“ Developer: Mike Bithell „
As a game, Thomas Was Alone is a standard indie puzzle game, with a minimalist feel about it, where the player must Use logic and timing to overcome obstacles. Inverted falling, bouncing, floating, gravity-defying and teamwork, anything to get to the portal. This game felt like much more than that, however.
The plot and character development were the main reasons why I played beyond the first few levels, not to mention the calm and soothing voice of Danny Wallace (the narrator). I don't think the game alone would have been enough to satisfy me until the end, but the new dimensions added to these self aware quadrilaterals through story telling made it quite a treat to play.
The plot is about quadrilaterals that represent computer AI and have become self aware. It might just be me, but I thought this Idea was very clever, as it makes you think "what if computer AI could actually become self aware?"
I would rate the game 9/10 due to the way it pulled me in with it's simple, yet clever story. By the end of the game, I found myself applauding with a few tears in my eyes. I recommend this game to people enjoy puzzle games and/or people who enjoy great story telling.
Although indie and homebrew games have been developed for decades. Thanks to technology there is now a huge array of software and game engines to create games on and many more ways now then there were thirty, twenty or even ten years go to distribute them at a more affordable cost
Indie games are perhaps going through the start of renaissance period.
Although many point towards Mojang's mega hit Minecraft for the resurgence and desire to obtain independent games. There have been many other superb independent titles. Such as Limbo, Amnesia Dark Descent, Braid, Bastion, Flower, Journey, VVVVV, Unfinished Swan and cult horror phenomenon Slender
Now it's time to add Mike Bithell's Bafta winning Thomas Was Alone to that ever growing list
The game takes place within a computer mainframe and after and unknown incident the AI routines no longer follow their set out commands and develop there own colour, shape and personality.
Simple yet refined is the best way to describe Thomas was alone. You may only see two or at most three colours used to create each level. But this lack of detail is used to create a sparse isolated atmosphere. This technique can make can appear levels appear huge and open whilst some levels are nothing more than claustrophobic tunnels or seemingly endless pits.
Water is the main danger for your rectangled friends, whilst it may sound like I'm running out things to talk about when describing the water but with the translucent affect it has on the background and the ominous white cloud that emits above and on top of it, It fits seamlessly within the levels whenever it is utilized is worthy of note. Remember it is the small things that can separate a game from being above average to masterpiece.
The soundtrack is mesmeric and is lovingly crafted by David Housden. The mixture of downtempo electronica and classical not only makes it just a joy to listen to on its own. But when its combined with the visuals it is just pure artistry. Its haunting echoing vibe suits the lonely atmosphere and inventive level design to a tee. It really does help portray that these bunch of rag tag characters have banded together utilizing their skills to achieve their goal. It really pushes you as the player to keep going just one more level & when the characters are just mere rectangles it makes it an even more astonishing achievement for not just the composer but the game.
An on-going narration is also provided by comedian and writer Danny Wallace. For lack of a better expression, he does an awesome job. His voice oozes enthusiasm and with the right deft touch of tone and humour he gives these nine different rectangles a likable independent personality. Which is also a testament to how well written this game is
The aim of the game is to move each of the rectangles to their designated end point. However each rectangle will possess a different jump height or additional skill which means that you have to position and arrange each rectangle carefully in a way that they can all pass an obstacle
The controls are simple yet perfect you use your arrow keys to move and the space bar to jump and "Q" to switch between the different rectangles. There is no sluggishness in movement or clumsy unresponsive jumping.
The and introduction of each new character is well timed so you are discovering a new skill or feature at regular intervals, The difficulty curve inclines and declines at just the right places as well.
The levels are well designed providing I think the right amount of challenge to where you don't feel bored or undermined but instead feel proud for your progress as opposed to angrily checking a walk-through to find how out how to progress. Although I get the slight suspicion for those who want a taxing puzzle game may find the challenge a bit too simple. But if you think that might be the case I urge you to see this game as an experience as opposed to a video game and just enjoy what you see and hear.
At the time of writing Thomas was Alone is available as a download as part of the humble indie bundle 8 a collection of indie games in which the buyer chooses how much they wish to pay, in which all proceeds will be divided among the developers and two charities called Child's Play and Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Available on PS3, PS VITA, PC and Mac platforms
Every so often, a game comes along that looks a bit rubbish but has gameplay so addictive it should come with a government health warning. The most famous example is probably Tetris and whilst Thomas Was Alone is not quite in the same league, it shares that same DNA of simple idea, basic presentation and brilliant gameplay.
Thomas is a sub-routine in a computer. One day, something goes wrong and he becomes self-aware and starts to look for a way out. He must use his new-found ability to jump to make his way to the exit portal on each level. As he progresses, he encounters more sub-routines like himself and they must work together, using their different abilities to help everyone reach the exit.
If you are daft enough to judge games on presentation alone, then you wouldn't even give Thomas a first glance, let alone a second one. The graphics could have knocked them up on a Spectrum 16K back in the 80s with plenty of memory left over. Thomas is little more than a small blue cursor and the other characters he meets are also coloured geometric shapes. The walls of the maze are just black blocks and the exit a white square.
For a game with such basic graphics, Thomas Was Alone is bursting with character. Whilst the characters you encounter are nothing more than geometric shapes, the brilliant narrative makes them come alive. They all have different outlooks and personalities so that you come to see them not as blobs but as real characters in their own right. The first time Christopher encounters Thomas, for example, he resents him, viewing him as a show-off because he can jump higher; a later character, John, has a very moral outlook and sees it as his duty to help his new friends. It should be impossible, but the narrative imbues them with such a sense of life and personality that you find yourself caring deeply about the on-screen blobs.
Sound is a little more advanced, with a tune that manages to be both modern and retro at the same time. At first it seems quite pleasant, although after a while it can be become rather repetitive and a little distracting. Other sounds effects are extremely limited to the kind of occasional beeps you would expect from a retro-influenced game.
The stand-out piece of audio comes with the narrative, superbly voiced by comedian Danny Wallace. It has more than a touch of the Douglas Adams about it, capturing that same sense of the mundane and the absurd. Wallace gets the delivery of this narrative spot on. He's serious enough so that you think he might just believe what he is saying, but silly enough to make it clear he gets the joke. It's this amusing, slightly absurdist narrative from Wallace that really gives Thomas and friends a sense of personality.
It's a lot of fun to play, too. Although at heart it's only a simple maze game, it never feels dull. There are around 100 levels and a new friend for Thomas (each with a new ability or skill) is introduced every 10 levels or so. This adds a lot of variety to the game, as you need to remember the skills of the various characters at your disposal and work out how to combine their different abilities to reach the exit.
Levels are really well designed. At first they look pretty straightforward and you can't believe that the game will offer much of a challenge. As you progress, they become more and more fiendish and they will really make you stop and think about what you have to do and which characters you have to use to complete the level.
It's true that Thomas is not a tricky game. You can't die and there is no time limit for completing a level. Scoring doesn't exist and your only objective is to reach the exit. This could have made Thomas feel too easy but thanks to the clever level design and engrossing gameplay, such things don't occur to you. In fact, the lack of pressure is curiously liberating. You get a massive sense of achievement when you complete a level (which takes Thomas closer to freedom) and that's enough to drive the game forward.
Whilst Thomas doesn't demand much in terms of physical dexterity (there are a very limited number of moves available), it does require a significant cerebral contribution. This means it's not a title for action junkies. Equally, there are some levels that will stump you (at least temporarily) and this can be an issue. Since the game is so linear (you have to complete one level before you can move onto the next) this can stymie progress. Generally, though, you'll find that if you turn the game off and return later you'll see what you need to do. The beauty of Thomas is that it's one of those simple-yet-complex games. When you finally work out a level that had you stumped, you'll smack your head in disbelief that you didn't see the solution earlier.
Beautifully designed and chock full of personality Thomas Was Alone once again shows that games don't need stunning HD graphics or mega-budgets to be fun. Clever gameplay mechanisms and well-designed levels are far more important and when it comes to those things, Thomas does, indeed, stand along. Or at least is part of a small, elite group.
Available as a digital download from the Playstation Store for the PS3 and the PS Vita, Thomas Was Alone will cost you £5.99. It's worth every penny.
© Copyright SWSt 2013