For this dangerously quick review (but not so dangerous of course) I will be looking at an ‘indie’ or independently made game that embraces an extremely simple approach to platforming called Thomas was Alone. Thomas was Alone was created by Mike Bithell, and the game costs 10 dollars on Steam. Bithell refers to his game as a ‘minimalist game about friendship and jumping’. Players control several different colored blocks, which they help guide through various platforming challenges on each board. Everything in the game is presented with a very basic presentation style. All the levels and characters are made up more or less of just simple rectangles. You begin the game as one block named Thomas, the first sentient program, who was created by a glitch in a computer system.
As you progress through the game you meet more cubes that have also come in to existence due to the glitch. Each block has different abilities and characteristics, such as how fast they move or how high they jump. For instance the yellow block can jump the highest, the blue block can float on water (which destroys any other block), and the salmon block can be bounced by other blocks on to reach new heights. Some block’s characteristics make them more of a liability rather than a helpful contribution to the team though.
Your goal in every level is to match each block with its matching goal outline, typically a white outline at the end of the level. This will require the player navigating their way through many maze like environments while constantly switching between blocks to use each block’s unique ability. Players might need to use high jumping blocks to reach new locations or use blocks as steps to help other blocks progress through the level. Later on more advanced elements such as activating switches and block ability switching add new challenges and dynamics to the game. Most of the game is not very challenging, but there were a few parts that had me scratching my head while playing. Nothing ever felt unfair, and I never got my blocks stuck or had any glitches ruin the game for me. Thomas seems mostly concerned with providing players a fun and casual game-play experience. Overall I enjoyed most of the game-play elements, but I felt like the creators could have done more with the concept and provided a few more challenging puzzles.
The graphics are very simple but are clean and crisp and run smoothly. There are some nice shading and movement effects on the water and some of the backgrounds as well. People who want to be amazed by modern graphical presentations will be turned off, but I doubt those people will have much reason to check this out in the first place. Thomas also features a wonderful soundtrack that matches the game well and helps to enhance the overall feel of the game.
A narrator talks to the player throughout the game. He gives some insight in to the thoughts and motivation behind each of the blocks. Most of the dialog is presented with a silly and light tone. I still ended up being intrigued by the stories of some of the characters and developing a bit of feelings for them. The blocks worry about such things as the other blocks liking them, how important they are to the rest of the group, and what they are doing here in the first place. These small character insights are amusing and make the characters come to life a little bit. None of the stories really feel like they are fully resolved in the end, and they have no impact on game play, but they give the player another good reason to keep playing.
So is Thomas a fun game? Well, I enjoyed playing the game from time to time when I just wanted something simple to play, but I would lose interest fairly quickly during a play session. The introduction of new interesting game-play mechanics and the character’s stories did keep me interested in playing longer sometimes. Thomas often made me smile due to its unique charm and overall it left me with a positive feeling. Also, I suppose that a game getting me to care about blocks in the first place is a feat in itself. The game is not very long and only took me about three hours to beat. Players can collect hidden items in some stages which may add some length to the game, but overall I see very little replay value here unless you play through the main story multiple times.
If you’re looking for a casual and fun game with a bit of charm and personality this may be a good fit. I don’t think that it’s worth 10 dollars for the roughly 3 hours of play time and typically simple game-play. Some will probably argue that Thomas deserves higher marks due to its potential artistic merits and strong storytelling, but I feel that the game-play is just a bit too repetitive in the end to strongly recommend this game.
I would conditionally recommend this game and give it 3 out of 5 stars (not to be confused with 6 out of 10).
Check out the a trailer for the game here:
Have you played Thomas is Alone and agree or disagree with what I have said? Let me know in the comments section below, and as always, thanks for reading!