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Tour de France Mobile 2006

I want to ride my bicycle

Cycling is the lowest-profile of all the summer sports. Think of the others that come to mind before it: tennis, cricket, Formula 1, athletics - even football some years, thanks to the World Cup. Perhaps it's a result of Britain's changeable weather and the fact that motorists are more likely to use cyclists for target practice than embrace them for their green credentials.

Whatever the reason, the Tour de France has slipped out of our national consciousness, consigned to backwater TV channels and an occasional passing interest among the media when Lance Armstrong's name is mentioned.

In-Fusio hasn't given up on it, though, and if its latest edition of the official mobile phone game is anything to go by, we should give it another chance too. Because rather than pedalling another tired racing game, Tour de France Mobile 2006 captures all the tactics and strategy involved in the world's most famous cycle race.

Encompassing each of the 21 stages that take place throughout France, as well as the guest stages in Belgium and the Netherlands, Tour de France Mobile 2006 is a title with epic scope for a mobile game.

If you embark on the Tour mode that's featured in the game and tackle every stage, the challenge will take you a good couple of hours. But it's not as arduous as it sounds and, in fact, you'll be driven to push hard and make the most of each and every stage.

Starting in the middle of the pack, you control your rider's speed by pressing left and right on your handset's controls, moving from side to side on the road by pressing up and down.

Then off you go, over a scaled-down version of the actual stage in question, gradient changes and all. But it's not simply a case of pressing the controls to keep going faster and faster, as you have to consider your stamina and morale. Accelerate away from the pack too soon and you'll tire yourself out, get overtaken later on, and not be able to keep up with the pace. Go too slow, on the other hand, and the leading riders will get so far ahead of you that you won't be able to catch up.

It's a tricky balance to strike, though one that's helped by your team-mates. Cycling is a team sport, with each team of riders having a captain (usually the chap most likely to win). Pick up three team power-ups while out on the road and you can call your team to you, providing you with a temporary slipstream that'll give you a boost of speed.

That's not the only bit of good news, either: other power-ups will endow you with speed boosts (though less impressive than that conferred by your team) as well as first aid kits that'll restore your stamina.

Picking these up can be tricky when you're pedalling flat-out, so little alerts pop up on the right of the screen to let you know when a power-up's on the horizon. Helpfully there are warnings of upcoming danger, too, such as cones, fences and potholes, which will break a wheel on your bike if you ride into one at full speed.

Any kind of delay like that will hurt your stage time - and it's the cumulative total that determines the leaderboard. However, you'll soon realise that you don't need to win every stage in order to lead the board and don the yellow jersey. It's this tactical aspect that makes Tour de France Mobile 2006 so involving to play.

Add to that the quest for the green sprint jersey and the polka dot jersey of the King of the Mountains and you've got a fabulously engrossing title that's got a great deal of crossover appeal. Even if you left racing on your bike behind in your childhood, you'll find much to enjoy.

True, you will have to overlook the bland visuals and lack of any sound effects. But the amount of pride you'll feel when you set off wearing one of the three special leader's jerseys is immense and quite rare in pocket gaming. All of which lifts Tour de France Mobile 2006 above the minority appeal of the event itself.

7 / 10

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