Poor old Thomas. He starts life all on his own and his first companion in the rather grumpy and resentful Chris. It’s not hard to see why Chris is slightly bitter though, when taller, thinner and more spritely fellows parade around in front of him making him feel rather sorry himself. Life does improve though. He makes more friends; the likes of Claire, John, and Laura. They each have their own wondrous characteristics and charms – it’s this that makes Thomas Was Alone the magnificent title it is.
See, Thomas and his friends are square. Not in the sense of they’re not with the times, but actual squares. Okay, so maybe a few of them are rectangles, but quadrilateral all the same. Yet somehow Mike Bethell has managed to evoke some of the most exuberant and interesting personalities – some that put even the biggest budgeted games to shame.
These geometric shapes, described with such brilliant vigor by comedian Danny Wallace, have fears, dreams and even emotions as they journey through the world, a world seemingly built for them. Their observations about the increasing difficulty of levels, their effect on the group dynamic, their usefulness to one another and even their understanding of their role in the bigger picture all contribute to an array of well-rounded and immensely grounded personas.
The witty and expertly delivered script is matched by David Houden’s rousing underlying score, which provides a stirring aural accompaniment to some simple yet striking visuals. Thomas Was Alone’s minimalist appearance walks the fine line between boldness and graphical inadequacy with grace, never falling onto the side of displeasure. It’s always a delight to behold, whether played on PlayStation 3 or the PlayStation Vita. It’s an indie game at heart – one that has been superbly ported by the teams at Bossa and Curve Studios.
“This wonderfully brilliant indie gem was one of the most refreshing titles of last year and it’s release on the PlayStation platforms (especially the Vita) is a match made in heaven.”
The simplicity is not just in the apparent graphical design but also within the gameplay. A rather elementary platformer underlies the lives of Thomas and his friends, which, due to it’s brilliantly executed controls, is effortless to play. You play as this (mostly) merry band of shapes, each of whom are part of a larger program whose creation of Thomas was entirely unexpected to its programmers. Each of the ten themed stages are broken up into ten levels – which is unfortunately where Thomas Was Alone falls a little short; longevity – which will see you move each of the shapes into their respective portals. Some shapes can jump higher than others, some can fit through smaller gaps, some are bouncy.
Their adventure can only be completed together and its by utilising each of their skills that you’ll be able to master the levels. Little tricks and skills will be learnt but it’s not an overly challenging game at all; it’s almost as if the story is the prime focus. Their beliefs in superheros, delusions of grandeur and romantic tales are what drives Thomas Was Alone to be an incredibly enjoyable title. Switching between them all, pushing buttons and climbing upon each other can, at times, feel as the necessary busy work for the delicious pay-off of another few lines from Wallace.
Once you get going it’s very difficult to put down as the narrative gathers momentum and the gameplay continues to reinvent itself. Entire stages are different from anything you’ve played before and ensure that it never gets dull. All the while introducing new characters and even breaking some Newtonian rules. Some of the earlier skills, such as step climbing, become a tad tiresome towards the end and the switching between shapes can be a tad fiddly, but they’re minor complaints in a sea of joy.
By no means is Thomas Was Alone a poor platformer, far from it. In fact it can be immensely satisfying and allows you to set your own pace and it’s far more enjoyable as a result. Yet it would never be the reason to play it. This wonderfully brilliant indie gem was one of the most refreshing titles of last year and it’s release on the PlayStation platforms (especially the Vita) is a match made in heaven.