Those of us who grew up with the Atari 2600 and its ilk remember a time when games had simple controls, music that was little more than a series of bleeps and bloops, and flat, cubic graphics. Thomas Was Alone brings me back to those days, filing in the hazy memories with a gorgeous soundtrack and storybook narration.
A player addicted to chugging “game fuel” in between rounds of the latest Call of Duty multiplayer map might take one look at Thomas Was Alone and dismiss it with a “meh. casual.” But he or she would miss out on a wonderful treat of a game. Thomas Was Alone begins by introducing us to the titular character who happens to be a squat, red rectangle.
Thomas is the representation of an AI that has become self-aware. From there we’re introduced to gameplay mechanics. Movement, jumping, and finding portals. And shortly thereafter we meet another character – a gold square named Chris. Through the game we’ll meet a number of AIs, all of which have different qualities. One can jump great distances, another can bounce other AIs off her body, and another still can float in water. The player will have to figure out how to use each character to complete each level.
But wait, there’s more…
What makes Thomas Was Alone so very special is the narration that accompanies the game. These AIs might be graphically be simplistic but they have thoughts and emotions. Players will grow attached to the little shapes and enjoy how organically they become a team, working together to find portals and to continue moving up, and to the right. Speaking of movement, the controls in Thomas Was Alone are tight – there are no cheap deaths to be had. And yes, deaths can and will happen, although they never feel punishing.
Completing the package is the soundtrack provided by David Housden. A perfect mix of synthesized bleeps, strings, and a piano. There’s nothing to hum here, but the music will definitely manipulate your emotions to bring out the right amount of sadness and hope, depending on where you are in the narrative. I absolutely recommend that you give it a listen, even if you don’t elect to play the game.
But play the game. Thomas Was Alone won’t take too much of your time and if you’re anything like me, you’ll miss the gang after the credits roll.