Sometimes a game that seems to start with all the best intentions can wind up getting way off track. At least, that’s the case with Thomas & Friends: Adventures!, the latest “edutainment” app to bring the carefree locomotive to mobile devices. The game uses an interesting blend of video clips and simple puzzles to take kids on a worldwide trip of adventure, dishing out interesting facts and short glimpses into each stop’s unique culture and landmarks. There’s never any real challenge to the light gameplay elements, which helps to hold the younger audience’s attention and gives them a sense of accomplishment for a job well done. It’s a great concept that, unfortunately, gets derailed before it even gets a chance to pull out of the station.
While Thomas & Friends: Adventures! starts off well enough, before it can build any steam behind it, the game runs smack into a massive wall … a pay wall, to be precise. For a game that touts global adventures, the initial download only comes with one location. And considering just how short each area is, it comes across as more of a demo than anything else. To access any other locations and activities, parents need to shell out an addition charge for each, either à la carte or as a package, both of which add a substantial amount to the game’s price. Also, kids are encouraged to pick up some of the other characters in the game, which also requires parents to pay for each one. And all the while, the game is serving as an advertisement for Mattel’s line of Thomas & Friends toys and merchandise. This derails most of the educational benefits of the game, as it winds up feeling more like an interactive informercial than it does a truly educational experience.