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.
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.
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.
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.
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.