Review: Thomas Was Alone

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thomas was alone

Title: Thomas Was Alone
Price: $9.99
System(s): Vita (Also available on PS3 via Cross-Buy where you get both versions for the price of one.)
Release Date: April 23, 2013
Publisher (Developer): Curve Studios (Mike Bithell, Bossa Studios, Curve Studios)
ESRB Rating: “Everyone” for Mild Fantasy Violence and Mild Language

I’d been wanting to play Thomas Was Alone for a while. I’d heard good things about it, all the way back to when it was just a meager flash game in 2010, but I kept putting it off. “Oh, it’s getting a full, expanded PC release. I’ll get it then.” “Oh, I’m terrible at PC games since I just use the keyboard to play. I’ll wait for a sale.”

Well, the PS3 and Vita release changed all that. I couldn’t delay anymore. The optimal release of Thomas Was Alone is here, with extra commentary and DLC content, and I couldn’t put it off any long. Now I’ve beaten it, I’m ashamed I waited this long and I implore you to grab it and play it as well.

thomas was alone

An error in the system makes all the difference.

Thomas was alone. That’s the way the people designed it, though he wouldn’t know it. He was an AI program being tested, put through the motions and such. An error fixed that. Not only did it give him and the other AIs personalities, it also allowed them to meet and interact with each other.

Which meant Thomas wasn’t alone anymore. He had friends! Well, in some cases only companions, as Chris wasn’t particularly fond of Thomas. But nonetheless, Thomas, Chris, John, Claire and Laura all eventually met, got together, and decided to see where all these exit points they kept finding were going. They had to lead somewhere, and perhaps eventually they’d find a way out. Though, that ominous, hungry-sounding, pixel cloud that’s following Laura is a bit disconcerting, but the group will press onward.

Of course, there’s also a Very Important Decision that Thomas and his friends eventually make, but I’ll leave you to discover that for yourselves.

thomas was alone

They’re not just rectangles – they’re people!

Then there’s the story. Thomas Was Alone has such a fantastic story. I loved Danny Wallace as the narrator and the direction took when it came to even telling it. The between-chapter quotes from people who ran Artificial Life Solutions were fascinating and the first thing I had to do after beating the game was get online and tell other people they had to play this game. It was so well done that even the more difficult levels couldn’t hold me back – I had to keep moving forward to find out what happened to these AIs.

I can’t even determine when I started caring so much about these quadrilaterals. I suspect it was when Chris was introduced, because his personality was in such stark contrast to Thomas’, but I really can’t tell. All I know is, by about the fifth chapter I started shipping these rectangles. Claire and John are my favorite pairing, though I also love Chris and Laura and Thomas and Sarah. In my mind, Thomas and James also become BFFs. I think that’s a testament to just how good Thomas Was Alone is.

I also think it helps make the story resonate more. The characters are all AI constructs reaching sentience. The between chapter quotes from real people are discussing their journey and how unlikely and unexpected it was. And here, we’re playing this game where a bunch of colored quadrilaterals are jumping and weaving through levels to reach exit gates and somewhere along the way, they stop being rectangles to us. They’re Thomas, or Laura, or even Chris. I have to admit, I felt a little guilty when I got the “Part of the Problem” trophy. I’d just spent about three levels hearing how used Laura felt, since all the AIs did was use her as a trampoline, and here I’d just done exactly that 100 times after first meeting her.

Which brings us to the special abilities. As I mentioned earlier, the point of Thomas Was Alone is to help your group of AIs reach their respective doors. This usually involves lots of jumping and teamwork, since each one has his or her own abilities. Claire, for example, is the only one that can float, but she also moves slowly and can’t jump very high. Sarah can double jump. Gravity is reversed for James. Other characters can bounce on Laura. The levels where new characters are introduced act as tutorials, gradually getting more difficult as you master abilities and move forwards. Changing between characters is as simple as tapping the L1 and R1 shoulder buttons, though Vita owners can also just tap the character they want to use. All of the platforming is tight, works perfectly and I wholeheartedly admit that the 100+ times I died, it was my own fault.

thomas was alone

You have to play Thomas Was Alone

Thomas Was Alone is an amazing game and I think PS3 and Vita owners have to play it. It isn’t just that it’s fun (it is), challenging (quite often) and has a certain elegance about it. It’s just so surprising and refreshing. I went in, expecting a game where I’d be making lots of difficult jumps, and discovered a touching story that totally changed the way I looked at the game. It’s a profound experience with exemplary narration and I think anyone looking for a game with a good story would be remiss if they missed it.

Site [Thomas Was Alone]

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