It’s rare to come across a game that has me grinning from ear to ear from beginning to end, but this is exactly what Thomas Was Alone caused me to do. Let me be the first to say that I never thought a game like Thomas Was Alone would evoke such feelings. On the surface it’s little more than a game where you simply control a bunch of rectangles through clever little levels. But deeper down it’s a game all about imaginative and downright excellent platforming. It’s a game so simple in its core mechanic, yet so absolutely delightful to play that you’ll remember it for a long time to come.
You may think I’m a bit barmy for talking about character development when every ‘character’ is just a different coloured rectangle. But the narration, which is read out perfectly by the fantastic Danny Wallace no less, adds so much depth and character that you’ll find yourself relating to at least one of these platforming quadrilaterals. Thomas Was Alone really is a perfect example of what is produced when the writing is nothing short of exceptional. Danny Wallace’s narration adds suspense, fear and joy, causing you to love these dynamic shapes. Each one has a name and a different ability and, as I’ve already mentioned, even if you end up hating most of them, there will be one that you find yourself connecting with.
There’s Thomas, the plucky adventurous little guy that you start off with. Then there’s Chris, the more pessimistic and cynical one of the bunch and John, the proud and ever so helpful long rectangle. Then there’s one of my personal favourites, Claire, the wannabe superhero who’s more eager to help than a whole planets worth of Pikmin. If that wasn’t enough, there’s a trampoline-like rectangle named Laura; James, a replica of Thomas who spends his time falling up instead of down, and Sarah, the smallest rectangle of the lot who has the ability to double jump. Switching between these characters is as easy as tapping the R1 or L1 buttons as you cycle through to your desired shape.
The soundtrack is a masterful mix of adventure, dread and happiness that draws you into the world that Thomas jumps about in. It provides a wonderful accompaniment to your journey and, as you start it, you’re filled with the feeling that Thomas really is a lonely little guy and this is going to be an important journey for the little fella.
Thomes Was Alone is nothing short of gaming ecstasy and it introduces every game mechanic in that perfect little way. Danny Wallace hints at them and each mechanic soon becomes embedded in your mind and an extension of your fingers. After the first 10 levels, which serve as an introduction, you’ll find yourself attuned already to how the game operates – which is subtly hinted at by Danny Wallace while he talks about Thomas evolving and learning.
The puzzle element of Thomas Was Alone, while never really very challenging, have been carefully crafted to give you a relaxing and highly enjoyable experience. You utilise all these different game mechanics and the shapes given to you in each level to surmount its challenges. Each puzzle seems fresh and intuitive blending seamlessly with the overall feel of the game.
Thomas Was Alone, truly is one of those rare titles that will undoubtedly grow to be a favourite among platforming and puzzle fans. It’s simplicity and the utter joy felt from playing it will ensure it’s remembered for a long time to come. It just goes to show that you don’t need a big budget for your game. All you really need is great writing and some enjoyable gameplay that’ll leave you satisfied after you’re done.
I may seem to go on a bit about the story and the quality of writing, but it really can’t be emphasised enough just how ruddy good it is. I never thought I’d come away from it caring about different coloured quadrilaterals, I really didn’t. But the fact remains that I felt myself caring more about this little guys than I ever have about any character from the so called ‘AAA titles’, no matter how much death and suffering they put onto me.
Visual/Audio – 5/5: Graphically simple, but when backed up with a soundtrack this good, the emotional bonds feel that much stronger.
Gameplay – 5/5: Platforming in its rawest and simplest form, but the writing in the game is where this game truly stands out.
Innovation – 4/5: A return-to-roots platformer with charming narration and brilliant mechanics.
Value – 5/5: A hundred levels of platforming, puzzling and Danny Wallace for a very cheap price. Can’t say bad about that!
- Jordan reviewed Thomas Was Alone on PlayStation 3 -