Thomas Was Alone follows a lot of indie game tropes: a 2D puzzle-platforming format, a minimalist approach to graphics, a cryptically emotional plot, a wry British narrator. It’s also very short – it only took one session of about two and a half hours for me to see these closing credits:
But in spite of all this, the game still manages to be a satisfying and unique experience. Thomas Was Alone puts you in control of a series of squares and rectangles of different colors and sizes, who you must get from Point A to Point B. Ostensibly, these shapes are meant to be artificial intelligences within some kind of computer program, but that little plot detail ends up being almost entirely irrelevant.
What does matter is that each little geometric figure has a unique personality and skill set. The latter is the key to Thomas Was Alone‘s gameplay – the different characters must use their abilities in tandem, assisting each other until each one of them has reached their unique exit point. Figuring out the proper way to do this is what drives the game forward, and the difficulty level is just right – you find yourself scratching your head a lot, but it never takes long for you to arrive at that wonderful a-ha moment.
But it’s the characters’ personalities which elevate the game above the seemingly endless hoard of indie-developed puzzle platformers, and make it special. When you begin playing, it’s difficult to imagine that you could grow to care about a bunch of squares and rectangles, but the writing is so sharp that, a few levels in, you find yourself having fairly complex emotional reactions to the characters. I don’t want to oversell this, because half the reason I appreciated this as much as I did was that it came as a surprise to me. But I think it will work well for fans of stuff like Braid and Limbo.
This is a fun little experience, satisfying to both heart and mind, and a nice way to spend a lazy afternoon. In addition to the Wii U, it’s available on just about every platform you can think of so take your pick.