Having already covered the release of Thomas Was Alone over at the IndieGames blog (see? that’s where newsbits go these days) I thought I’d take my time and finish the game before reviewing it for my very own, very cozy place. But first a bit of history.
Thomas Was Alone is a game by Mike Bithell and Mike Bithell is one of the first indie game designers I started writing about sometime six years ago. He was still a student back then, but had already come up with more than a few intriguing ideas and was more than capable of creating beautiful games. Games like Reunion if you remember, which I deeply enjoyed and (hint, hint) would love to see evolved.
Then, things and games happened and Mike went on and crafted a particularly successful flash game named Thomas Was Alone which you can no longer play online. It was an utterly lovely game. A refreshing puzzle-platformer that provided you with rectangle characters and a geometric world, in which said characters could climb and bounce on top of each other in order to solve platformer puzzles.
Then, even more things happened (mainly glowing press and, apparently, brave choices) and Mike decided that Thomas Was Alone simply had to realize its full potential and become a full-blown, downloadable and thus logically commercial indie game. Following a modest IndieGoGo campaign the game was released and you can (and frankly should) buy it now for Mac and PC over at its very own and most aptly URLed site. There’s even a demo available to help you make the right choice.
History lesson over. Time for a review.
Well, the official description of the game goes a bit like this: a minimalist game about friendship and jumping and floating and bouncing and anti-gravity, which is pretty accurate, but fails to add the words terrific, story-heavy and brilliantly narrated somewhere. A grave marketing mistake surely, as what we are talking about here reader is easily one of the very best platformers ever. A game that has earned its place among classic platformers Manic Miner and VVVVVV; a rare action offering that can proudly sit next to Alphaland (an inspiration perhaps?) and claim it really knows its storytelling.
The plot and its delivery, you see, are central to Thomas Was Alone, which does force me to namedrop a bit more. Remember that Portal game? Good. Now, do the math and find out what I want to say, by keeping in mind that I easily preferred Thomas‘ take on interactive storytelling.
As for the gameplay itself, things are both straightforward and innovative. You get to control a variety of subtly yet brilliantly animated rectangles, each with its own unique personality, set of abilities, shape and color and guide them through an excellently designed set of levels that will mainly tax your brain, but also -a bit- your reflexes. What’s really lovely is just how well each rectangle’s defining ability is tied to its character; what’s downright impressive though is that said rectangles are so much more interesting than your average multi-polygonal mainstream hero. They have a soul and that’s coming from a person who simply doesn’t believe such things exist.
So, uhm, as I said earlier, buy it will you? Don’t make me go on about how lovely the stylized graphics are or how addictive the game can get. I’m very busy these days, you know, and am pretty confident the less I tell you about it, the more fun you’ll have discovering the many graces of Thomas Was Alone.