Review: Thomas Was Alone

Review: Thomas Was Alone

Thomas Was Alone is a relatively simple puzzle platformer that provides us with a tale of an AI called Thomas, who is, alone. Throughout the game you discover a number of new characters with various abilities and through utilising each of their abilities and working as a team you solve a number of creative puzzles in your bid to discover what this world is about.

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Presentation: The game has a very simple look to it but that only goes to accentuate the fantastic craft and personality of the game. It does the opposite of many modern games which hide weak characters and uninteresting plots behind flashy and impressive graphics. However don’t let this description fool you, in it’s own way Thomas Was Alone’s art style is gorgeous and works perfectly in tandem with the other aspects to the game.

Each character is a different colour rectangle and whilst that might not sound particularly appealing for a narrative driven game, I ended up caring more about these characters and their story than any character that looks remotely real in many AAA games.

One of the best features of the game has to go to it’s soundtrack; one of the best in any video game I’ve played. It starts very simple and empty, reflecting Thomas being alone but as you discover new friends, learn about them and work with them the soundtrack grows into a beautiful symphony that helps to convey the story and the emotions of the characters to the player. Even if the game itself may not be for you, I highly recommend the soundtrack.

The rest of the presentation of the game is simple and easy to work your way around. There is very little in terms of UI other than to show which character you have selected and subtitles to the narrator. The whole presentation is very simple and clean and does it’s job without being over the top or trying to take the focus away from the incredible story and creative challenges.

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Gameplay: Don’t be fooled by the simple concept of the game play in Thomas Was Alone. The goal of each level is to get the various rectangles to a point in the level shown by a white outline of the shape of the rectangle. The challenges start of very simple and do a great job of introducing each characters strengths of weaknesses before presenting the player with a more complex test of what they have learnt. The formulae is simple but it works and with the vast variety of puzzles, the gorgeous soundtrack and the charming characters we’re given to play, the formulae never gets boring.

There isn’t too much to say regarding the gameplay other than I think some of the powers were ingenious and towards the end of the game the changing up of how these powers work/how they are used offered a refreshing change of approach at the late stage of the game whilst also signifying the narrative changes that had recently occurred.

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Narrative: I will not hide the fact that a good narrative is what appeals most to me in any game, and Thomas Was Alone’s is easily one of my favourites. It takes such a simple idea of an AI exploring it’s world and does a great job of showing the characters in such human ways that it becomes impossible to not consider the question of whether an AI can be inquisitive, can it be proud, can it fall in love all of these things that we consider “human” and makes, me for one, think about what being alive means. I could of course be thinking too in depth about it but I found it fascinating to contemplate nonetheless. The characters each have their own personalities and each their own story to tell, due to this there is absolutely something for everybody here in terms of finding a character to relate to. It becomes impossible not to think of these charming little rectangles as human, before being reminded every now and again that they are simply AIs.

There is more depth to this games narrative than most games I have played, and I am certain the simple look was done to reflect this. Thomas Was Alone has done a better job of making these rectangles feel real and human than any AAA game with all it’s fancy graphics have in a long, long time.

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Overall: 5/5

Thomas Was Alone is a masterpiece if I have ever played one, and this is coming from someone who tends to hate puzzle platformers and loves action oriented games. There is something for everybody in this game, and I haven’t yet played a game which I would be more willing to say is worth every penny you pay for it. There is always a debate about whether a video game can be art, I’m not certain of the answer, but if games are art than Thomas Was Alone is one of the stand out pieces and should be put on a wall somewhere next to the very best games our industry has to offer.

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The Wolf Among Us: Season Review

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The Wolf Among Us is a point-and-click adventure game, where the player, in control of the protagonist Bigby Wolf, can move about the environment and examine and interact with other characters or objects. It is similar to Telltale’s previous game, The Walking Dead, in that the player may make choices in their actions or through conversation trees that will influence future events in the story, including events in future episodes. These include major decisions, such as deciding which of two culprits to chase after while allowing the other to go free. Like The Walking Dead, these choices are recorded by Telltale, and general statistics on the major choices are presented to the player after completing each episode to allow them to compare their take on the story to others. Telltale has worked to make some of these choices affect parallel events within the narrative, such as choosing which of two people to help first, and later learning from the second one that their help could have been used before.”

Gameplay:

The gameplay, whilst still remaining simple and easy to learn, is far more refined than The Walking Dead series by Telltale. If there was one criticism I had at the original season of the walking dead, it would have been it’s limited gameplay. Unfortunately technical issues still hold this series back with frequent freezes and massive drops in frame rate throughout each episode. Whilst there are a few small bugs here and there none of them were overly taking away from the experience and none of them were game breaking in my playing of The Wolf Among Us.

Narrative: The narrative follows the story of Bigby Wolf, detective in charge of a number of fairy tales who now live in the “real” world. As with The Walking Dead, the narrative is the driving element of the game and it does a great job of gripping you from the very beginning introducing you to interesting characters from the early parts of the first episode. The ending is incredibly clever, and there are a number of theories out there. I won’t go into my interpretation here due to not wanting to spoil the game for you. If there is a criticism I could have for the game, it would be that despite every character being relatively intriguing, some definitely felt more one dimensional than others leading to them and the overall story becoming far more predictable which for a mystery game is counter productive.

Presentation:

The Wolf Among Us looks like your traditional Telltale game although utilising a much brighter and vibrant colour pallet than that of The Walking Dead. The sound in the game compliments the overall experience well, without overshadowing the other aspects of the game. Telltale again did well in their selection of voice actors and they all played their parts extremely well, which is vital for a game like this where dialogue is a core component. The comic book art style works well and suits the setting well given the fairy tale background of the characters.

Overall: 5/5

Ultimately The Wolf Among Us, like The Walking Dead, has taken it’s place amongst the best game on the last generation consoles. The twists and turns the game has to offer makes it a thrilling experience from start to finish. Despite the technical issues, the games many more strengths make The Wolf Among us a stellar game and well worth your time and money. Telltale are quickly becoming one of my favourite developers, I look very much forward to seeing what they do with next generation systems.

Sources; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wolf_Among_Us

http://www.telltalegames.com/thewolfamongus/

Oulu Game Lab Review

So from the first week in March through to the first week in July I was part of the Oulu Game Lab course in Oulu, Finland. I was hoping to have these thoughts up sooner than this but due to work commitments and generally laziness on my part it has been delayed until now. The review will look over a few things; the projects, the education, the teams, and also the staff that run OGL.

First we will look at the projects and what they involved. At Oulu Game Lab I took part in two projects. The first project I worked with a small team with three other OGL team members. The project was a fantasy RPG using a voice recognition technology to cast spells and it would also read emotions in the voice to add an elemental effect to the spell. Unfortunately because of the time delay of when we would receive the technology from Global Lab Sendai, in Japan, we did not make it through. This project involved a lot of planning and research. I worked as producer, it helped me develop my knowledge of what needs to be considered when designing a game and also gave me the chance to work with a team from half way around the world. All of this was a fantastic learning process, the second project was also good for learning for me but more to do with the tools and technology I was using. After my first project was cut I got moved onto the Bonnie The Brave team. I worked mainly as a 3D artist for the team, this involved learning a lot about Blender which is a programme I had never used prior to OGL. I feel my skill in Blender has improved dramatically considering the limited time I have had with it, although I am still a long way off being at the level I want to be.

I found the projects really worth while, we were given a basic idea to build off of and I feel these were well balanced in giving us a foundation but also room enough to be creative and put our own spin on the games. The time that was available for each phase of my time there felt well balanced. A few weeks to develop an idea then a few months to build a demo. It pushed us to work fast and focus on what made our game ideas special.

The ‘lectures’ for lack of a better word, were brilliant for someone like me who loves to discuss video games and the industry for hours. There was a lot of support for any area, be it art, programming, marketing or design and it allowed me to explore where I would be best suited to when/if I pursue working to make games. I feel as though I learnt a lot, looking back at what little I knew prior to this adventure tells me how far I have come with my knowledge of the process for making a game. I feel after this excursion more confident in pushing to get into the industry. When reviewing our time here Jussi paid me a fantastic compliment regarding my knowledge of the industry which has also given me confidence to keep the door open in regards to pursuing and option in video game journalism.

Working in, and moving between, teams really helped me to understand the benefits of getting the team work process right. In my second team at times it felt like 7 individuals working together but after a few weeks it got closer and closer to feeling like a proper team and it showed in our work output. Seeing what the team is producing now I am back home is amazing and I think they have really been helped by that process and the game will be better for it.

Everyone individually at OGL was amazing, they were incredibly friendly and it was amazing to go into work every day and be able to talk about video games to everyone, it was genuinely the most comfortable and content I had felt in a long time, and I thank everyone of the participants at the OGL programme for that. It showed me how important it is for your overall mentality and happiness to be doing something you love, and has more or less guaranteed that I will do everything in my power to be a part of this industry after my final year at university.

The tutors at OGL were nothing short of brilliant. Maybe it’s just because after three years of doing something I wasn’t that passionate for I never clicked that well with my other tutors, or maybe it has something to do with Finnish culture in general where nearly everybody was incredibly friendly, but the tutors really felt like friends and it was great to have them around the teams a lot of the time, they were really involved and that helped all of us I feel.

I am struggling to think of a negative I have about the experience, ultimately I feel the only one I have is that there is not something like this in the UK. Without a doubt the best experience of my life, and I would recommend it to anyone remotely interested in video games. I will be keeping up with all of the work they do over the next few months so for one last time in this OGL series; thank you to Jussi, KP, and everybody at OGL whether you were one of the staff or participants. If you were a game I was reviewing… you’d get a 5 star rating!

For anybody interested, here are the links to the game pages on facebook, and the OGL website!

http://www.oulugamelab.net

https://www.facebook.com/OuluGameLab

https://www.facebook.com/bonniethebrave

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Rocket-Raiders/1396327893979761?fref=ts

https://www.facebook.com/brokenmemoriesgame