Platforms: PC, Mac, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Vita, Xbox One, Wii U, iOS, Android
We Played on: iOS
Thomas Was Alone is a single-player, 2D platform game with a twist. Rather than controlling a detailed human character, you control a number of rectangles of different shapes, sizes, and abilities to jump across platforms, climb surfaces, and progress through levels. It sounds rather dry and overly simple, but there is more to it than meets the eye.
The game’s story is about a set of self-aware computer programs. Each program is represented by a different-colored shape, and players see and hear them interact. Through humor and voiced narration these sterile beginnings soon evolve into a tale of friends on a journey to find meaning and purpose in the world around them.
Each rectangular character is different both in ability and personality. Claire, for example, is convinced she is a superhero. Chris worries about his small size and has something of a Napoleon complex. Having the characters represented as geometric shapes creates a canvass of personalities for players to relate to. I unexpectedly found myself identifying with the different shapes and seeing aspects of people I knew in the cast, just through the simple abstract presentation.
The characters’ abilities are used in the game to traverse across hazards in each level. The group must work together to survive. Some of them can jump farther while others can span large gaps or fit into small spaces. This simple design makes the game accessible to gamers and non-gamers alike, and a steady difficulty level ensures anyone interested in the story can play to completion in around four hours.
The ESRB Rating
The game is rated as E for Everyone, with content descriptors for Mild Fantasy Violence and Mild Language. This arises from the narrator’s use of the words “damn” and “hell” and the depiction of the shape characters falling onto spikes or into water. There is no blood and the characters soon reappear to start at the checkpoint again.
Thomas Was Alone focuses on themes of friendship and finding your place in the world, but does so in a way that is safely digestible for younger players.
Thomas Was Alone makes you care deeply about the fate of a group of faceless, voiceless, colored shapes. Their search for friendship and meaning involves the player in an adventure that is as deep as it is simple. It’s a near-perfect example of a video game telling a family story unlike any other medium and comes highly recommended.