May 14, 2013
It is essentially a story-driven platformer, but the design is as minimalistic as you could get. Your characters aren't exactly people, but rather personified geometric shapes, all with different play styles. The whole game takes place inside of a computer mainframe where a random event occurred which caused a few artificial intelligence entities to stop their routine and develop individual personalities.
These are your characters, and they come in different shapes, sizes and functions. One can reach higher places, another could double jump, one is able to float; another is able to act as a trampoline for the other AI, and so on. The title's underlying theme is friendship, and it's both shown and told to us by how each AI works together along with how the narrator expresses each of their different thoughts and personality.
Throughout my playthrough, the narrator reminded much of how Douglas Adams would narrate his characters in his Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy (in five parts). Because of this, it came as no surprise when I discovered that Mike actually had taken inspiration from Douglas Adams when considering the script for Thomas Was Alone. He also names Danny Wallace as another inspirational figure, who just so happens to be the narrator throughout Thomas and co.'s journey.
Each level requires the player to solve the environmental puzzles, and eventually bring each AI to their designated exit. There are white outlines of your AI's shape, and you essentially just need to get all of them in their rightful spot. The premise is simple enough, and yet it does offer some degree of challenge towards the later levels, but the majority of the title is fairly straight forward. You can easily beat this game in a sitting, as it shouldn't take you longer than 2 hours to beat, which may be a turn off to some people.
The game's length shouldn't deter you though, as the story itself is both charming in its delivery with a fantastic narration, and also very thoughtful for its subject matter. It bewilders me that I'm able to sympathize, relate, and genuinely care for shapes, especially when you take a step back and say that out loud. It just goes to show how much care Mike put into his game.
From a visual standpoint, Thomas Was Alone is very, very minimalistic. Your characters are a mix of four sided shapes which all behave different, and the levels themselves are designed very well but also retain that minimalist feel. Colours are used thoughtfully, and there's a neat light source that casts great shadows on your characters and the platforms themselves.
If you could sum up Thomas Was Alone in just one word, it would definitely be unique. It's a simple game with a minimalist design, however its narrative in almost direct contrast, is rather deep and meaningful. It's certainly something that certainly something serves to freshen up the industry. On the flip side, the game is very short and though it offers replayability with collectibles, it will deter quite a few. However, for those who want to experience something you may not have experienced before, or for those who want to be engaged by a pleasant cast of characters and a charmingly humorous narrative, then Thomas Was Alone may be just what you are looking for.
Thomas Was Alone was reviewed on the PlayStation Network. You can read more about GamingUnion.net's scoring policy here.