I was worried about Thomas. That small red rectangular figure of his was able to clear jumps yes, but without the help of friends how long could he really survive? John, on the other hand, was a lovable friendly guy who took pride in helping his smaller, squarer friends. And of course Claire, whose large body lead to a lack of self-confidence, was fast building spirit as her helpful superhero ways lead the team onwards.
Welcome to Thomas Was Alone, a minimalist game about friendship and jumping with over 100 levels of puzzles and challenge created by the very talented Mike Bithell.
But what of the characters I talk about, you ask? They are the cast of Thomas Was Alone. A gang of misfits and rather an ordinary quadrilateral. It’s these that you guide through the world, one level at a time, using one’s weakness as another’s strength. The game focuses on building relationships between the characters. Sure, one may be able to get by on their own but together they are unstoppable. Thomas Was Alone has a very simple gameplay mechanic. Move left to right, jump when needed, stand on another’s head and switch between characters with a hit of a button. Controls are tight, responsive and most importantly, effective.
Too many 2D platformers these days fall short on the controls but for Thomas Was Alone, it’s one of the strongest points.
Of course, what really makes this game stand out isn’t the gorgeous and elegant minimalist design of the world and characters. Nor is it the superb and soothing soundtrack that supports your adventures through this harsh and dangerous world. What really catches your attention in Thomas Was Alone is the exquisite writing and the deep and thoughtful narration given by (King) Danny Wallace.
There is a lot I would love to say about the gorgeous narration but I wouldn’t want to spoil anything for you all. It’s due to the subject matter of the narration. It’s not what you do but rather, what each character is feeling and thinking. Thomas Was Alone really is something you need to experience on your own at your own pace. It’s this element that allows Thomas to stand out from the crowd and in my personal view, become one of the best games I’ve played so far this year. Even better then most AAA titles. It’s just that good,
But why is narration so important? Take a second to think of some of the recent games you have played. How many have a story and a narrative which you found yourself so engrossed and taken in by that you remember every detail. What about the characters? Did you care for them? If you’re like me then I can assure you that the answer would be a few and far between no. Today’s games are forgettable and lack deep character development. This doesn’t necessarily mean they’re bad but, in the case of Thomas Was Alone, it becomes so memorable that you really start to care about what’s happening. Not a single game has had me caring so much about characters, even if they are small shapes, like in Thomas Was Alone. It’s some of the deepest and most thought out writing and character development I’ve ever seen. Then to have it all delivered by Danny Wallace is just stunning.
Besides, hearing Danny say “OMG, you’ve totally got to meet my mate James, he is literally insane!” is brilliant.
Unlike most reviewers, I won’t give a game score. I feel that the numeric value doesn’t justify the enjoyment and experience I’ve had with Thomas Was Alone. Sure, I could spend time talking about the controls, design and music. Even more about the narration but the risk of spoiling such a perfect game is too high. I would go as far as too say that Thomas Was Alone is a masterpiece both as a game and as art.
I take my hat off to Mike Bithell for being the first developer to make me care so much about rectangles. I won’t lie, there were tears.
I can’t stress enough just how much you need to experience this beautiful game. Mike Bithell has out done most other games. Games such as VVVVVV and Cave Story and I mean it when I say that Thomas Was Alone is that good.
If there is anything you do today, it should be to pick up Thomas Was Alone and lose yourself in the rich and wonderful world. It will surely be a game you’ll never forget.
Try the demo and buy the game now on IndieCity and Desura for both PC and Mac OS X. Follow Mike Bithell on Twitter and check out the soundtrack by David Housden.
Words: Nikholai Koolonavich
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