Thomas Was Alone [Review]
An adventure with quadrilaterals has never been more fun.
Quadrilaterals, now with personalities!
Quadrilaterals, now with abilities!
Imagine the world inside a computer— How complex it must be with all those components and electrical current filled wires. In Thomas Was Alone you’ll get to take a look inside the mysterious digital world of computers and the various artificial intelligences that rule the realm. This simple puzzle-platformer was originally created in 2010 as a flash based web-browser game, but has since been modified and added upon for its release to consoles earlier this year.
Thomas Was Alone takes place in a particular mainframe where some unknown problem has caused several artificial intelligences to run out of control. These AI have evolved and been given unique personalities. Each entity has its own quadrilateral shape, color, and ability that will help it traverse the mainframe and find out what has caused it to be knocked out of its routine and meet other entities.
Thomas Was Alone is broken into ten sets of ten levels; each set introducing a new character to the group. Each set had a level or two that help you understand the new AI’s unique ability. When you have more than one character at play in a level you’ll be able to switch freely between the different AI characters by using the either of the shoulder buttons, or by using the touch screen feature of the PS Vita.
The primary goal throughout the game is to direct all the shapes in the level to exit points, or portals, that are specifically tied to each shape. The trick is that all the shapes have to simultaneously occupy all the exit portals at the same time, something that sounds a little harder than it really is. While each of the characters has the ability to move left or right across the levels, some will have the ability to jump higher than others, while others may have the ability to float across water or maybe even move along the ‘roof’ of the game.
In order to get the exit portals you’ll be manipulating the AI characters across various platforming environments and using each shape’s unique ability to aid the others through the level. For instance, a shape that can’t jump very high can be aided by building a staircase out of the other shapes to get to a higher platform, or a shape that has the ability to float on water can ferry the other AI across. With the exception of maybe five levels throughout the game, this is actually easier then I would have liked; making most of the game relatively mindless.
Thomas Was Alone has a unique art style, featuring polygonal characters and platforms. Each of the characters have their own color, which signals the abilities that each character possesses. For instance, later in the game there are characters that are all grey, but when they pass through certain colored sections, they gain the abilities of the new color. This basic art style really plays into the simplicity of the game’s mechanics. Also, this simplicity, while it can be perceived as inferior to other game’s art choices, really allows the player to be immersed into the story and dialogue. This really speaks about the story since much of the dialogue is strong enough to not need a large amount of visual cues to get a great reaction.
Honestly, most of the charm in Thomas Was Alone, aside from the basic controls and simple art style, is the script. The game features some of the best, and funniest, lines in any platformer I have played. The only voice acting in the game is done by a narrator that does an excellent job conveying each AI’s personality and feelings towards the other characters. Thomas Was Alone is very obviously in tune with pop culture with one line reading: “…He had seen the cats who couldn’t spell, he had heard of the arrow through the knee. He felt that there was a thing called cake, but that it was a lie.”
Thomas Was Alone is absolutely a game that isn’t about the destination, but instead it’s about the journey. Despite the game being too easy, the story is what drives the game and makes it a game to check out. There were even a few parts where I waited to complete the level just to hear out the rest of the script. In addition, the simplicity of the game brings back that old school feel that has been lost with so many of today’s games. That same simplicity also shows what a great story can do, even if there isn’t some great mystical mechanic or brotastic explosion.
Thomas Was Alone is absolutely a game worth checking out if you don’t care too much about a challenge, but enjoy a great script. Its simplicity makes it a great game to pick up and play at anytime, and the story is funny enough to keep it fresh. The story alone actually caused me to replay it several times now.