on the ground, or enter damaged buildings to evacuate the people. A lot of the character interaction would take place on this level.
Thunderbird 1 would be your main source of transport allowing you to quickly traverse sections of the island. Of course it would also be equipped with a remote camera, metal spears, sonar thingamabob, and so on. With it, also comes your hover-bike.
Thunderbird 2 would also be playable, but naturally be less portable. It would have a vast array of grabs and other gizmos (watch out for those vertical thrust jets). But would mainly be used to transport pod vehicles and can be sent away to get more (with Fairhaven being reasonably close to “Isla Tracy”).
A key aspect would be choice. After the initial few rescues, the full array of equipment will be available to the player. This gives more than one avenue to solve a problem, but infinitely more to screw up, particularly if the rescue doesn’t have a clear solution. An example could be a damaged monorail perilously hanging off its track. Do you go in with Thunderbird 2′s grabs? Evacuate it little by little with the Cherry Picker? Do you lift it off with the Domo? Do you send in Thunderbird 4 and watch it sit there because that was never going to work anyway? Maybe it needs a combination?
Thunderbird 5 would also play a major role in briefing you about a major rescue before you get there. This allows you to get the right equipment in time, and acts as your eye in the sky by providing up to date satellite imagery of the whole island. (He’ll be so helpfulyou’ll never diss John again).
Alas, Thunderbird 3 has been a little left out, but it could easily be included in an opening mission or somewhere along the way.
As the plot develops you will encounter different kinds of challenges. Some will require you to issue commands to your other Tracy brothers, which could allow expansion to multiplayer, allowing up to 3 friends to assist you during a rescue with a heightened level of difficulty. For instance, a sinking oil tanker: 1 person flying Thunderbird 2 ferrying people off, 2 people searching for survivors below deck and 1 person in Thunderbird 4 patching the hole and trying to keep the ship afloat. Hours of fun with incentives to rescue as many people as possible such as more vehicles, un-lockable bonus missions etc.
So there we have it. I’m not saying this is at all the definitive vision for a Thunderbirds game, as there are probably many ways I haven’t considered, but this is my take on it. I feel it stays true to the original series’ sense of preserving life. It has a dramatic and unfolding narrative, but also allows players to go off on a tangent and just have fun with their favourite vehicles. While the above concepts are just old models I had from my Thunderbirds 2010 fan-film, I do believe this game is currently achievable on current gaming consoles, and with the advent of the new generation the concept could go even further.
By Chris Thompson
Proof read by Jack Knoll