Originally a flash game created by Mike Bithell, then expanded and released onto Mac and PC, Thomas Was Alone has finally been released on the Playstation Network by Bossa Studios, this time featuring even more levels. In Thomas Was Alone, you play as the eponymous Thomas and various other colored squares, rectangles, and quadrilaterals; as these shapes, you traverse through platforming puzzles that require you to use their special abilities; for instance, the tall yellow rectangle, named John, has the ability to jump much farther than most characters, whereas Claire, the large blue square, is the only character that can survive prolonged contact with water, which kills any other character upon contact. Using all the characters’ special abilities is an absolute treat, and utilizing all of them together to progress through a level was great.
The object of Thomas Was Alone is to progress through each level, navigating through various obstacles to reach an end point for each character, requiring the player to place each character in position until they turn from their respective colors to white, which teleports them to the next level.
The difficulty of Thomas Was Alone doesn’t ever grow to a level that requires much thinking about solving certain obstacles—it all seems very basic. Environments don’t vary too much; they’re filled with mostly black and brown colors. As soon as an environmental hazard is revealed, it never changes enough to bring challenge to the game. Instead of varying how certain hazards are placed, the game’s level designs are fairly linear, and the game could have mixed in more obstacles to be a little more challenging. That being said, enjoyment can still be found out of completing levels. While most of the time figuring out each A to B puzzle was easy, some instances required a little outside-of-the-box thinking that made using all the characters’ abilities together rewarding.
Even with one hundred levels, Thomas Was Alone can easily be beaten in about two hours, and there isn’t much to be found afterwards in collectibles, harder difficulties, or other post-game content (although DLC titled “Benjamin’s Flight” has been released). There are two trophies hidden in each grouping of ten levels, but they’re usually easily found and don’t increase the longevity of the game too much.
The soundtrack of Thomas Was Alone is equally enchanting and powerful. This review was played on a Vita (Thomas Was Alone is a cross-buy/cross-save title) with headphones, which further empowered the soundtrack by David Housden. Housden’s scores made playing the game mesmerizing, and it added life to sometimes dull backgrounds that can help strengthen humorous moments, yet increase feelings of tension, excitement, and even loneliness.
Perhaps the greatest strength of Thomas Was Alone is the narration provided by Danny Wallace (whom you may know as the voice of Shaun Hastings in the Assassin’s Creed series), which offers a brilliant and humorous look into the minds of the various quadrilateral characters. The personification produced by Wallace’s narration gives each character incredibly charming characteristics, so much so that it’s actually easy to start caring for these characters that never actually speak, further demonstrating Wallace’s incredible narration, which netted him a British Academy Video Game Award for best performance.
The story of Thomas Was Alone isn’t ground-breaking, but it’s actually surprising to have a story in a small game like this that offers a decent amount of emotion. Without spoiling anything, about two-thirds through the game, the story moves to a completely different pace that doesn’t entirely work, but offers a unique climax that is equally confusing and beautiful.
Thomas Was Alone is a cute and entertaining game that could have been so much better with a few tweaks. While the story, narration by Danny Wallace, and the soundtrack by David Housden are highlights, the lack of gameplay variation, low difficulty, and short overall play time harm what could have been a much more solid package. If you’re looking for a quick, fun, and easy game for your Playstation platform, Thomas Was Alone is entertaining enough to warrant a purchase.
+ Wonderful narration
+ Refreshing take on platform puzzles
- Very short
- Challenge never grew to potential
This review is based on a retail copy of the Playstation Vita version of Thomas Was Alone by Bossa Studios distributed by Mike Bithell