Developer: Mike Bithell
Publisher: Mike Bithell
Release Date: November 13th, 2012
Like the recent disappointment that was AVSEQ, Thomas Was Alone is a relatively simplistic game in terms of graphical design and concept. And unlike AVSEQ, this indie platformer is a charming and surprisingly lengthy journey that some may find disarmingly engaging.
Thomas Was Alone is highly reminiscent of both the Portal games and Limbo. The stages are bleak and lifeless, and they may as well have hired Stephen Merchant to narrate the game, which I genuinely thought it was for the first few words.
Each stage starts off with adorably simplistic steps and ledges, but eventually become cleverly laid out puzzles that require precise cooperation with all available rectangles.
It does take a while for the levels to become truly impressive, but the rectangles’ dynamic abilities affect each area to create a fun and visually interesting experience.
Each rectangle has abilities that complement others, and Thomas Was Alone creates situations that require techniques that you would rarely consider, like forming stairs,buoyant platforms or making a rectangle fall onto another rectangle that falls upwards, allowing you to ‘step’ through mid air.
Aside from a few slow “characters” that feel like more of a burden than they should be, every rectangle moves with precision, with no Super Mario slipperiness. And even when/if you’re forced to restart a stage or backtrack your rectangles to help a smaller one over an obstacle, each rectangle can be moved and collected quickly, which lessens tedium somewhat.
each rectangle moves with precision, with no Super Mario slipperiness
It’s very rare for puzzles to be timed, so the levels are ‘comfortable’ enough to stop the player stressing out, and it allows you to patiently think about how to complete each stage. However, many puzzles are solved with previously discovered techniques and some are just corridors with obstacles to dodge, so the game can quickly become repetitive and the overall experience definitely has fat to cut.
Thomas Was Alone…With Friends
The title is a flat-out lie.
Thomas is an “average” red rectangle that appears and ‘warps’ to different puzzles, but before you think Thomas Was Alone will have Thomas…you know…alone, another rectangle shows up. Then another. Then another, until it feels like there’s about twenty, and switching through the roster can become very taxing.
If there had been 4 rectangles, at most, or even just Thomas, than Thomas Was Alone would have been a much lonelier and absorbing game, but then I could just play Limbo.
Danny Wallace’s needlessly goofy voice overs, filled with “jokes” and internet references that become tired almost instantly, do create personalities for these rectangles, even if each rectangle’s behaviour is just as obviously different as their colours and abilities.
each rectangle’s behaviour is just as obviously different as their colours and abilities
Not much information is given about this world, aside from some vague goal involving computer AIs. And since puzzles are constructed specifically for each rectangle, despite them apparently being trapped, and the rectangles themselves are placed into seemingly arbitrary places of a puzzle for unknown reasons and are snatched by the smoke monster from Lost, I had to ask the same thing I asked while playing Bastion: how the hell does this place work?!
If Thomas Was Alone made their own version of GlaDOS, it would give the world better context. It already has lifeless puzzles, electronic music and Wheatley-from-Portal-2-esque narration, so they may as well steal GLaDOS.
The pacing is stretched beyond belief, and just when you believe something big and important is going to happen, you just do another puzzle. And the ending is so odd and rushed, it may as well have included red, blue and green lasers.
Thomas Was Alone is a fun, if generic, platformer that anyone who’s interested should check out.
The game play is smooth and responsive, and the puzzles are very clever and satisfying to complete, even if the story pulls you in for very little pay off.
Just see it as a fun platformer to play for a free afternoon…after you’ve finished Portal 2 and Limbo.
BOG’s Thomas Was Alone Review Score: 7.7
Who so high?:
- Precise controls
- Lovely music
- Endearing characters, in a children’s book kind of way
- Clever and satisfying puzzles
Why so low?:
- Story is lacklustre, needlessly vague and too long
- Too many “characters”
- Many puzzles are solved in the same way
- Some “puzzles” are just dodging obstacles