Quantcast
Review: Thomas Was Alone - Destructoid




Game database:   #ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ         ALL     Xbox One     PS4     360     PS3     WiiU     Wii     PC     3DS     DS     PS Vita     PSP     iOS     Android


Thomas Was Alone  



Review: Thomas Was Alone


2:00 PM on 07.11.2012
Review: Thomas Was Alone photo



Thomas Was Alone contains a lengthy narrative, a colorful and varied cast, and a story of cooperation, conflict, and epic questing. It meditates on sentience, love, friendship, loss, rivalry, and the basics of beginning a superheroic career. It packs into itself more heart, character, and drama than many triple-A titles.

That's quite a lot for a game that looks initially like an Adobe Flash object-creation tutorial, starring a series of colored quadrilaterals.

Thomas Was Alone (PC [reviewed], Mac)
Developer: Mike Bithell
Publisher: Mike Bithell
MRSP: $9.99
Release: June 27, 2012

Thomas Was Alone is not by any means a mechanically complex game. Controls consist of moving and jumping, and not much more. If not for its unique storytelling hook and endearing characters -- an achievement not to be understated, mind you -- the game would be otherwise indistinguishable from the glut of indie puzzle-platformers that make up much of the scene.

Complexity rears its head in the game's party of rectangular adventurers. Each has unique characteristics, speed, jumping height, and occasionally special gimmicks. The red one can jump high and move fast, but is just the right size for the weaker jumpers to vault. The tall yellow one can jump really high, perfect for reaching far-off switches. The blue one can float in water, ferrying the rest majestically over deadly pools. The pink horizontal one can barely hop, but can serve as a trampoline, boosting everyone else's airtime. And so on.

As such, the game's all about building stairs and cooperation, each piece helping each other piece make it to appropriately shaped portals to move on to the next of one hundred total levels, divided into ten chapters. Players hoping for a more rigorous mental workout may be disappointed, for most of the game's puzzles are a bit too simple to engage fully (a couple of exceptions aside). As the cast grows, players may end up traversing an area multiple times, which can annoy folks looking just to get to the next bit of story. A level-select or way to skip puzzles after several failures would be welcome.

When I mentioned that the game looks at first glance like a Flash title, that shouldn't surprise; it began life as a Flash game. It's now powered by the Unity engine, but curves are still nowhere to be found. Levels are constructed of plain black shapes, and every character is a square or rectangle of some sort, distinguished only by shape, size, and color.

Closer examination reveals a deeper, more considered art style, though. Subtly animated backgrounds, moody, dynamic lighting and shadows, and a haunting, melancholy soundtrack courtesy of composer David Housden (available on Bandcamp) cast Thomas Was Alone as a deliberately minimalist game, its spare aesthetic not used as a compensation for limited resources. The game looks simply good, put plain.

This all helps to enhance the game's true star: its brilliantly-written story and unique approach to storytelling. Told through plummy-voiced narration by Danny Wallace (who voiced Assassin's Creed II's Shaun), the game weaves a tale loaded with charm and personality, and manages the feat of giving heaps of character to simple mute, barely animate shapes.

As you play, you'll start to think of each little block as a person, with a name, history, and attitude. Thomas' irrepressible positivity, John's ego (as big as he is tall), squat Chris' constant whining and cynicism (a trait that's touchingly tempered by a first romance), and Claire's burgeoning superhero complex (because she's waterproof!) endears and inspires emotional investment amidst a backdrop of artificial intelligence and the travails of newborn sentience.

Thomas Was Alone tells a story that's more complex than games orders of magnitude more expensive and difficult to develop. It's also a triumph of narrative's ability to convincingly superimpose human qualities onto nonhuman objects, telling the audience what's what (who's what?) and letting the imagination take over. It proves that you don't need tens of millions of dollars and hundreds of staff to make a game story worth telling, just a good hook, an engaging vision, and a whole lot of heart.

[Thomas Was Alone is currently available DRM-free directly from the developer, as well as on Desura and IndieCity.]



THE VERDICT - Thomas Was Alone

Reviewed by Josh Tolentino

9 /10
Superb: A hallmark of excellence. There may be flaws, but they are negligible and won't cause massive damage to what is a supreme title. Check out more reviews or the Destructoid score guide.








Comments not appearing? Anti-virus apps like Avast or some browser extensions can cause this.
Easy fix: Add   [*].disqus.com   to your software's white list. Tada! Happy comments time again.

Did you know? You can now get daily or weekly email notifications when humans reply to your comments.





timeline following:
Thomas Was Alone



12:30 PM on 09.19.2014
Thomas Was Alone hopping on over to PlayStation 4

Thomas Was Alone is making the leap to PS4 later this year, Curve Studios announced this week. The PS4 version will feature cross-buy compatibility with the PS3 and Vita iterations, so veterans will be able to upgrade at...more



12:00 AM on 09.17.2014
Thomas Was Alone jumping to Wii U, Xbox One

Thomas Was Alone appears to be hopping over to Wii U and Xbox One, according to a pair of listings from the USK, Germany's software ratings board. The indie platformer from Mike Bithell launched on PC in 2012, and has since c...more



4:30 PM on 06.26.2014
Thomas Was Alone's jetpack DLC is free on Steam

Benjamin's Flight, a set of new levels (and music and lovely narration) for Thomas Was Alone, debuted exclusively on PlayStation systems. Now, here the DLC is on Steam, for free. You get to use a jetpack in it, so, yeah. Noth...more



5:00 PM on 06.19.2014
Thomas Was Alone DLC hits the iPad today

Thomas Was Alone is a pretty fantastic game, and it's available on iPad if Apple devices are your thing. Starting this week though, the Benjamin's Flight DLC is ready to download -- for free. It features 20 new...more



7:00 PM on 05.15.2014
Thomas Was Alone now available on iPad

Indie darling Thomas Was Alone is now available on the iPad. Originally released for PC/Mac, and later the PlayStation 3 and PS Vita, the puzzle-platformer can now be yours on the go for $8.99. We found Thomas Was Alone a great experience, and it's done well enough to eclipse one million copies sold thus far.more



3:00 PM on 04.26.2014
Thomas Was Alone leaps past one million sales

Thomas Was Alone sales have eclipsed the one million mark, creator Mike Bithell revealed yesterday via Twitter. The minimalist platformer wasn't an overnight success, though. Thomas Was Alone first arrived on Windows and...more



3:00 AM on 01.29.2014
Curve's four game PlayStation bundle is a great deal

Looking for something to play on your PS3 or Vita? Maybe both? Curve Studios is bundling four good games at the budget price of $15. $13.49 for PlayStation Plus members. All four games are Cross Buy as well, meaning you get access to the PS3 and Vita versions. Not bad. The four titles in question are Proteus, Thomas Was Alone, Lone Survivor, and Stealth Inc.more



3:00 PM on 07.11.2013
PS Plus 'massively inflated' Thomas Was Alone audience

PlayStation Network is place to be for indie developers. At least, Thomas Was Alone creator Mike Bithell seems to think so. Speaking with Joysiq, Bithell echoed the sentiments of Retro City Rampage developer Br...more



6:30 PM on 05.28.2013
Humble Indie Bundle says you can't spell great without 8

By now, you all should be intimately familiar with the Humble Bundle, which lets customers pay what they want for DRM-free copies of videogames, often includes soundtracks, and puts a portion of the proceeds toward charity. ...more



1:30 PM on 04.23.2013
Thomas Was Alone up on PS3 and PS Vita with DLC

Out this week on PS3 and PS Vita is the lovable platformer Thomas Was Alone featuring Cross-Buy. It's $9.99 (or $7.99 if you have a PlayStation Plus account) as of today in North America, with a European release hap...more




Platform games

11:30 AM on 09.22.2014
Poncho is a cute robot in a lovely open-world platformer

It always hurts my heart a little bit to see what looks like a great game failing to gain traction on Kickstarter. Certainly, the crowdfunding community is more cautious these days than it used to be, and with good reason in...more



10:30 AM on 09.22.2014
Here's a full playthrough of the second Mighty No. 9 beta stage

The second Mighty No. 9 beta stage focuses on the female No. 2 boss, who is a master of ice and water. In addition to my playthrough of the first stage here, you can also get a better look at the next phase of the beta ...more



8:30 AM on 09.22.2014
Mighty No. 9's beta just got a new level

Some time ago the Mighty No. 9 beta hit Steam. It consisted of one level, and the developers weren't sure if they were going to add anything more to it. Well that day has come, so boot up your game and you'll find yet a...more



View all Platform games






Back to Top




All content is yours to recycle through our Creative Commons License permitting non-commercial sharing requiring attribution. Our communities are obsessed with videoGames, movies, anime, and toys.

Living the dream since March 16, 2006

Advertising on destructoid is available: Please contact them to learn more