With Strider out on grad night (so when is somebody going to tell me what that means?) I’m pulling double duty for all you lovely people, for reasons I don’t quite understand, although I’ve been led to believe that a koala will be saying my name. Look forward to that, I guess!
But now that all of that is out of the way, I’m going to talk about that little indie game I promised you. I mean, it’s not like there is big news this week anyway, right? Right. Besides, there will be plenty of Xbox One talk in the Cblogs without me devoting my -isms to it anyway. PLENTY. Which is to say GOOD GOD SO MUCH.
Ahem. Then without further ado: Thomas Was Alone.
It is the best thing.
For those of you who don’t know, Thomas Was Alone is a minimalistic little puzzle-platformer. You control a team of rectangles in different shapes and sizes, all of which have different abilities, although all of them can jump to some degree. The tall yellow rectangle can jump really high, the short orange square can’t jump worth a shit but fits through small holes, you get the picture. Most of the game revolves around getting the entire team from point A to point B, overcoming all the obstacles in the way. But I’m not going to recommend this game for its puzzles or its platforming. Quite frankly, both are kind of simple and barely worth the price of admission. What I will recommend this game for, wholeheartedly, is its fantastic writing and its character building.
You see, the rectangles in this game aren’t just ‘rectangles’. They’re characters. People, almost. They even have names! The red rectangle above is Thomas, obviously, but there’s also Chris, John, Laura and a whole bunch of others. The game brings these guys and gals to life through the use of a narrator, Danny Wallace (who did Shaun Hastings in Assassin’s Creed according to Wikipedia), who describes what the characters are thinking at any given moment. His performance is excellent (he even won a BAFTA award for it), and it really manages to give these quadrangles unique and recognizable personalities. Thomas is a hopeless optimist who is easily blown away by any little thing he can ‘observe’, Chris is a bit of a grumpy dude mostly because he’s insecure about his lackluster jumping ability, Laura is an overall nice girl but seems to have this little problem in that all of her friends seem to disappear under mysterious circumstances whenever she’s around, and the list goes on. All of these quirks and characters are described in a very funny way, which literally made me crack up every time the narrator had something new to say (which is once or twice every level).
My absolute favorite character is Claire. The thing about Claire is that she is resistant to water. Whereas everyone else dies in water, Claire is the only one of the lovely bunch of rectangles who can swim. Doesn’t sound too special, does it? Well, what makes Claire so utterly amazing…is that she thinks she’s a superhero. With a superpower that consist entirely of ‘swimming’ she has taken it upon herself to save her ‘posse’ of quadrangles from whatever dangers they may face. Just as long as said dangers can be overcome by swimming, naturally. The narrator talks about Claire with such unmistakable passion that it’s difficult to keep a straight face. The way he talks about her needing a cape, or spikes being her kryptonite (“And not the rubbish red kryptonite either, the proper radioactive green stuff”) everything he has to say about Claire is solid gold.
Overall, the narrator does a really great job in fleshing out the different characters, and at some points you’ll even forget that they’re actually just colored rectangles. It ties in really well with the story itself too, which deals with rogue AIs becoming sentient outside of human control. But when Chris talks about how “rude” the other rectangles are being to Laura, you can really picture his grumpy old man face. That is, until you remember that ‘Chris’ is just an orange square. I actually think that little fact makes the dialogue all the better. There’s just something special about Claire the superhero when you remember that at the end of the day, Claire is just a big blue square. It’s very difficult to capture into words, but there’s a unique kind of humor in assigning thoughts and feelings to a red rectangle, or how he applauds the tall yellow rectangle’s jumping abilities. Especially when it’s done with the devotion Thomas Was Alone has.
Thomas Was Alone is a pretty short game, doesn’t have particularly difficult puzzles, and doesn’t require lightning reflexes. But its ability to tell an interesting little story and create recognizable characters out of what literally are nothing more than colored rectangles, as well as it being one of the funniest games I’ve ever played (right up there with Portal and the Penny Arcade series, the latter of which I must remind you was written by people whose job it is to be funny) has earned it one of the tops spots in my list of favorite indie games (i.e.: my Steam Library). I’ve also JUST learned while writing this that there is DLC which is only a couple of weeks away tops from coming to PC. Smash Bros. hype? Move over. Thomas Was Alone DLC hype, you’re up.
Go check this game out, it’s only like 8 bucks anyway.