At first glance, Thomas was Alone appeared to be like any flash game I might find among the slew of flash games on the internet. This initial perception could not be more wrong.
Thomas was Alone combines the simplicity and appearance of a typical, flash-style platforming game with higher production values found in proper games, such as a fantastic audio soundtrack, enthralling narration and a well-structured plot.
I found it very surprising how well a game like Thomas was Alone manages to tell a compelling story, though one that is simple and charming.
The game starts with you taking control of Thomas, a small, red rectangular-shaped AI who has become self aware. Thankfully, his initial thought was not one of overthrowing humans, but instead the realization that he was alone in a peculiar world. As Thomas continues from level to level, he meets similar AI characters, and the party sets out on a quest for knowledge and truth.
There are no crazy plot twists in Thomas was Alone, just a fun story with values that could be present in a children’s book. Everyone is unique, and their weaknesses could potentially be great strengths.
Really, the story is not so much about what the characters do, as much as about how they grow. There is lots of character development considering everyone is a quadrilateral, and I found experiencing that one of the better qualities Thomas was alone had to offer.
The controls in Thomas was Alone are simple and easy to master. Move to the left and right, jump from platform to platform and enter portals that match your shape. One surprising aspect was how fluid the gameplay actually was. After years of being spoiled by platformers like Super Mario Bros, it’s hard not to notice when another game fails to offer good jumping mechanics. Thankfully, Thomas was Alone is easily accessible, thwarting any typical keyboard hassle.
With the addition of new shapes, Thomas was Alone stops being just a platformer and adds puzzle mechanics. Not every character can jump as well as Thomas, and some can jump better; others have abilities meant to help out the group. Each AI has its own ability and part to play – everyone has certain strengths and weaknesses. Using the characters together is a necessity, and it fits in well with the story. Not every character is as ecstatic as Thomas to meet new people, but they need to learn to work together to continue on.
As the game progresses, the puzzles get more complex and fun. It throws dynamics such as anti gravity at you, which forced me to think of new ways to solve puzzles. It’s very similar to how Portal 2 had me approach situations from multiple angles. It also shares the quality of a Portal level where I could look be baffled at what to do next, only to learn the answer was right in front of me all along.
My only complaint is that some puzzles take a painfully long time to solve, not based on complexity, but the mechanics of the game. Inching across the screen slowly with a couple characters breaks the flow (this is a relatively fast-paced game) and can ruin an entire level. Thankfully, this issue applies only to one of the 10 worlds in Thomas was Alone.
As stated previously, Thomas was Alone could be mistaken for any online flash game, but only briefly. It possesses deceptively simple graphics, but does some subtly enjoyable things with the lighting.
Shadows are an odd fixation to pick out as something you like in a game, but I was impressed with what it brought to the table in Thomas was Alone. To me, it added a fun vibrancy to the background and depth to the art style. It’s very minimalist, but also novel and pleasing to the eye.
To me, the characters appear almost like monochromatic paper-crafts of rectangles bouncing around puzzles. There isn’t much for animation; the AI’s stay stiff except when they contort to jump, parts of levels will break down into tiny cubes, some minor water effects – but this never detracts from the aesthetics.
Thomas was Alone reminds me of a classic children’s book. It’s straightforward, has universal values and themes, plus the narration is so captivating that it draws you back to a time of listening to stories – rather than reading them yourself. This is one of the game’s greatest strengths.
The job of telling the tale rests solely on the narrator, Danny Wallace (AKA the voice of Shaun Hastings from the Assassins Creed series), who does a fantastic job of bringing the characters to life. I thought of the shapes as human beings, not a hodgepodge of quadrilaterals.
I loved some; I hated some. Sometimes, I would intentionally pair characters together to solve a puzzle not based on their ability to do so, but on their personality. It sounds crazy, but Thomas was Alone built real characters that I actually cared for more than most games – and it does it in just a few hours.
The soundtrack of Thomas was Alone fits perfectly with the gameplay and narration. There wasn’t much for me to get frustrated at while playing Thomas was Alone, the experience was actually fairly relaxing – and the soundtrack builds on that.
Whether it is a situation of initial discovery, worry, hope or excitement – the ambient-style tracks produced by David Housden perfectly capture the established tone and promote tranquility.
Overall - 4/5
I enjoyed playing Thomas was Alone more than I expected. The narration and music seemed to be excellent based on the trailer, but it was pleasantly surprising to discover solid gameplay and a full story as well. It’s weird that a game about a collection of rectangles leaping about can evoke someone to care about their journey, but I gladly did so.