Thomas Was Alone Review

Thomas Was Alone utilizes its diverse characters and varied obstacles to create an engaging platformer.

by

John has a big head. Not literally, of course, given that he's just a skinny rectangle. But the yellow string bean sure can jump, especially compared to his squatter, squarer friends, and he takes pride in his superiority. Claire, on the other hand, is borderline delusional. As her buoyant frame glides through the water, she thinks herself a superhero (sans cape) destined to ferry the needy across ponds, proving that not all quadrilaterals sink.

It's not often that ordinary shapes are given distinct names and personalities. Sure, Chris may look like the typical square you would find in a math book, but place him in a puzzling environment with allies who can easily outstrip his meager athletic abilities, and he quickly grows bitter and envious before latching on (both physically and emotionally) to one of his strong protectors. Traits such as these humanize the characters despite their blocky appearances, and transform the abstract world where they reside into a relatable situation in which talent and teamwork intertwine to make anything possible.

Everything starts out with Thomas. A rogue artificial intelligence in a program gone awry, Thomas unexpectedly gains consciousness in a foreign land. Slowly, he becomes cognizant of his abilities. He can slide across the ground, fall dizzying heights without taking a scratch, and hop over moderate obstacles. It's not much, but the stages he finds himself in gradually grow more complex, forcing him to jump with more precision or worm his way up foreboding passageways. Once he orients himself with his surroundings, he happens upon a friend, and Thomas is no longer alone.

Every new character you meet in the adventure is either a square or a rectangle, each sporting different abilities you have to harness. Chris is not much use early on. The other characters have to form makeshift bridges, ladders, and barges to get him safely to the exit, but he eventually makes his worth known. That small passage, a mere sliver in a rock face, is too narrow for anyone to fit in but Chris. You might have cursed him earlier for slowing the group down, but you find that he's indispensable in later situations. Even the less-abled characters have a purpose, and you want to help them not only to usher them to the next stage, but because you grow attached to them.

When the world is flooded, Claire is the hero you need most.

Strong writing creates strong bonds. Narration plays out during the action, so you listen to a voice-over explaining the mind-set of one or more of the characters as you jump up platforms and avoid spikes. At times you laugh, such as when modern games are unexpectedly evoked after one of the characters taps into a mainframe, but mostly you get absorbed in their stories. The shapes who yearn for companionship make you appreciate their humanity while the ones who want to be alone have a quiet strength. At certain points, a character is lost in a portal and the desperate cries from its companions resonate.There's a strong narrative foundation that meshes wonderfully with the action, creating a cohesive adventure that continually draws you deeper into the tale.

Switching between characters forces you to pass obstacles to progress in different ways. Whereas some characters can easily leap over obstacles, others need a helping hand. In the beginning, this means you stack blocks on top of one another so even your short-hopping companions can reach higher ground, but things grow more complex as more characters and obstacles are introduced. Gravity becomes a suggestion rather than a law, spikes become as dangerous as the acidic water, and jet streams prove that blocks are not the slightest bit aerodynamic. The sheer variety spread across the hundred levels ensures that every stage presents a new danger, and that combined with the quick pace keeps you fully invested in the action.

Although the inventiveness keeps you on your toes, ideas aren't fully realized before a new one is introduced. Because of that quick transition and the smooth difficulty curve that comes with every new obstacle, there is rarely any genuine challenge to force you to pause and reflect. Thomas Was Alone is a puzzle platformer where you're rarely vexed. Because the character traits are so straightforward, and the obstacles present danger in only one way, you almost always know exactly what you need to do to progress, and it's just a matter of rounding up the cubes and setting off. This easiness doesn't detract from the experience while you're playing, because you care about getting your friends to safety, but when the credits wrap up and you reflect on what happened, an empty feeling emerges where satisfaction should reside.

Stairs torment those who can't jump well.

Although a pixelated cloud is strongly hinted to be a malevolent force, there are never any enemies to hinders your progression. The focus is on jumping and problem solving, and it's refreshing to play a game so keyed in on its own strengths. In fact, there are only a couple of levels where failure surfaces because you were too slow. For the most part, you're given all the time you need to figure out what to do, which creates an engrossing atmosphere as you contemplate the environment and let the music wash over you.

Thomas Was Alone is a modest adventure that makes great use of its sparse elements to draw you in. It's disappointing that a controller is not supported natively, but even using a keyboard to guide your rectangular friends doesn't hinder your ability to get them to safety. Short and sweet without any filler, Thomas Was Alone is a worthwhile experience that rises above its basic mechanics to prove heartfelt and engaging in unexpected ways.

The Good
Creative storytelling
Inventive obstacles require smart coordination
Cohesive soundtrack and visual design
The Bad
Rarely offers challenge
No native controller support
7.5
Good
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Discussion

0 comments
firesmoker
firesmoker

the controller support is fine, I started playing with the controller from the moment I launched the game with no problems at all. please update the review

push88
push88

I'm sorry if I sound cynical, but how can anyone possibly get excited for this?

push88
push88

How much are they charging for the Atari 5200 downloads nowadays?

hitmanxmk
hitmanxmk

Why do many developers think that we like so much low graphic games which actually "should remind" us on games from the 80s. BUT  that is so wrong, this games do not remind us on the games from the 80s nor they have the same magic in it, and that is because they does not have a soul - good story. And the only fact why this platform games are so popular is JUST because we were in demand of platform games so many years behind, they were practically dead AND that doesn't mean that every platform game thrown out on the market is good.

glez13
glez13

Finally finished it. Short and easy game but the story is good. I would rate it a 7.0 and even review it but GS doesn't let me. :/

 

Sgthombre
Sgthombre

What are you people getting upset about? 7.5 is a good score for Christ's sake...

insaneEgg
insaneEgg

Skyward Sword was just okay. It took many steps backward for a gimmick which was only mildy a step forward. 

AxiomVerge
AxiomVerge

This game looks great.  I wish I had time to actually play games anymore.  Another one for my ever-increasing queue!

Cocotroid
Cocotroid

So this game is on par with Skyward Sword? You sir, make me sick.

Integrated41
Integrated41

Any game with a quirky narrator instantly gets 7 as a baseline score.

 

Quirkiness should add awesome finishing touches to a great game, _not_ be a defining feature of a fairly standard game.

 

I think indie developers are quickly picking up on what reviewers love to see.

 

Am I being very cynical? :/

pelvist
pelvist

"The bad: Rarely offers challenge." - Could that not be said for pretty much all games nowadays?

RedWave247
RedWave247

@push88 Not everything is based on graphics. I've recently started playing it and find it incredibly engaging due to the basic game mechanics, the narration's voice acting, and the surprising character development.

f3kuinth3a55gs
f3kuinth3a55gs

@push88 It's actually pretty good, only got it in the humble indie bundle because it had a few games I wanted, thought I would play this because the download finished before the others and it really is a good puzzle game with good personality and humor. I was suprised, but sometimes simple games can be great, ever heard of a game called tetris?

RedWave247
RedWave247

@hitmanxmk But that's the whole POINT. By making these characters basic geometrical shapes, you get to know them not as Mr. Square and Mr. Rectangle, but as characters like Chris and Thomas. Each of them has a different personality that goes with their incredibly basic character traits. 

Thomas is small, but fast, thus he's a peppy, positive character. Chris is short, slow, and can't jump a damn, so he's bitter about that when compared to his comrades.

The narrator tells a story about these characters and they wind up becoming surprisingly deep characters.

Double_Wide
Double_Wide

@hitmanxmk 

There were good stories in 80s games? From the 80s to 90s, most of a game's story didn't make it beyond the instruction booklet, especially with platformers.

Its not a bad thing since the actual gameplay was the focus but still, to say that the older platformer had good stories is an exaggeration.

electrocroc
electrocroc

@insaneEgg your are truly an insane egg, it was the best game of this console generation. The graphics were incredible, the story was touching, the mechanics were excellent, the controls were astounding, and the puzzling was just challenging enough. The added upgrade mechanic kept me searching for those seemingly insignifigant part for hours on end.

So in short...

Kill Yourself

obsequies
obsequies

 @Immortalsaiyan you can download it from desura...desura is like steam but for more indie titles..its not controlled as much as steam..I would suggest downloading the desura client..because its actually a better program than steam with many great underground indies -->   http://www.desura.com/

twister_nt
twister_nt

 @Cocotroid I wish gamespot would not incorporate a game's price in its overall score. 

 

They love giving £6 games high scores because they cost £6 rather than because they are good. 

 

Reviews should avoid incorporating value for money- I will be the judge of that, thanks.

markh117
markh117

@Cocotroid You Sir make me sick. What a stupid comment.

naryanrobinson
naryanrobinson

 @Cocotroid Are you seriously so dim?

 

When this game costs $50-60, *then* you can make that remark.

ex_con
ex_con

 @Integrated41 Whilst developers (indie or not) want their game to be played, to say that a one-man-band product has based it's entire design around giving reviewers something they want to see is a little lame don't ya think?

 

The growing trend of this type of game shows that it can be an engaging way to enjoy narrative within a game - something that 95% of AAA titles still fail to grasp.

 

Just having a quirky narrator doesn't mean that his/her script will be any good, or that the story will actually engage the players and add more value to the game experience itself. Otherwise "Watching Grass Grow with Morgan Freeman" would be a hit for sure.

davidsuperstar
davidsuperstar

 @pelvist So you are saying games today aren't hard - even sometimes. That's a pretty strong feeling, but I do see what you mean.

davidsuperstar
davidsuperstar

 @SimonSmall ???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

ali_yusuf7
ali_yusuf7

@RedWave247 @hitmanxmk very well said...thats what makes this game amazing...giving personality to mere geometrical shapes...I loved this game...!

twister_nt
twister_nt

 @Gelugon_baat I agree that butthurt is simply inappropriate trolling. 

 

However, any "true" gamer knows that skyward sword is not a legendary game. It is a rehash of an old formula that has been beaten to death. (oh noes the princess has been kidnapped again. If only there was a green wearing elf kid with a sword and a hookshot that can save the day again. yawn.)

Cocotroid
Cocotroid

 @Gelugon_baat Aw, someone's trying to make me mad by using the word butthurt. You all are no true gamers, comparing disgraces of games to the legendary Skyward Sword.

twister_nt
twister_nt

 @naryanrobinson Cost should not be a deciding factor. Is a game good or not. That's all I want to know.

 

Giving a game 7.5 because it costs less than $50 is a joke.

Integrated41
Integrated41

 @ex_con Sure, I knew my comment was a little harsh perhaps. 

 

I think what I'm saying is that by adding a certain quirky charm like a narrator describing the thoughts and personalities of the shapes, the game scores huge amounts of points for putting this in. The game is not basing its whole design around this, but certainly the developer knows full well how much some reviewers _love_ elements of the quirky and will give it a big boosted score because of this.

 

 

pelvist
pelvist

 @davidsuperstar No I am asking if the same could not be said for "pretty much" all games nowadays.

Cocotroid
Cocotroid

 @Gelugon_baat Whatever you say. ;) Just because it stands as the greatest game of all time, does not make me a hype biting fan. Mc Shea is the absolute worst professional critic of all time, and it seems I have enraged many. :)

twister_nt
twister_nt

 @Gelugon_baat Thanks for the civil and well structured response :)

 

We can both agree that, as commercial products, value is a consideration when purchasing a game. 

 

However, I would argue that game reviews should be restricted to a review of the game itself, instead of artificially inflating scores based on by cheap a game is to buy.

 

If I see an 8.0 score, I expect a GREAT game. Not Angry Birds.

twister_nt
twister_nt

 @naryanrobinson You are incapable of constructing a valid argument- the fact that you need to resort to insults means that you have already lost. Of course, I would expect nothing less from a troll.

 

Good riddance :)

naryanrobinson
naryanrobinson

 @twister_nt Yeah you're just talking crap that doesn't even make sense any more, as expected.  Maybe it's cause you realised your initial argument was so utterly moronic it was ultimately not worth continuing with, in which case, we're making progress.

 

But it's going to take a while and I'm bored of your utter stupidity in grasping even the most simple concepts about reviewing games when you clearly don't have a clue what you're talking about.  So I'm not going to waste any more time on you, and your next reply won't make it to me, for the following reason:

 

Everyone else thinks it's fine, you're just an angry little internet idiot :)  Bye-bye kiddy :)

twister_nt
twister_nt

 @naryanrobinson Again, you need to re-read my post. I never said you couldn't state what you like, although I can understand why you would think so, given the garbage you spout.

 

You say that "every game site in the world" is doing it, (which is wrong - see angry joe, or escapist etc...) and that it is obviously the "correct way" (when in fact, this is your opinion, rather than a correct anything). You are the ignorant person here, because you throw out generalised comments, which are wrong, and then expect them to be true because you have said they are. 

 

You're ridiculous. Fortunately, the only person that needs to "deal" with it is you :)

naryanrobinson
naryanrobinson

 @twister_nt 

 

Re-read *my* post.

"Well it is," is not an answer.  It's a statement, but I see how you might have got confused seeing as how everything is always about you.

I can state what I like thanks.  Deal with it.

 

Every game site in the world is doing it the obviously correct way.  They're not going to change because some user pushed out a fundamentally ignorant opinion on it.

twister_nt
twister_nt

 @naryanrobinson Are you seriously so dim?

 

Re-read my post. Cost SHOULD NOT be a deciding factor. 

 

Replying stating "well it is" is dumb - that was never in question.

Thomas Was Alone More Info

First Release on Jun 30, 2012
  • PC
  • Macintosh
  • + 3 more
  • PlayStation Vita
  • PlayStation 3
  • iPhone/iPod
Thomas Was Alone is a minimalist game about friendship and jumping.
7.5
Average User RatingOut of 182 User Ratings
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Developed by:
Mike Bithell
Published by:
Mike Bithell, Curve Studios, Bossa Studios Ltd
Genres:
2D, Action, Platformer
Content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.
Everyone
All Platforms