Thomas Was Alone looks about as interesting as the color grey on the surface. When you go below the surface, you find a game that couldn’t be any more unique among its peers. Thomas Was Alone has received mounds of praise since launch, and I actually put quite a bit of time into this one. About a year before writing this review, I played Thomas was Alone for the first time. I remembered some basic gripes from that playthrough, but not much else. There won’t be many spoilers here, so feel free to keep on reading if you care that much.
Thomas was alone, so what if Thomas wasn’t alone? What if Thomas set out to explore the world in front of him? What if Thomas found a friend? You, as the AI, Thomas, among others, set out to go “up and to the right”, and escape the simulation you’re stuck in. The story is entirely told through the voice of a narrator. The narrator does an exquisite job, and truly makes you care for squares and rectangles. Thomas Was Alone asks a very simple question, with a truly complicated answer that I haven’t forgotten in that year. This game has made a lasting impact on me, and if you can empathize with the cubes, it will have one on you too.
Levels follow a very simplistic structure in Thomas Was Alone. Search around for the exit, solve puzzles if necessary, and escape through the portals. Each character has their own special ability, and each one is creatively thought out. I never had an issue figuring out what a character did, or how to use that skill to my advantage. Some puzzles left me scratching my head, but never for so long that I felt defeated.
Thomas Was Alone suffers from a couple of very simple gameplay problems. When brushing up against a horizontally moving platform, your character loses all momentum not traveling alongside that line. There were a couple of scenarios when stacking cubes, or using cubes as self-propelling aircraft, that there were a couple of physics interactions that left me feeling like the game had tricked me. Fortunately, those situations are few and far between. The floatiness of the characters truly knocks the game down a peg in my eyes. Unfortunately, this seems to more-so be a product of the times, than a flag on this game. I still can’t excuse it from a modern lens.
Thomas Was Alone’s presentation is simple but charming. The type of shading and squash-and-stretch used feels distinctly like it’s “from” Thomas Was Alone, even when seen in other titles. The music always goes for ambiance, but it’s never unnerving. It’s just the right kind of calming that makes you forget it’s there when you’re doing good, and focus on faults when you’re doing poorly. I can’t recall a single track from the game, but I can’t recall hating a track either.
If you’ve somehow avoided Thomas Was Alone for all these years, I recommend you try it out. I don’t really see what others do, but I certainly enjoyed my time with it. Everyone who has worked on Thomas Was Alone went on to do bigger and better projects. I personally can’t recommend enough checking into their resumes. I won’t suggest you run after Thomas Was Alone right this second, but if you’re at all interested, give it a good shot.
You can read my thoughts written immediately after my first play-through on my twitter at this link. It is incredibly filled with spoilers, and I certainly wasn’t as good a writer then as I am now. I hope you can enjoy the difference in style between that review, and this one.
Thomas Was Alone was developed by Bithell Games.
Available on Steam, iOS, Android, Xbox One, PS4, and PS Vita.
Available for $9.99 on PSN, and Steam, $10.99 on Xbox One, and $4.99 on mobile
A review copy was gifted to the reviewer
supirorguy has awarded Thomas Was Alone the Indie Gamer Team Seal of Approval