Sunday, January 15, 2023

Cheap Cheevos #10: All About Thomas.

Issue number ten! It only took a bloody year to get it. It has been a rough year for me. Fell very ill, got diagnosed with colitis, had a camera up my arse, nearly died from taking colitis medicine, had a hole drilled into me, nearly got into a fist fight with my doctor, and I put an Egyptian voodoo curse on one of my co-workers (not telling you which one). You don't care about that though. What you want to read about is how to complete more easy achievement sets. This is good. I hate talking about what I went through, and I have a lot of fun writing about video games. Although, some of these games are not fun to go through.  

Anyway, seeing as this is the tenth issue, I've got something special lined up for you. I'm covering six games instead of the normal five. All of these games are all from one franchise, Thomas the Tank Engine. Yes, hard to believe that this series has at least six games with achievement sets. Hell, it's hard to believe that this series has at least six games. Anyway, Thomas the Tank Engine has some very easy achievement sets and it'll make you think that the Fat Controller thinks that you're a very useful engine. (Click on "Read More" to read the full article).

Note: A seventh Thomas the Tank Engine set came out on Retro Achievements during the writing of this article. That set will not be featured in this article. Sorry.

Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends (Super Nintendo Entertainment System) (Retro Achievements)

Retro Achievement Set: 

Back in 1996, I was living in a shithole called Shepperton (located in Victoria, Australia) where there was nothing much to do but suffer at school, visit the local Big W, and be sad at the arcade because I had no money to play the machines. There was one good thing to do though (although Big W was a great place to see games back in the day), that was to go to the local video shop and rent out some videos and games. Had some nice memories of that place. Rented the Double Dragon movie, watched the Mortal Kombat animated film, and played Killer Instinct and Primal Rage.

One day, I looked at the Super Nintendo games and I found something that surprised me. It was a fucking Thomas the Tank Engine game on the Super Nintendo. My young mind went crazy with what kind of game it could be. Could it be a train sim? A racing game? An educational piece of mess? What if I told you that it was a mixture of all three of those. Well, if you'd called me a liar, you'd be down five bucks because that's exactly what this game was.

This game is an activity game full of stuff such as building railway tracks to get tasks done (there's the sim part), racing against friends (there's the racing part), reading books (there's the education part of it), and coloring in stuff. It's simple by today's standards, but it was a nice big package of big blue talking face train for six-year-old me... Yeah, okay, it was considered simple even back then.

The whole game takes place on a giant board game like railway where you can click on Thomas and he'll move a spot to the next activity. You can choose to select any of the activities on the screen without having to do that as well. There are a few levels of difficulty that are aimed for children of different ages, but they were all pretty easy (even six-year-old me had an easy time with them).

Are the games any fun though? Some are. The rail-building one is pretty fun because you can customise the tracks pretty well. I just wish that this game had a playbox mode where you could freely make train tracks because you can't do it outside of those activities. Coloring in things and playing the slide puzzles are a little fun, but very easy and you'll get bored of them very quickly. Reading the books and racing were just boring. Plus, racing in this game is sooo sluggish. It plays no more than just a simple drag race, so there's nothing deep about it. 

The graphics are nice and colorful and have a certain charm to them. The audio is surprisingly decent with some nice, satisfying tunes and some clean voice acting. Yes, this game has some voice acting in it and it's very basic and robotic.

Yes, I have had a lot of things to say about this game. Then again, it's one of my faveorite childhood memories. But now it's time to create some new favorite memories for you from completing this very easy to master game. So easy in fact, all you have to do is beat all of the activities on the eight years or older difficulty. That's it. The activities are pretty easy and self-explanatory to where you really don't need this guide whatsoever (but thanks for reading).

Is this game of worthy playing outside of some free achievement points? Surprisingly, yes. It's a neat little licensed game about trains that's worth playing at least once. Then again, would you trust a biased bastard like me who played this game a lot as a kid? Surprisingly, yes.

Thomas & Friends: Hero of the Rails (Nintendo DS) (Retro Achievements)

Retro Achievement Set: Thomas & Friends: Hero of the Rails (Nintendo DS) · RetroAchievements

What happens when you give Thomas two screens to work with? Why you get a handheld game with a cheap story and a bunch of mini-games. Meaning that you get a typical Thomas the Tank Engine game, but with dull 3D models and camera angles that look like that it is right out of the original Resident Evil.

I'm not going to bother to say what the story is. I wasn't paying attention and skipped past it for fun. Don't worry, doing that is rewarding and I'll tell you why a bit later. Story mode is pretty basic and formulaic. You get a cut-scene followed by a mini-game, a cut-scene followed by a mini-game, a cut-scene followed by a mini-game, so on, so forth, until the game is over. 

I liked the idea of the mini-games in this one. You've got a mixture of train management and card games. Train management games include washing, painting, and sorting the trains. The card ones include snap and match. I say that I liked the ideas, but the execution was a bit poor. They were boring, not very fun, and felt like a chore. As bad as some of the other Thomas games can get, at least they have some fun things about them. You can re-play the mini-games outside of story mode if you don't want to put up with the story.

The graphics are dark, dull, and a little on the creepy side. Although, there is a little (and I really do mean "a little") charm of seeing the trains in 3D. This franciese could've been better used with the 3D engine (ha! pun!). A full-blown adventure game would've been awesome for a 3D Thomas game.

Achievement set is basic, but good. It's mainly just beat story mode and get good results in the mini-games. Remember how I was talking about how you get rewarded for beating this game fast? Well that's because one of the achievements is for beating this game in under twenty-five minutes. You'll have more than enough time to do this if you mash through the story. It won't take long to beat the mini-games as they aren't hard.

If you're going for the mini-game specific achievements, play them outside of story mode. Most of the mini-game based achievements will be unlocked from just beating the mini-games themselves. Some will require extra efford, such as beating snap but without making any mistakes, beating memory while only making a maximum of two mistakes, and lastly, finish the parking mini-game while landing in the green zone. Thankfully, not that much extra effort is needed and you'll master these achievements in a couple of tries without any help.

Overall, a cheap shovelware Thomas game for the Nintendo DS. It may be enough to keep some kids entertained, but most people will find this to be not a great experience. Play this one for the achievements only.

Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends (Sega Mega Drive) (Retro Achievements)

Retro Achievement Set: Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends (Mega Drive) · RetroAchievements

I'm cheating here. This set isn't easy to complete, but it's an excuse to squeeze in all of the Thomas Retro Achievement sets into one special article. This also begs the question as to how a Thomas the Tank Engine set can be difficult. We'll get to that soon, but first let's talk about the game itself. 

Don't let the creepy title screen fool you. This is one of the best experiences that you'll have with Mr. Blue Choo. What we've got here is what we've always wanted to have from a Thomas game. It's an open world game where you get to freely explore.  Granted, you're limited to the rails. It's not like Thomas can suddenly grow legs and go off the rails. It's a limited mode, but it sure feels good being able to explore as a train.

You aren't limited to only playing as Thomas. Most of the gang are all here and are playable. It's only a cosmetic change though, not that we were expecting anything less. We're just glad to be driving our favorite characters around.

There is more to this game other than traveling. There's a mode where the Fat Controller tasks you pick up carriages and to deliver them to the other stations. It's not a bad mode and given the size of the map (it's a decent size), there's a bit to explore. There's also a coloring in mode and it's boring. 

Lastly, a racing mode is included and it is both fun and frustrating. It may sound baffling because the trains go the same speed. However, there are special balloons that will either boost your speed or slow you down, adding an interesting element to the game. There is also some track hazards that will hurt your speed, so be careful. 

Most of the time the racing mode is fair as the hazards and AI are well balanced. When it comes to the hard mode, it's a different story. The AI is ruthless, you'll have to beat the tracks without making a single mistake. This isn't easy as the hazards are not easy to avoid, plus you can't slow down too much or you won't be able to catch-up. It's a huge headache that will make you rage like King Kong having a bad night in New York.

Graphics are okay. The characters and environments look like what they are supposed to, but they are way too muddy and dark. Gives the game a very depressing vibe and kills the fun a little. The title screen is nightmare fuel. Thomas looks like someone that you'd see at the local family strip club. That one person where you don't want to leave at the same time in fear of getting stabbed, robbed, and played with. It's disturbing. 

Most of the achievements are pretty basic. Complete five tasks with each character on hard mode, explore all of the areas, get a high score of 50,000 points, and beat all of the races. Most of those are pretty easy except for the racing ones. Well, on hard mode anyway. 

The last four achievements are fun little challenges. First one is to beat any level that requires collecting a single carriage, but you can only do this while moving backwards. It's okay, it is designed to be played on easy mode. Although, there will be situations where you'll find the carriages while you are facing forwards. Don't be upset though. There are spots where you can do a u-turn without needing to actually move forwards. 

Next of the challenges is a speedrun one where you need to beat a level that requires picking up three carriages, on hard mode, and in less than seventy seconds. This one might take a few tries, all relies on how lucky you are with the RNG and how familiar you are with the map. Next achievement also falls under the lines of RNG and familiarity. You'll need to be attached to four carriages at once. Not too difficult.

Last of the extra challenges will have you completing fifty tasks in one game and on hard mode.  The tasks themselves aren't hard by any means, but getting fifty of them done is a grind. You'll become sick of this mode after around ten rounds as you'd have experienced everything that this mode has to offer. So imagine how sick of this game you'll be by the time you've done fifty tasks. Yeah. Tiring.

Overall, this is the best of the Thomas games on this list. Giving you the freedom that you've always wanted from a Thomas game. It's worth checking out regardless of the achievement set, but this game has a good achievement set too.

Kikansha Thomas: Sodor-tou no Nakama-tachi (Nintendo Game Boy Colour) (Retro Achievements)

Retro Achievement Set:

Japan, 2001, a miracle was born. A Thomas the Tank Engine game came out for Nintendo's Game Boy Color. A Thomas game that we never saw in English. This is Kikansha Thomas: Sodor-tou no Nakama-tachi. Even though it's not in English, it's a very simple and easy to understand game.

You are Thomas the Tank Engine and you must travel along several levels that take place on big maps. The goal is to go around delivering carriages, meeting friends, fixing up broken tracks, and playing some mini games. It's such a simple game, but it wasn't a bad experience. Exploring was fun, the mini-games were fun, and meeting friends could be a bit of a headache due to some of them being hidden. 

Mini-games are about being fast and graceful. One involves crossing a collapsing bridge, another about avoiding lightning bolts and... Well, that's it. It's not a very long game. These mini-games will appear during the main mode, but you can play them to your hearts desired from the main menu once they are unlocked.

Graphics are bright and colorful. While you're traveling on the map, you'll have a birds-eye view. Don't expect much detail. It's mainly solid colors. You will see a little detail in train stations and docks though, but still, not much. The game switches to a 2D platforming styled view for the mini-games. Don't expect actual platforming, it's a train on the tracks for Chuck's sake. 

The achievement set is short, but sweet. You'll unlock most of them from just beating the game. They are mainly "beat the level" types although you will get one for using the track fixing mechanic, unlocking the last level, and one for beating the game itself. There are two for beating the mini-games fast. The collapsing bridge one isn't hard to do. Just mash, mash, mash, step on the mash. The dodging lightening one might take a couple of tries to beat. Lightning is random and you'll need to master the art of starting and stopping. Thankfully, not a difficult task to master.

You'll need to meet-up with every character in the game if you want to unlock the achievement for filling up the character diary. This one can be very annoying due to how missable some of the characters are. In order to find the hidden characters, toot your horn. You can revisit the levels as many times as you want. Just keep tooting at any chance you get until these characters are found. It's not difficult, but sure is tedious.

Last achievement is for finding the hidden sound test menu. It's a good thing that I have the code right on me. At the main menu press the following in order: Up, up, right, right, down, down, left, left, A. Now you can drink in the sounds and enjoy a nice and tasty achievement as well. Yummy.

Overall, this isn't a bad little game, but you're not going to get much out of it. Good for if you really want to dive down deep into obscure games just to say that you've played an obscure game. I don't know why we never got this one in English though. Mark this as a tie-in to the Thomas the Tank Engine movie and it could've sold well everywhere else in the world. 

Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends (Amstrad CPC) (Retro Achievements)

Retro Achievement Set: Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends (Amstrad CPC) · RetroAchievements

It's awesome seeing that Retro Achievement support has reached to old school computer systems.  However, this game is far from awesome. This is a Thomas game made for the Amstrad CPC. This is also the third game on this list that's called Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends and it's also not the last. 

This version of the game has you playing as Thomas (the shock of it all) and his task is to travel across train tracks, find a carriage, and take it to the end of the level. This is a little bit more arcady than the other games. There are things to pick up, point bars to collect, and other trains to avoid.  The levels have multiple paths that you can take, but not all roads lead to Rome. Some will lead to dead ends, so be careful. You know when you've reached the exit is when you have arrived at a train station.

Gameplay is basic but responsive and even a little bit fun. Although, novelty of this game wears thin after a few levels and this isn't a long game. Graphics and sound will give you night terrors. All of the levels look like that they are floating in Cthulhu's cosmic realm. Thomas will haunt you twice on the scoreboard. Thomas' hellish grin will make you never want to sleep again in fears of him doing some nasty sexual stuff to you while you're unconscious. It's nothing that can't be fixed with a clever use of sticky notes put on the screen.

Achievements in this are far from terrifying. Just beat all of the levels without getting into trouble with the Fat Controller and get a score of 70,000. Getting a high score is easy. Beat the levels fast and collect all of the bonus point items that you can see. Beating this game without getting in trouble may take a couple of tries to complete. The big trap to avoid will be all of the other trains on the levels. They will randomly spawn on a stage and avoiding them will be easy to do, but don't let your guard down.

Overall, not a bad game given that it's a licensed title for an old school computer. It's super playable and has ugly graphics. A neat game to re-visit for if you grew up with this game or like Amstrad games. Really great for if you want to scare the shit out of the kids. Serve this up as a double feature with the Mega Drive game's title screen for a cheap creepypasta.

Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends (Nintendo Entertainment System) (Retro Achievements)

Retro Achievement Set:

Lastly, we've got a very special game to close off this issue. Someone had a crazy and awesome idea to make an achievement set for the Nintendo Entertainment System port of the SNES game. What? You've never heard of this version before? Was it only released in small quantities in some small European country like Mr. Gimmick was? No! It had a smaller print run than that. A print run that's so small that it is zero. Yup, this version is an unreleased prototype.

What makes this version different from the SNES version? Well, other than this being an 8bit game, nothing is all that different. You still have the same mini-games, books, and puzzles. The only thing that I had noticed is that the different difficulties can share the same levels due to those levels not being complete. 

I know! There's so little to talk about this that it is boring. Yeah. Let's move on to the achievements. Funny enough, this set requires the same method to beating as the SNES version and that's to simply beat the game. The key difference is that all of the difficulties must be beaten in this version. That sounds scarier than what it actually is. There's nothing difficult in this game and you'll beat most of it on your first go. The only levels that you may have to do a few times would be the racing ones. Even then, not a problem.

Overall, interesting little treasure, but it's very easy to understand as to why this never came out. This would've been an incredibly late NES game, to the point where it wouldn't have been worth releasing. Made sense to skip this and go straight to the SNES version. Although, that's just me theorizing here. Don't take this paragraph as game truth as to why it never got an official release. 


Oddly enough, we here at the Emerald Rangers Achievement Dedicated Investigation Corp Awesome Troops Extreme (or E.R.A.D.I.C.A.T.E. for short) receive a lot of questions about trains. THE COINCIDENCE OF IT ALL! Anyway, it's Q&A time. Remember, if you want to send a question in, make sure to post one here or send a letter to our moving secret PO Box. This time our PO Box is located at your local horse parlor.

Barra Mundi asks: What was your first experience with Thomas the Tank Engine?

I respond with nostalgia: It was when I was a small child around two to three years old. I was watching a TV channel called ABC (Australian Brodcasting Corporation) and they normally dedicated their afternoon towards kids shows. Thomas the Tank Engine was one of those shows and I just loved it. From the interesting adventures and the puppets. It made me want a Thomas of my own and I never got one. BOOOOOOO!

Sal Ami asks: What is your best Thomas the Tank Engine memory?

I'm about to toot my answer and I do so by responding: Funny enough it wasn't of when I rented the SNES game. My favorite memory was when I was about five years old and was visiting the city of Burnie (it's in Tasmania. It's a shithole). They were having a carnival right down at the docks where sawdust and paper got shipped off. My grandma took me there and I was stunned. That carnival had a Thomas the Tank Engine replica train (it was really just a car with a Thomas shell put on) and I got to ride it... TWICE!

Oh, the memories. I was put into the back of the train and into a dark room (don't worry. It wasn't a child stealing ring). Once the train started, the theme song would play and the train would do a lap around the place. It was awesome!

Anna Condor asks: So. Which ER co-worker did you put the voodoo curse on?

I answer with: Someone... Probably. Ask Xander. He'll know who. I was drunk at the time and forgot. Sorry.

Wait a minute? What does that have to do with trains? See you next time.

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