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.