Although the theme for Stern Pinball’s next release had been widely reported, the timing of the game’s launch was less certain.
Originally planned to be announced shortly after the Texas Pinball Festival in March and shown at the Midwest Gaming Classic the following weekend, the launch plans were thrown in the air by the impact of the Coronavirus on the pinball industry. The two shows were cancelled for 2020 and pinball manufacturing shut down, denying both a platform for the launch and the ability to actually build the games.
Now, pinball manufacturing has resumed – albeit with reduced capacity – so Stern Pinball have wasted no time in kickstarting their delayed launch of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (called TMNT from now on).
As usual, this latest release comes in three variants – Pro, Premium and a Limited Edition with a maximum of 500 units. Each has a different cabinet/backbox art package with the LE getting a mirrored backglass rather than the translites found in the Pro and Premium.
Let’s start with the TMNT Pro.
The artwork for all three models comes from Jeremy Packer, a.k.a. Zombie Yeti, who previously created art for several games for Stern Pinball, including Ghostbusters, Deadpool, Primus and Iron Maiden.
The Limited Edition model comes with green legs, body armour and speaker surrounds, in addition to unique artwork and interior cabinet art.
Here are the three models side-by-side. As with all pictures on the website, you can click on this to enlarge it.
So, that’s the exterior artwork. Now let’s look at the playfields on the three models. As in earlier Stern titles, the playfield gameplay features are the same on the Premium and Limited Edition models, while the Pro has a very similar design with some cost-reduction resulting in missing or simplified mechanisms.
To see the full set of features, we’ll start with the Premium/LE playfield and then see what is missing or different in the Pro.
Our first example is the playfield’s bottom arch which is black plastic on the Pro, but black powder-coated steel with illuminated panels on the Premium and LE. The LE also gets game designer John Borg’s signature above the instruction card.
All three versions of TMNT are three-flippered games, with the third flipper half-way up on the left side. There is a difference with the number of balls installed in the models, with the Premium and LE using eight balls while the Pro cuts that to six.
Starting at the bottom of the playfield, there are two inlanes on the left side with the outer lane also being the end of the left and right ramp return.
The left outlane can be lit for Battle Again which launches a new ball into play to replace the drained one.
Above the left outlane is the L-A-I-R target. Rather than have individual targets – either drop targets or standups – for each L-A-I-R letter, this is a long single target with leaf switches at either end which adds a letter when any part of it is hit.
Behind the L-A-I-R target is a lane accessed by a shot under the raised upper flipper.
The ball can be held in this lane while a training mode intro is played, before being released to the inlane.
Above the upper flipper is the left entrance to the orbit lane.
Next comes the left ramp entrance, which features small upright standup targets either side.
On the Pro the ramp sign only indicates when the ramp is lit for training, whereas on the Premium and LE it can build the glider value too.
The left ramp disappears behind the back panel, emerging to the right and crossing the ramp entrance to deposit the ball in the left inlane.
Before the ball gets that far though, on the Pro model there is a Stop & Score ball blocker which operates on both the ramp return wireforms.
The blocker is pulled down by a solenoid to temporarily stop the ball on the ramp. When released it pops back up and the ball continues.
On the Premium and LE playfields though, there is an different Glider device which allows the player to divert the ball from one ramp return to the other, letting them choose at which flipper the ball ends up.
When activated by pressing the action button on the lock bar, it turns one way or the other to divert the ball onto the adjacent ramp return.
The Glider actually has five possible positions which also allow it to stop the ball in the same way as the ball stopper on the Pro model.
Directly in front of the left ramp entrance is the spinning pizza disc. This operates like the spinning disc on Twister and the Premium/LE versions of X-Men, having a magnet core in the centre which can grab balls at the start of multiball, spin them around at 400 RPM, and then release them so they fly off in multiple directions.
The disc and magnet can also be used to further randomise the ball’s movement.
There is a subtle difference between the spinning disc on the Pro and the Premium/LE. On the Pro the disc only spins one way, but in the Premium and LE is can spin in either direction. The game flyers for the Premium and LE state that all models have a disc ‘capable’ of spinning in either direction, and the motor used in the disc mechanism is very likely the same, but the flyer for the Pro says it only spins in one direction.
To the right of the left ramp is the Ninja Pizza Parlor. This is a three-ball lock mechanism which ejects balls into the left orbit lane.
There is a trick where the upper flipper is automatically raised to direct the released balls onto the spinning disc which grabs them.
Mounted above the Ninja Pizza Parlor lane is the Party Wagon.
Although it looks the same, this is another device which works differently in the Pro and Premium/LE models.
In the Pro, the wagon is a static device featuring a single-ball lock behind, whereas the Premium/LE wagon incorporates a four-ball lock with the balls being released into the Ninja Pizza Parlor lane by the wagon door opening.
To the right of the Party Wagon is the pop bumper area.
There are three pop bumpers, fed by two rollover lanes at the top of the playfield. The ball can get here either from the right orbit lane or from the inner orbit shot which is made by the upper flipper. In both cases, a stop post in the orbit lane blocks the ball, causing it to roll back into the rollover lanes.
Above the pop bumpers in the Premium and LE models is an animated Krang toy, but that it missing in the Pro.
To the bottom-right of the pop bumpers is the inner orbit lane. This feeds the ball into the outer orbit lane at the top of the playfield for a return feed to the upper flipper. It can also, as we just said, feed the top rollover lanes and pop bumpers if the stop post activates.
Below the inner orbit is the side ramp which returns the ball, via a wireform, to the right inlane. As with the left ramp, the ball’s journey can be interrupted by the ball blocker on the Pro or transferred to the left wireform if the Glider is activated by the player using the action button.
Below the side ramp is a standup target which awards more time much like the one in Tommy. Then we come to the right ramp.
The right ramp normally feeds the ball to the left orbit lane and to the upper flipper, but there appears to be a diverter mechanism behind the back panel which might feed the ball to the Party Wagon instead. We will look for confirmation of this.
The right orbit lane is next, and this includes the game’s only spinner.
To the right of the right orbit is a large plastic mounted over the shooter lane. This features the four turtles and allows the player to choose which turtle they wish to be at the start of the game.
The chosen turtle gives certain ‘power-ups’ to boost scoring and help complete certain features.
Below the right orbit lane entrance is the A-P-R-I-L standup target.
Like the L-A-I-R target on the left side, this acts as one single target, despite having leaf switches at either end. Completing A-P-R-I-L lights the ball save in the left outlane as well as other features.
The bottom-right corner has just a single inlane leading to the right flipper.
Which takes us back to the flippers, above which are a series of unlabelled status inserts to show your progress through the game.
New to TMNT is gameplay mode which allows users to choose various ways to play the game before they begin.
Cooperative Mode allows features and progress to carry across from player to player. Per-player scoring is preserved, but multiball locks, modes completed and enemies defeated carry over, making progress through the game easier.
Team play brings back the combined scores of players 1 & 3 versus players 2 & 4 which was previously only operator-selectable on pre-LCD titles. Variations of team play are also available allowing two or three players to compete against one, something suitable for families or competitive challenges. Competition mode is also available from the game type menu.
Here’s the feature matrix from Stern showing how the three models differ.
With the additional time before launch, the team at Stern have been able to release the game with all the flyers available and some promotional videos on-line.
Promotional videos for the three models outlining the special features and modes are shown below.
In addition, Jack Danger streamed gameplay on his Dead Flip Twitch channel on the night of the official reveal. You can watch that presentation here:
That concludes our coverage of the reveal of Stern Pinball’s new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game. We’ll be back with more right here at Pinball News.