Thomas Was Alone is the 2D platforming/puzzle brainchild of Mike Bithell who by day is a Lead Designer at Bossa Studios and by night, a one-man game creating machine. Originally made as a relatively successful flash-based demo a number of years ago, Mike has been furiously working nights and weekends (with a little Indiegogo funding) to help flesh out a full game using the Unity engine. So how does it hold up?
The indie gaming scene has gone through a transformation over the last couple of years, and the ‘quirky platformer’ has wedged itself firmly at the forefront of the scene. Between its simplistic visual design and narration courtesy of Danny Wallace (who may have played Portal 2 once or twice), Thomas Was Alone could easily fall victim to such a tag. Its key to making it different is in the way the characters are developed throughout the game, made all the more incredible due to the avatars being nothing more than quadrilaterals. Each one has its own personality and ability. The great thing is as you progress through the game, you start to develop a picture of what each shape might look like in human form. Chris’ clearly suffers from a case of short-man syndrome and his inferiority complex shines through amusingly. As you progress further, this tiny little orange square turns into a short, stubby little man in your imagination.
The controls are fluid for the most part, although I found on a number of occasions my character of choice would fall into the water and respawn flying straight back into the water, because I was still holding left or right – It’s a minor foible and might just say more about my inabilities to use a keyboard for gaming.
The soundtrack is gorgeous and slick with its arrangements, and there are flickers of 8-bit blips to round everything out. It complements the visual design of the game perfectly and full credit should be given to David Housden for adding another layer to the presentation.
Downsides? It’s too easy. The game can be finished in around two hours and is an acceptable length that coincides with the story, but it is simply not challenging enough. It does not fall into the ‘style over substance’ category, but for all the praise that can be heaped onto our rectangular friends and their personalities their trials and tribulations end up not counting for much. There are only several levels in the game where you ever truly need to stop and think of what might need to be done, and only several levels have any form of environment that limits you to the time you have to complete it. It’s all of this that stops Thomas from being a true indie classic. Nonetheless, Thomas Was Alone is still unique and charming enough that if you have any interest in indie games you should invest your time and money into it, as you will be rewarded.
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