Stern’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – Review
Stern have had a really good track record of releasing, well to be honest, excellent games. Up to the launch of the Avengers Infinity Quest Pinball Machine, we had Jurassic Park, Elvira House of Horrors, (Star Wars Comic), Stranger Things (more on that later) then the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles pinball machine. Whilst I don’t have exact numbers, as no one does. It seems that Stern didn’t have the major hit on their hands with TMNT, I personally, think they should have*. By that, I mean coming close to what Jurassic Park delivered.
Let’s take a deeper dive into that right now!
Did the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Pinball By Stern, Suffer Due To Timing?
Pinball launches aren’t a rare thing. In fact, we probably get one every three months. Thanks, mostly, to Stern Pinball. Whilst the bar was set incredibly high by JJP, with their latest launch of Guns ‘N Roses. That is not always the case. In fact, my issue with Stern’s policy of dropping games is simple. There is no variety. We get the shot for shot teaser video of a middle aged white man flipping the game, and some teasers of the playfield. A week later, we will get a video of Jack Danger, explaining the rules and then away we go.
Whilst the TMNT pinball launch by Stern didn’t get fall too far from that beaten path. It did happen during the start of a global pandemic. Games that are usually ready to ship were delayed (not by much, maybe more the launch phase was). However, people importantly weren’t getting to sites to get their hands on it. Streams are great! We love to watch them and get hands on. I am POSITIVE that they sell games. With Turtles though, I think personally the timing of the game that subdued its potential.
It could be said in this case were a victim of their own success. This is a great game. However, with Stern, there will be probably be another one along in just a moment. Was it the fact that people didn’t have to buy Turtles to have a great game in their home? If you don’t capture the orders at launch, will they trickle in after? I don’t know the answer to that.
Getting Hands on With TMNT
I was lucky enough to have a TMNT Pro machine arrive and get a chance to play on the game in the comfort of my own home. As above, that was a luxury that many haven’t had. They simply cannot get their hands on the game in a public setting.
Once it was here, I have since managed to play it with the original shipped code and the latest code. Putting a good number, if not excessive amounts of plays onto the machine.
This being my first New In Box game to pass through my humble pinshed, I have to admit I was excited. However, this review will focus on both the good, the bad and where exactly I see this game sitting – against its peers.
The Good About The Stern TMNT Pinball
There is a lot of good about this game, honestly I am a big fan. So lets get on with the rundown.
It’s A Love Letter To The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 90’s Cartoon
This game is a real love letter to the TMNT show. The characters you remember from your childhood are there and they are bought to life in a way you want to see them. The animations are stills, and it would have been amazing to have real animation from the show, but these are just as good.
The cabinet and playfield art, put simply, is stunning. The pro being my favourite. This is a piece of TMNT art in any fan, or pinball lineup. Simply stunning.
Some people reading this will probably think, well hold on a second. Of course it should be accurate and reflect the show to a good level. Remember, assetts and licences are expensive. There is form for pinball manufacturers not getting “everything they would want.” The Stern Jurassic Park is one example – JJP’s Pirates another. You don’t feel anything is missing from Turtles – so the fan in you can be happy with that.
It’s Fast, It’s Fun and It’s Great for the Beginner Too
I like games that are pretty deep, I’ve always maintained that The Walking Dead is my favourite game of all time. Turtles on the other hand, is not a hugely deep game. Although one aspect is choosing your turtle, each with their own ability and weapon shots. You can get to multiballs very easily (especially if you choose the right Turtle), which really appeals to the beginner. One fun aspect of the game is the RPG Lite Lite, where you can also power up your turtles abilities. This is a really nice touch and can add to the way you play the game. The shots are really nicely signposted and the shots feel makes the beginner and more advanced player smile when you hit them. There isn’t really a shot that you can hit on the game that doesn’t make you smile. When you hit it (see LAIR later!)
Multiballs and Lights Are Great
Again, another reason the game appeals to the beginner is, quite frankly – you feel like a star when you get cetain shots, or hit the multiball. I played with a friend, he is only a pinball player because of my collection. When he hit the Pizza multiball, he lost it. Thought the light show and start of it was incredible. The other major multiball, Turtle Power – amps out the TMNT theme tune – which you cannot help be feel nostalgic and excited by. It’s a big plus!
Well, I love ramps. The more buttery the better. I have to say, the spiral metal ramp on Jurassic Park, whilst I love the look of it. The sound as it goes round makes it “feel” grating. Every ramp in TMNT is smooth and flowsome (yes, flowsome, you heard it here first!) . The uper flipper super fast loop to ramp opportunity will make even top players chase the loop-loop-ramp combo. So satisfying when you hit it.
Dual and Multiplayer
The Turtles code ABSOLUTELY NAILED IT with this feature. You can play against each other, pitting your scores against each other for the pinball champion of your home. Or you can work together to bring down Shredder, Krang, Bebop and Rocksteady. With your points stacking up as a team. It’s a great feature and one to keep the whole family happy for sure.
The Bad About The Stern TMNT Pinball
I toyed with calling this bit, the not so good. However, it just didn’t sound right. This is the parts that in my opinion just aren’t where I would want them from TMNT. Although there are elements that code can sort.
Is it a short game?
Is TMNT a short game? I don’t know. When I first started playing it I was getting pretty deep into the game quite easily. That being said, I played some games more recently and found it quite a challenge. There are only a few modes, a mid progression multiball (team up) and two pretty easy to get multiballs. I haven’t hit final battle just yet, but don’t feel too far off it (within a few shots a couple of times). Couple this with working together, you could get to the point of taking this game to the cleaners more often than not. It is this that leaves a nagging feeling in my mind that this could, for the more advanced player. Get a touch boring over time.
The Lair Shot
I think. I don’t know, but I think. This was supposed to be the inverse of the Start Trek shot, where you lift the flipper and hit it from the opposite side. You just can’t. Or I just can’t. No, you just can’t. Others have tried and failed too. Let me tell you. That is frustrating as hell! It just doesn’t work and the backflip into under the flipper you need to do to be consistent, is not a beginner level player trick. Where the rest of the game feels “beginner friendly” whilst still holding layout challenges. This is just, its just wrong. With more time with the game I might bring it under my spell, but as it stands. It feels like a miss.
Would I Buy This Game?
In short, yes I would. I just don’t know how long it would stay in my collection. Although, that isn’t saying too much. We have an upcoming stream on our Twitch Pinball channel, so if you love pinball, give us a follow and come and see what the fuss is all about when it comes to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I think that Turtles love will come, just like Stranger Things (I said I would come back to that), and Deadpool before it.
There is sometimes a game that doesn’t capture the imagination quite at the right time. It feels to me that Turtles is just that. With such a great theme, well executed and a fun experience, when people get their hands on it. They will fall in love. For the hardened player, some deeper code could make this a stellar game in any lineup. Whether that will happen though, I don’t think so.
Compared to other Stern LCD games, I put this on a par with Jurassic Park and Deadpool. It’s a different game, but an excellent game. That level of game sits above Guardians of the Galaxy and Star Wars, whilst below the A++ of Batman ’66 and Iron Maiden.
*Given the licence that TMNT is, as well as how good I think the game is, I have based this judgement from the following data. Pinball owners listed games Jurassic Park (Stern) 62, TMNT 19, Stranger Things 44. Pinside Owners / Known sites Jurassic Park 1,317, TMNT 484, Stranger Things 465.