Reviewers: Faldy Hamid and Ida Bagus Kerthyayana Manuaba
Writing a cast of interesting, engaging, and relatable characters for video games is a really difficult. However, Thomas Was Alone does an incredible thing; it shows that it is possible to write characters that the player can genuinely care about, and it does so with a gang of featureless quadrilaterals, no less.
Thomas Was Alone is the story of a sentient AI. On the surface, it is a puzzle platformer with a minimalistic art style starring the aforementioned cast of little colored blocks. What’s amazing about it is very simple and minimalistic even. The characters are nothing more than quadrilaterals of different colors and the terrain is simply black blocks. However, the game keeps interesting to play; the background is dynamic, with constantly shifting patterns and colors and the lighting effects and dynamic shadows makes for beautiful display.
The sound design is no less amazing; the narration is delivered from each character’s perspective. The delivered narration helps flesh out each of the different characters and draws players into the story itself. The soundtrack consists of soft piano chords, strings and electronica ranges from moody and dissonant to energetic and melodic to accentuate the narrative that does wonders for the overall atmosphere; and above all, synchronizes wonderfully with the minimalist aesthetics of the game.
The story itself is wonderfully written and delivered in the form of narrations in every level with the overarching story slowly revealed in the beginning of each chapter via quotes. While the main plot is interesting, the beauty of the story is in the character development. Each one of the colorful blocks are given their own name, personality and story; and it’s delivered so well that you can’t help but feel attached to each and every one of them.
About the gameplay, the platforming is nice and tight. The controls felt responsive and, similar to the rest of the game, very simple. The mechanics are also simple; the player can switch between characters with different interesting abilities. However, what players might find a bit disappointing is the puzzles. There is a possibility to drive the player into boring or repetitive. The game is also a bit too focused on its story and the level design feels like more of an afterthought to ferry the player between pieces of narrative. The game also lacks replayability; other than to get achievements there is little point to replaying the game.
In summary, Thomas Was Alone is a unique game experience. It’s beautiful and charming, not to mention exceptionally well written. The aesthetics are pleasing and the sound design is great. Even though the gameplay is nothing special and might leave you wanting something more if you go in it for the platforming; this game is suitable for people that looking for a story driven experience.