Thomas Was Alone is an endearing puzzle platformer that highlights bonds of different personalities and how each can use their attributes to work together as a team, in common auras. A square named Thomas finds himself trapped in a mysterious place that feeds his desire to escape the unknown and leads him to portals that reach deeper into the unknown.
Thomas Was Alone features a red rectangular AI named Thomas, or Thomas-AT-23-6-12 as named by the coders, that is in simplistic environments. The main idea is to get him from his start point to a white portal on the other end of the level. To get there, the player controls Thomas by having him fall or jump, which was geniously put as “invert falling”.
As the game progresses, it does a fine job at introducing the character’s moves to assist in solving the puzzle. Rather than just be a puzzle-solving game, the gameplay aspect was taken a step further when substance was provided to the character, Thomas. There is a soul in the red rectangle that motivates the player to get him to the portal in each level. There is more to just getting a square from Point A to Point B, because the player will feel the desire to help Thomas solve the mystery of where he is, what he is doing there, and where he is headed.
Throughout his journey, Thomas observes everything. The narration indicates the observations that he makes along the way and adds a nice touch in bringing the character to life. While he has no visible eyes, or mouth, his thoughts can still be heard, adding to the meaning of his existence, which allows for player/character attachment.
This simplistic world is a mystery to Thomas as he wonders why he was placed here and why this world was made for him. However, errors in coding caused numerous AIs and Thomas finds himself no longer alone in his journey, as he is joined by other characters, with varying shapes, abilities, and more notably, personalities. A small orange square, Chris, who can get into smaller places, a tall, thin, yellow rectangle, John, who has a much higher jump than Thomas, and a bigger blue square named Claire, are just a few. While each has their own “kryptonite” in the game, each also has their own special abilities. Clair is the only one who can hop in the water and not be affected. There is a fun factor in utilizing the entire cast of characters to their full potential in getting all of them to their portals.
The player toggles between all of the characters available for use in each level, since not all of them are always in each scene, to get the entire crew to their designated portal. The characters can be controlled with basic controls, such as jumping and the usual directional pad uses, but will not control all of the characters at the same time. To toggle to each character, the player can use the left and right bumpers of the PS Vita or simply tap the character on the screen, which seemed easiest when several characters were in-play for the level. The selected character will show a small white triangle above him/her and it will also be indicated in the same manner on the bottom-right hand side of the screen. Having two areas that display this is really helpful because there are times when the screen will pan out to show all of the characters and one wrong move with the wrong character can cause some backtracking to get them back in their desired locations to be ready for the next move.
The charm in the game is in the teamwork of the characters. Although they are ultimately all controlled by the same person, the player, their thoughts do not go unspoken and it becomes very evident that they think very differently. They have each have their doubts of the others, but know that they are somehow tossed into this together for a reason and need to rely on each other’s special abilities to get through, helping each other, along the way. This is where the magic truly lies in the game that gives it personality and makes it stand apart from other puzzle platformers.
While the game is generally a 2D puzzle platformer, the main elements of the game are not the platforms, but rather the characters and how they can put differences aside and utilize them to work together for a common goal. It places emphasis on reactions from the characters when placed in a setting in which they have to adapt to society to get out…together. Thomas was Alone will impact the player uniquely as a poem is written to be dissected for interpretation by the reader. The player can walk away with so much from this game with simple geometric shapes that serve their own purpose in the course of their lives.
As mentioned, the settings are basic environments. However, there is something that must be said about the lighting and the shadows in Thomas was Alone. As a beam of light will shine through a stage, it will cast shadows behind the elements in the stage. What was truly appealing is when the character jumps through it and displays his own shadow. This gave the basic elements and the basic character more life, which ultimately pulls the player into their world even more and builds upon that character/player bond.
The ending is very abrupt and wasn’t as satisfying as the game leads the player to predict. Once the attachment to the characters is met, the ending just seems to fall short of the build-up in that aspect. While the ending can be understood, and without offering up any spoilers, it could have been the same ultimate conclusion, but with more substance to satisfy the build-up. It can be compared to the anticipation of a firework that did not work as the viewer anticipated.
While the levels were fairly simple, there were a few that were a bit tricky, including getting used to the inverted aspect when James was introduced. The player is tossed into a reality of when what-goes-up-must come-down is quite the opposite and gameplay is turned on its head. Other than that, the levels are not too complicated and the game is just an enjoyable and fun title. It is the perfect game to take on-the-go and great to play in bite-sized pieces. It is not a very long game, but is a wonderful title to add to a PS Vita library. It offers entertaining levels with exceptional music and holds. It should also be noted that the price tag is a very reasonable $9.99 and those who also have a PlayStation 3 will reap the benefits of Cross Buy.
Thomas Was Alone proves that everyone is special in their own way and were created for a purpose, even if he finds himself to be alone and square, or rectangular.