hot  /  reviews  /  videos  /  cblogs  /  qposts

Thomas Was Alone

Review: Thomas Was Alone

2:00 PM on 07.11.2012 // Josh Tolentino
  @unangbangkay

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

9

Thomas Was Alone - Reviewed by Josh Tolentino
Entrancing - It's like magic, guys. Time disappears when this game and I are together, and I never want it to end. I'm not sure if this is a love that will last forever, but if it is, you'll get no complaints from me.

See more reviews or the Destructoid score guide.

Josh Tolentino, Random Asian Contributor
 Follow Blog + disclosure unangbangkay Tips
When he's not posting about Japanese games or Star Trek, Josh serves as Managing Editor for Destructoid's sister site, Japanator. Go there for the best in anime, manga, and cool news from Gloriou... more   |   staff directory

 Setup email comments

Unsavory comments? Please report harassment, spam, and hate speech to our moderators, and flag the user (we will ban users dishing bad karma). Can't see comments? Apps like Avast or browser extensions can cause it. You can fix it by adding *.disqus.com to your whitelists.

 Add your impressions

 Quickposts
Status updates from C-bloggers

ooktar avatarooktar
Defeated a sniper in MGS V by dropping supplies on his head. 10/10.
Nat Monney avatarNat Monney
I'm with 3 other guys and we're about to release a mobile game we started almost 3 years ago. What should we do ? [youtube]https://youtu.be/5EGPUBZCGwo[/youtube]
FlanxLycanth avatarFlanxLycanth
Guys I'm on a train what should I do?
Pixie The Fairy avatarPixie The Fairy
Traded in a bunch of old Star Trek novels and other books at a used bookstore. Made $10 and got Tori Amos' "Strange Little Girls" album along with it. They made me take the William Shatner novels back. Smart clerks.
OverlordZetta avatarOverlordZetta
Can this be Toy Story 4? [youtube]https://youtu.be/XJkZX0rKElY[/youtube]
Gamemaniac3434 avatarGamemaniac3434
Also I will be reviewing freedom wars. I didnt make it to the end. I will not be kind to it. There will be blood.
Gamemaniac3434 avatarGamemaniac3434
Yeah....been there before.
techsupport avatartechsupport
MGS V review: When using a character other than Big Boss for missions, the intro credits still say, "starring Punished 'Venom' Snake." Sloppy work, Kojima - no wonder Konami dumped you. 0/10.
Gamemaniac3434 avatarGamemaniac3434
Grim Fandango......some real good sruff here. As soon as I complete it (vita version, of course) will probably see about a write up. Not perfect, but theres some good stuff here. Glad it got brought back from obsolescence hell.
Rad Party God avatarRad Party God
*sigh* If only Disqus had a "block/ignore user" option :/
VIRGO avatarVIRGO
Must. Use. This. Blog. More. But. School.
GoofierBrute avatarGoofierBrute
Just started playing Hyrule Warriors again. Man is that game fun. A bit mindless at times granted, but fun nonetheless.
RadicalYoseph avatarRadicalYoseph
I ate vanilla ice cream and didn't put on any chocolate syrup. Now wondering if that was racist whitewashing #thanksjed.
Jiraya avatarJiraya
The cat dragged in some action figures !
[img]http://i.imgur.com/6Cu2Asg.jpg[/img] [img]http://i.imgur.com/qMFDAw3.jpg[/img] [img]http://i.imgur.com/RPUraY8.jpg[/img] [img]http://i.imgur.com/51DLqjh.jpg[/img]
Dr Mel avatarDr Mel
There's a Custom Soundtrack folder in MGSV. I can't think of a better thing to put there than the old episodes of podtoid I've been running through lately. I'll be fultoning guys and Holmes will be puttin' on mesh tank tops. Perfect.
Shinta avatarShinta
MGSV Pro Tip: Turn your brightness down to 0. It actually makes the view distance for the guards correct, and doesn't make nighttime the best option for you every single time. When guards shoot flares in the sky, the lighting looks like Dragon's Dogma.
Pixie The Fairy avatarPixie The Fairy
Proof I listened to too much Weird Al growing up: I really do hear "Living in America" as "Living with a Hernia."
Nic Rowen avatarNic Rowen
I've been playing a shit ton of Heroes of the Storm recently. It's my first MOBA and I'm SHOCKED at how much fun I'm having. Anyone else into it? Would love to get some games in with Dtoiders.
Script avatarScript
I would wait for a chance to play the game by myself, but I just have to know. Is David Hayter in MGS V in any way? Please no spoilers.
Rad Party God avatarRad Party God
Guys, serious question... How can I make D-Horse to poop?
more quickposts


Contest!


destructoid's previous coverage:
Thomas Was Alone


  Sep 19

Thomas Was Alone hopping on over to PlayStation 4

The killer awoke before dawn, he put his boots on


  Sep 17

Thomas Was Alone jumping to Wii U, Xbox One

German ratings board lists indie game for new platforms


  Jun 19

Thomas Was Alone DLC hits the iPad today

DLC for an indie game, why I'd never


  Apr 26

Thomas Was Alone leaps past one million sales

'So glad my silly little hobby project was sort of not sh*t' - Mike Bithell


  Jan 29

Curve's four game PlayStation bundle is a great deal

Proteus, Thomas Was Alone, Lone Survivor, and Stealth Inc., all cross buy PS3/Vita


View all:powered by:  MM.Elephant

Ads on destructoid may be purchased from:



Please contact Crave Online, thanks!



Seriously

Invert site colors

  Dark Theme
  Light Theme


Destructoid means family.
Living the dream, since 2006

Pssst. konami code + enter

modernmethod logo



Back to Top


We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter!
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -