Thomas the Tank Engine 2 logo Gamer Gold

Chuffing good race 'em up fun arrives in your local station from the careful hand of Alternative Software. Ringo Star not included!

Excuse me if I boast and be self-indulgent for a couple of paragraphs, but there are a number of loves in my life and one of those which applies to this review if children's television. If I could sit at home all day and watch kid's TV I would become the happiest man on Earth. Postman Pat, Bertha, Fireman Sam, Dangermouse, Portland Bill, Sesame Street, Rugrats, Scooby Doo, The Flintsones... just a selection of my favourite programmes.

Thomas the Tank Engine is a whole different kettle of fish. If it was on and I was not doing anything then I would watch it, but within a couple of minutes I started channel hopping and trying to find anything more substantial.

Just my luck this month then to get a game about the only children's favourite that I do not particularly like. For starters, it had Ringo Starr as the Narrator, which was a major mistake, and for some bizarre reason it always seemed to be aimed at upper class kiddies. Oh well, such is life!

Before you carry on reading I must point out that this particular product is part of Alternative Software's Children's Range and is aimed at kids between 3 and 8. More mature readers can now turn the page, but interested parents and those who still behave like children should read on.

The story behind the game is a tale of unbridled macho boasting and bragging. The issue all started when Thomas entered into the station and feeling fairly happy and confident uttered the immortal words: "I am a really useful engine".

The constitutes bragging where I come from and Gordon - the Large Green Engine - also noticed this and challenged Thomas. "Oh yes" puffed Gordon in a very sarcastic tone. "But I bet you are not as fast as me".

This started a major argument which was littered with obscene and offensive comments swingiing to and fro between each engine. Bertie the Bus just laughed at the two, but the Fat Controller overheard the commotion and decided to put a stop to it at once. He shouted to the argumentative Engines "We will soon see who is the fastest. I will hold a racing competition and keep times with my pocket watch, then we will know who is the best".

The two feisty trains began revving their engines in readiness for the race.
This dear reader is where you come in; the outcome of the race is all down to your skills as a rampant games player. There is a choice of up to seven engines (Thomas, Percy, Gordon, Bill, Toby, James and Ben) and a Bus (Bertie).

The option of racing against the computer or a friend is entirely up to you, but it helps a lot if you have a couple of chums to play against. You are presented with a horizontally split screen which scrolls from left to right. The first one past the finishing line wins. Simple? Well, not quite that simple because all the rail signals must be obeyed, otherwise the Fat Controller will make you wait while he tells you off.

If you crash into obstructions and other engines you will waste a few seconds of precious time. You will also lose time if you travel down dead ends and you will sacrifice some water which slowly runs out as you progress through the race. If you run out of water you will lose the race, so filling up is one of your main priorities.

There are several water pumps where you can stop to fill up. Your water gauge will show you how much you have and warns you when you are getting low by flashing. In each race, there is a bonus stage in the form of a short-cut that will only let one player through. The first to reach the flashing lights at the entrance to the bonus stage will be allowed to enter.

The bonus stage is completed by collecting the five letters that spell "Bonus". Once finished the player will re-join the race some distance further along the track. That is basically all there is to know about Thomas 2 because it is an incredibly basic game. That is a good point though because it is easy to play and a whole lot of fun to boot. I am not exactly a tot, but I really and truly enjoyed playing Alternative's train/race 'em up.

The graphics are impressive with brilliant reproductions of Thomas and all of his chums. Soundwise there is an accurate rendition of the theme music from the TV show and plenty of sound effects throughout.

Thomas 2 sounds and looks terrific. It is highly plaable and is great fun. It is very hard to knock Alternative's latest, but I am in a bit of a quandary. I could give it anything between 70 and 90 per cent.

If you are aged between three and eight then you are going to love it, but if you are older you won't find much to keep you going because it is so basic, although the two-player mode is strangely addictive if you have got an insane friend to play it with.

Technically it is brilliant, but it is not going to appeal to everyone. As it is specifically aimed at the younger market I am going to give it 90 per cent. Remember it is only £9.99 and you do get great value for your money.

Thomas the Tank Engine 2 logo

Alternative Software * £12.99 * New release

"I'll Thomas the Tank you in a minute," shouted Ivor the Engine, feeling sadly neglected at not being allowed to enter the Great Train Race. The Fat Controller got an ear-bashing from Jones the Steam and Dai Station moped around on the platform. But Thomas and his pals did not care, for they had the chance to find out who was the fastest of all the trains at the station. Not that you can go flat out, what with trains, signals, level crossing and leaves on the line.

Play the computer or race a chum in this trainmendous, steamy, four track affair. Smart graphics and pleasant sounds make this a polished package, though most will find it easy to beat the computer. But in two player mode it is great fun and at under 13 sovs, it is no Great Train Robbery. Hurray and toot, toot.

Thomas the Tank Engine 2 logo

Bereits die vorangedampfte Digi-Eisenbahn "Thomas the Tank Engine" konnte den 64-er Kla&ssiker "Loco" nicht das Kühlwasser reichen - beim Nachfolger ist der Spielspaß endgültig unter die Rädar gekommen!

Ein oder zwei Spieler treten hier auf einem ganz nett und vor allem schön bunt gezeichneten Splitscreen zur Wettfahrt an, wofür vier Rennstrecken sowie sieben Loks und ein Bus zur Auswahl stehen. Das ausgesuchte Gefährt wird von links nach rechts über ein mit Sackgassen, roten Amplen und geschlossenen Schranken gespicktes Gleissystem gesteuert, und mit der freien Fahrt für freie Lokführer ist es auch sonst nicht weit her.

Neben dem verwirrenden Schienen- und Straßenverkehr erschweren noch zusätzlich auf der Strecke plazierte Steine, herrenlose Wagons etc. das zügige Vorankommen.

Eine ziemlich grobe Übersichtskarte gibt Auskunft über den ungefähren Standort der Loks, und die tankuhr informiert über den (unterwegs nachfüllbaren) Vorrat an betriebsstoff. Die einzelnen Strecken enthalten jeweils auch eine kleine Abkürzung, die allerdings bloß dem zuerst dort eintreffenden Zug offensteht - außerdem muß dieser dann die hier vor sich hingammelnden Buchstaben aufklauben, um wider auf die Hauptstrecke zu gelangen.

Auf der Habenseite verbucht das Game seine soft scrollende, niedlich animierte Grafik und die gelungene Stick-/Tastatursteuerung. Bei der öden Musik schmerzt es dagegen, daß die Abschaltoption streikt, und die Qualitäten des Gameplays bewegen sich irgendwo zwischen langweilig und nervtötend.

Verständlich, denn die Strecken sind viel zu kurz, wegen der unbrauchbaren Karte muß sich zudem ihren Verlauf genauestens einprägen. Alles in allem also bloß ein Wettlauf mit dem Schlaf... (md)

Thomas the Tank Engine 2 logo

"I'm a really useful engine," said Thomas as he pulled into the sheds one morning.

"No you're not" puffed Gordon with a smug little sycophant with a perverse and unhealthy interest in the Beatles.

The other engines and programmers overheard and tried not to laugh.

"Stop arguing," butted in the Fat Controller.

"I know, we will launch a cutesy game aimed at kids and charge them a high price for a race of limited novelty."

Thomas got really excited. "I've always wanted to be in a MicroProse game", he squealed. "What will we call it? I rather fancy Thomas The Formula One Tank Engine."

"No, no, Thomas. We will have to call it something far more exciting than that. We have got Sonic The Hedgehog to think about," said the Fat Controller while trying to work out if he could get more for Thomas if he sold him for scrap.

Unluckily, the Fat Controller remembered that even though Thomas was a clapped out old boiler in real life, in the marketing world he was what was referred as a cash cow. He could be milked for many a year yet. The solution was simple. The Fat Controller would stick to a tried and test formula.

"It's going to be a jolly old jape where you get to race all of your friends over four puzzley tracks," announced the Fat Controller. "All of your friends are in it. And remember, if you do not agree, we are going to get Linda McCartney to read all of your stories on television."

"Ah, TV hell," said Thomas, quaking in fear at the prospect. "Okay, maybe there is enough poor little kiddies out there willing to pay £12.99 for half a game" added Thomas. "Let us try to make it better than the previous effort. I still have some street cred left with groovy three year-olds out there".

"Oh, don't worry about that, Thomas. That is exactly who we are aiming this game at". The Fat Controller gave Thomas a greedy grin.

"It is going to be called Thomas The Tank Engine 2. it's got a split screen and two friends can play against each other at the same time. They can even choose who they want to play".

Thomas gulped as he suddenly realised that he would not necessarily be in any of the games. "What if the kids out there don't want to play me?" queried Thomas indignantly.

"Tough luck you little jerk," jeered Gordon. "You're just not up with the times are you? And that's why I'm going to beat you in the TV ratings war - as well as in the race game".