Thomas Was Alone is a game that I didn’t really know much about going into. I believe I picked it up as part of a bundle. I only pick up bundles that I at least heard of one or two games included, but this often means that I get games that I haven’t heard of before to try. Thomas Was Alone was one of these games. So was this a game that I was better off not knowing about, or it is one that I think everyone should know about?
This is a game that is hard to really give the story about. In some ways you could say that it doesn’t have much of a story. In other ways it incorporates a story within a story. It can do this all while being rather ambiguous about one of the stories. Are you confused yet? Well don’t worry because it really doesn’t matter all that much.
The overarching story is that the game takes place in a computer mainframe and the characters you control are AIs that have gained self-awareness. This is mainly hinted at with quotes at the beginning of each chapter, but you can also get hints at this during the actual gameplay, it just isn’t necessarily as crystal clear.
The story that goes on in this framework seems much simpler. The AIs that you control each have their own personality and due to some fantastic narration, each AI has a unique personality and “interact” with each others personalities in interesting ways. We’re not talking grand story telling here, we’re talking about giving squares and rectangles personalities in a way that you didn’t think possible.
The ambiguous part is what the whole AI self-awareness really means and what the final result of your story is. It doesn’t really seem to give you this information. If you’re like me though, this doesn’t really matter. The personalities and interactions between the AIs/shapes were much more interesting to me.
Thomas Was Alone is a puzzle platformer. The main goal of each stage is to take your different AIs, each of which are a different size or shape, through a map and get them to a white outline of their particular shape. Each AI/shape is unique. Thomas who is the AI you start with is a smallish sized rectangle who can jump moderately high. However, there are many other AIs you run into. Each AI is unique, one is short and can’t jump very high, another is really tall and can leap high in the air, there is also a large square that can float in the water, as well as others.
As the levels progress you’ll need to have your AIs work together to get to the goals. You may have to ferry other shapes using the blue square that floats. There are also stages where you have to use some of the shapes as steps to allow the smaller shapes to reach higher platforms.
- Making Shapes Come Alive. One of the most enjoyable aspects of this game was how the shapes were given personality. Sure they’re fairly one dimensional personalities, but the delivery and interaction of these personalities were done well in my opinion. You will probably smile, and you may even laugh a bit at some of the narration.
- Smooth Sailing. Sometimes games like this can get too complicated. They try to make the puzzles very hard and can make it pretty frustrating to get through. This game doesn’t do that. Some may complain that it is really too easy, but honestly games like this that are enjoyable and are more on a easy-moderate scale are nice to have sometimes.
- Personality Trumps Story. I’ll be honest, the AI aspect of the story was interesting, but honestly the overarching story was kind of lost compared to the personalities and interpersonal interactions of the AI. I put this as mixed, because well it makes me wonder what the main focus of the game is. Is it the personalities and interactions of the shapes or is it the idea of AI becoming self-actualized. Or is that just the backdrop to explain shapes with personalities? This mixed feeling didn’t really take away from the game, but it is there as I think and reflect on what the game was about.
- The Switcheroo. About two thirds of the way through the game you change the group of AIs that you’re following. These AIs weren’t terrible, but I don’t know I just felt that they weren’t as enjoyable as the ones that you played during the bulk of the game. Maybe that’s just me, but they just seemed to lack something that the earlier ones did. Maybe it is partly due to the fact they didn’t have as unique of characteristics, which is mainly due to story and gameplay events for that last portion of the game. They seem to be meant to be more generic, but still I found these later AIs to not be quite as enjoyable as the earlier ones.
I really enjoyed Thomas Was Alone. It was fun, quirky, and an enjoyable little experience. My only hesitation in my recommendation is the price. It is the same price as Dear Esther and Proteus, which were the last two games I gave my thoughts on, at $9.99 on Steam. Personally I’d say this is a better deal than Dear Esther or Proteus, but Thomas Was Alone is still a somewhat short game. I’d say to definitely pick this game up if you find it on sale or in a bundle. It’s a fun little game, that isn’t too hard, but has loads of personality considering what it is.