As a follow up to the immensely popular London Racer where you raced cars around London, the M25 and Oxford, comes Thames Racer, which takes place in speedboats on the Thames in London, and also Amsterdam and Venice.
Thames Racer may not seem to have quite as much instant appeal to it as London Racer (also known as M25 Racer) - simply because there was something a bit special about driving at very high speeds around london landmarks and around the M25, in anything from a mini to a porsche, past police cars and Gatso cameras - driving a boat along water and not having the fact that you're speeding past Gatso cameras does seem to loose some of the best points about it's road based predecessor, but this isn't totally the case.. it's still a very fast, fun, and well designed game.
Circuit design for the courses is clever, and allows multiple routes.. for instance if you are racing around Amsterdam, you get the main route, but also some narrower canals which are often a lot trickier to get around but are packed with powerups! There are also some good use of the scenery objects such as the warships in the Thames which provide unique turning points on some of the races.
Races are made more enjoyable because there are numerous bonuses placed around the course, such as rockets, turbopower, springs, and mines - so if you get too far behind you can simply blast a boat or two out of the water and then grab a turbopower and race past them - there's also other water-based obstacles to avoid such as House Boats, and Pleasure Boats, and of course the supports for the bridges and pontoons.
The sightseeing mode adds a touch of realism and added value to the game - you are able to literally take a look at the sights - you don't have to worry about being first to the finish, or even sticking to a course, as the speedboat is able to go anywhere that the waterways go, and this means you literally take a high speed cruise up and down the Thames, taking in the sites as you go, and there's no worry of being shot by an opponents rockets as you do so!
All three cities seem to have captured the atmosphere of the real location, and it appears that there's been a lot of very worthwhile work gone in to getting this to be the case. The dimensions of objects appear to be correct too, such as the width of the Thames, size of bridges, etc..
During reviewing the game we did have some problems getting Thames Racer to work in the 3D mode, but this was quickly solved by taking a read of the help files and changing to the OpenGL mode (which looks fantastic) - the game should run fine in 3D mode though, and I think that the computer we tested the game on wasn't set up quite right, so don't let that put you off at all - there's also a great help system called Davilex Service which comes with Thames Racer where you can troubleshoot any problems, and even get the latest updates over the internet, so there's nothing to worry about as Davilex have it well and truly sorted.
The graphics look impressive, the water has a nice liquid look to it, and the spray and backwash from the speedboats looks realistic. One graphical downpoint was the shine from the sun - it's still there when you go under a bridge, and it would have been nice to have gone into shade under bridges, and then get blinded by the sunlight as you came back out into the sunlight. Driving your boat into opponents or obstacles causes some spectacular looking crashes and the barrel rolling through mid-air looks just as impressive as a stunt sequence in an action film.
Thames Racer is a good game, and if you were a fan of the London Racer then you'll no doubt find a welcome place for Thames Racer in your game collection too.. (if you didn't have London Racer then why not?!?) not only is Thames Racer a good river based bit of action, but it's also nice to be able to see such famous landmarks - something which made London Racer so succesful, and is sure to see Thames Racer make a big splash too.Overall score: 7 out of 10
Publisher: Virtuoso (Koch Media)
Recommended Price: £19.99
Available: April 6th 2001Buy Thames Racer from Amazon