Sunday, 15 September 2013

Indie Gaming: Thomas Was Alone

thomas was alone
Thomas Was Alone is a brilliant game created by Mike Bithell, beautifully constructed in it's minimalism. You begin as the titular Thomas, who is a red rectangle. Each level begins with a quote, seemingly referring to Thomas, a sentient program that is causing all sorts of problems. You jump, you meet interesting friends, and have adventures in your 2D platforming world. As the levels proceed, Thomas and his friends give their thoughts on the situation at hand, beautifully narrated by Danny Wallace (Yes, that one).

7.1 ...the first act of sentient AI was an act of selflessness.

The depth of the puzzles changes as you proceed, teaming up with a variety of other coloured shapes. By working together, they can each find their specific portals and move on to the next challenge. The various shapes all have their purpose: Chris is a small orange square who can fit in small spaces; Claire is a large blue square that can float on (the otherwise deadly) water; James is a green rectangle that has a problem with gravity, and tends to stick to the ceiling.

Thomas (red), James (green), Sarah (purple)

The best levels utilize these characters, each one complimenting another to reach their goal. It can feel quite amazing when you slowly figure out how to traverse a puzzle and complete it. The different characters provide you with the tools, and learning their best use will allow you to figure out the puzzles more quickly as they arrive. Other levels rely on more platforming elements, sometimes mixed in with a little cooperation between characters.

What is that??

The worst levels, require perfect timing and dexterity, something I generally lack. It bothers me greatly, because I really enjoy the setting. When I first wrote this, I lamented on my inability to proceed. I didn't want to curse the game, but I felt like I would never be able to figure out the exact timing of a couple of platforming steps. It turned out those occasions are far fewer than I had initially expected, which meant that after those brief difficulty spikes I could proceed with the puzzle solving which is the best part of the game.

Moving portals, and lots of teamwork required.

I heartily recommend the game, which is cheap and fun. It has a minimalist but crisp and sleek art style, it has wonderful score, amusing narration, and clever puzzles. There are a couple of frustrating bits, but the whole is worth every moment.

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