Note: I wasn’t going to write a full review for Thomas Was Alone due to a bunch of other games I’ve been playing, but I then realised that just because it’s an indie game, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t get treated the same as Triple-A budget games. Especially due to how much this game touched me and made me rethink my own ideas on platformers and characterisation. So here it is, a review on a relatively recent indie game, enjoy!
Thomas Was Alone is a platformer stripped down to its core mechanics, a player moves a character across the screen trying to get from point A to B using different techniques. It’s not only stripped down to its core mechanics in gameplay, but also in graphics, with every character being simple geometric squares and rectangles which can move at different speeds and jump at different heights.
Everything that I just said about the game may have you thinking: “Why on earth would I want to play a game involving squares and rectangles jumping around and on other squares and rectangles?”, the answer? Story. Yes, as much as you wouldn’t think you could make a story out of any of this, there is a fantastic story to be told about each of the shapes, each of them having their own personality, each having their own motives and ambitions. It really sets a precedent for the whole gaming industry by saying that you don’t need pretty and realistic graphics to feel emotionally attached to someone, or to be empathetic towards another character.
To say that Thomas Was Alone is a linear game only explains a little of what makes the game charming. Yes it is linear, but it never tricks you into thinking its anything else. There is always a puzzle to be had in each level, and there are sometimes multiple ways to solve it. Levels are designed to introduce each characters quirks, and then open up to allow you to exploit their advantages to the team as a whole, ensuring you use team work and co-operation to get through levels, which in turn ensures the gameplay follows and enforces the narrative of the story. It’s all a fantastic cycle.
The Narration of the story is done by Danny Wallace, (who has done previous voice work as Shaun in the Assassins Creed series) and it’s a perfect fit for the tempo Mike Bithell was trying to portray. The game just flows, meaning you get so hooked and want to learn more about each character that before long you’ve played hours without realising.
- Amazing characterisation
- Brilliant story
- Great puzzles
- Shorter than I would have liked
Thomas Was Alone is available on Steam for both Windows and Mac, as well as PS3 and Vita, so I hugely recommend everyone give it a try. It’s not going to be everyones cup of tea, but I enjoyed every minute of it, to the point that it’s changed my perception on game design, and for that, I thank Mike Bithell.