Video Game Review: Thomas Was Alone

Available on PC, Mac, PS3, PS4, PS Vita, Xbox One and Wii U.

As one ventures and utters under one’s breath “OK, so Laura has to go there…”, Thomas Was Alone is an intriguing enough puzzle-platformer that only rarely will one return to earth and consider “hang on… did I just call that pink rectangle, Laura?”.

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Meet the team. Really. (Image from IGN)

The format is simple – get all of the characters to the end of the one hundred levels. However, most striking is the even simpler visuals, as every character is surreally represented only by rectangle with its own colour and very human sounding name, each with its (sorry, ‘his’ or ‘her’) own ability as a friendship is built, one switches between them, and they each must help one another.

It comes across almost as though creator Mike Bithell had set himself a challenge to squeeze as much emotion and charm out of as little as possible – something achieved with the help of the Jackanory-style narration of Danny Wallace (the only thing missing is an “are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll be begin…”). Yes, however vague it might be, Thomas Was Alone really does have a plot. It is the tale of the reddish rectangle Thomas (or ‘Thomas-AT-23-6-12’ to be precise) discovering his abilities and purpose in his unlikely life, and forms a blocky battalion along the way, to face the classic pits and spikes that are to be expected of any platformer. Bizarrely, to explain any more would be to ruin the experience slightly, as it is this style of story telling that turns Thomas into a charming and sometimes melancholy adventure.

This too is aided by a great dynamic, ethereal soundtrack of pianos and spattered with electronic bleeps and bloops, by David Housden, that evolves throughout each chapter of ten level, similarly giving the illusion of journey, as though the puzzles are far more progressive and that there is far more of a goal than the next level.

It is not without its flaws, for example being quite short, taking perhaps four hours to complete (in spite of the bonus free twenty DLC levels, a pack entitled Benjamin’s Flight). Having made such a statement in building its characters, it is a game that feels as though it should continue. That said, there is something strangely definitive of Thomas Was Alone as an indie game – artistic simplicity and brevity in conjunction with a level of creativity that bigger developers wouldn’t dare touch. And at a price currently hovering around £1 on all formats, one cannot really complain.

8/10

Bonus: If you are one of the four people to own the console, might I recommend buying this for Wii U, for the bonus ease of switching between characters.

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