Thomas Was Alone is an indie puzzle-platformer developed by Mike Bithell. On its website the game is described as a “minimalistic game about friendship and jumping and floating and bouncing and anti-gravity” but this is really selling itself short. Weirdly this game has made me care about shapes.
The general premise of the game is you control shapes and you must use team work to get to some portals to complete the level. The first shape you start off with is Thomas who is a red rectangle. As you progress you meet other characters, like Chris (the small, grumpy, orange square) and Claire (the large, blue square who thinks she is a superhero). Each shape has a different ability and personality with the latter being brought out by the excellent narration by Danny Wallace. Danny really sold the story about these shapes and their differing personalities. He really gave these, otherwise bland, shapes so real character. The story really got to me and how the characters really bonded throughout the game (even two characters fall in love). However I did feel the ending was a bit odd and didn’t really fit to well with the game as a whole. Without going too much into it (as I do not want to ruin the last part of the game) it feels the developer wanted to do something different and so completely ignored what I had experienced with the game so far. It was still a joy to play but it was a shame in the way he did it.
The puzzles in this game do not require too much thinking to complete. They are fairly straight forward puzzles but what really made the puzzles difficult are the controls. The controls are a little too sensitive and so a lot of irritating mistakes are made that make you want to smash the keyboard. It’s disappointing the controls aren’t on par with the storytelling but they are by no means bad controls. Overall there are nine chapters each containing ten levels. The levels aren’t vast and do not take too long to complete but it is extremely good value for what you pay (I paid £5.99 at the time of this review).
Each character has a special ability which helps you solve certain puzzles. For instance Claire can float on water (which is why she thinks she is a superhero). This adds a little bit more complexity to the puzzles as different characters are needed at certain points. To switch between characters you either press E (to cycle through them) or press the certain number they are (as they are ordered at the bottom right of the screen). Switching between characters can be a pain, especially later on in the game when you have six to eight characters to choose from. I often found myself accidentally choosing the wrong character and camera panning away. It does get a little irritating when you’re trying to do some fine adjustments.
I really nice addition to the game is the ability (from starting the game) to choose what visual setting you want. You can have it looking its best or sacrifice visuals for performance. Now I say sacrifice but there isn’t too much sacrifice in visuals for performance. The only annoyance with this feature is there is no way to change it mid game (only when you launch the game). Visually this game is stunning despite its minimalism. The colours are rich and bold and the jumping is fluid. Most minimalistic games look boring but this game didn’t have this problem.
A huge part of this game, well for me, was its music. The music was created by David Housden and what he has achieved is a very cheery style of music which just adds to the charming nature of this game. I loved it so much I downloaded it after completing the game and every time I listen to it I can picture certain parts of the game. This is a real testament to how the music and the game complement each other.
Thomas Was Alone is a charming game. It really brings its characters too life and you end up really caring about them even though they are just shapes. I felt a little disappointed in how it ended and the controls are a little fiddly but that doesn't dampen my feelings towards this game. I recommend given this game a go.
I will leave you with this picture of the gang