Thomas Was Alone is a lovely little puzzle game in which you get to play as different shapes. Each shape has a different power – whether it’s jumping far, floating on liquid, or being able to walk on the ceiling. The shapes must work together to clear each stage, solving puzzles and helping each other get through areas – sometimes by physically carrying one another, and other times by pressing buttons to open up new areas. It may sound boring, but I can assure you, this tiny game is anything but boring – in fact, there’s a huge and beautiful game experience tied into its little frame.
Platforms: PC, PS3 (Version Played), Vita
Publisher: Mike Bithell
Developer: Mike Bithell (PC), Curve Studios (PS3, Vita)
Genre: Shapely Platformer
Release Date: July 24, 2012 (PC), April 23, 2013 (PS3, Vita)
ESRB Rating: Everyone
You begin the game as Thomas, a small block who can move around in a stark landscape. You must get him to a doorway that is shaped like him, and from there, you can proceed to the next level. We’re privy to Thomas’ thoughts, as well as those of the rest of the blocks who appear, thanks to a great voiceover performed by Danny Wallace. The characters each have some unique trait – one can even be bounced on like a trampoline! – and each of these characteristics play into their personalities.
As you work your way through each puzzle, you get to control more and more of these curious little block creatures. You can cycle through them with R1 and L1, going from one character to the next and figuring out who needs to go where for you to progress. Does someone need to press a button that only they can get to, in order to change part of the map? Do you need to make steps out of some characters to get a smaller one up high? Work your way through each puzzle while getting comfortably attached to each of the blocks as you learn all about their self-images.
In fact, the characters hit close to home for me, listening to a few of them whisper their self-doubts and worry about not being able to help the others. One character is bitter and stews over the abilities of the others; another worries they’ll find out her horrible secret. But the things that make them different, their unique characteristics, aren’t ignored but rather exemplified and utilized. They’re forced to work together so they can all figure out this mystery together – the mystery of who they are, where they are, and how to find their way out.
This short game, with its beautiful, minimalist art style, is simple at heart and small in nature, yet surprisingly huge in emotion. I never expected a game with blocks to be about self-awareness, and I certainly didn’t expect such a short game to captivate me so fully. if you have a few hours and a few dollars, you’ll definitely want to give both of those things to Thomas Was Alone.
Review Disclosure: A retail copy of Thomas Was Alone was purchased by Warp Zoned for the purposes of this review.