This is a Tournament Director alert if you’re running tournaments using Stern’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT). This applies at least to the LE, don’t know about the Pro model. As a result, you might reconsider using the machine in your tournaments.
We discovered this during a small local tournament, on a TMNT where the auto-plunger was weak that it rarely made it all the way up the ramp to the upper flipper and instead ball came down right orbit like a soft plunge.
TMNT has a bus (or something that looks like a bus; I’m not a TMNT fan, don’t know what it should be) that stores balls, similar to how Stern Indiana Jones does. At start of a multiball, it releases the balls.
Anyhow, in multiball, I couldn’t understand why I was getting what appeared to be infinite ball saver. The ball saver was not lit, but every time a ball drain, a new one was shot out, and I kept playing. Started to look like potential beneficial malfunction, but to my surprise, successful shots to the right ramp would get eaten up; i.e. I think I’m still in MB but that ball never got returned. Took us a couple of games to figure out what was actually going on.
After ball save is done, first few (three I think) balls drained are shot back into the bus. So similar to Stern Indy or Twilight Zone refilling gumball machine after LITZ. The malfunction occurs if the plunger is weak. The exploit occurs if someone knows about that and keeps soft-plunging any ball served.
Unlike Stern Indy where a soft plunge would return to plunger lane to try again, on TMNT a soft plunge will fall into the right orbit and return to the flippers as a ball in play. A weak auto-plunger that never succeeds in getting the ball to the top would likely have an infinite ball saver. A semi-weak plunger that gets it there sometimes would have multiball eventually end, but every ‘retry’ is a free add-a-ball.
Because this is combined auto-manual plunger, and I know many players who do intentionally control the strength of plunges on auto-plunges, it is also trivial to take advantage of this by being ready to intentionally soft plunge every ball that is served to plunger lane, and remain in multiball indefinitely, or at least long enough to get enough points. And since there’s no rule against manual plunging your auto-plunges, this could become difficult to rule on if someone does it, even once (like was it during a ball save or a ball reload?) and if there is a weak ball-save, can give unfair advantage to players who happen to get more weak auto-plunges.
For this to be effective, the player would also need to avoid the right ramp. Because as we also learned, you might think you have a legitimate shot, but the way multiball ended was three right ramp shots in a row that didn’t return the ball, while the 4th ball in play drained. And so it seemed like still in 3-ball multiball, but that ball draining caused end-of-ball bonus, the other three got eaten up by the bus, in lieu of auto-plunged shots going in there, because they feed the same place. So that appeared to be major malfunction resulting in loss of [multi]ball.
So if you are using TMNT, just thought you should be aware of this.
If I’m mistaken in my assessment of how this is working, please by all means issue the corrections in the comments. We didn’t have keys for this machine to verify by hand, so this was just some trial and error post-game to figure out what kind of weirdness was happening in the game that just finished.