Thomas Was Alone – The PS3 Attitude Review
The inventive puzzle-platformer Thomas Was Alone has been described by its creator, Mike Bithell, as ‘a game about rectangles and friendship’. However, as you may have guessed from the somewhat melancholy title, there’s a lot more going on here than that.
But let’s start with the gameplay, which (at least to begin with) is about as simple as platformers can get; you press X to jump and that’s pretty much it. You control a red rectangle named Thomas, who is trapped in some kind of matrix and must escape via the portals at the end of each level.
However, despite the title of the game, Thomas isn’t alone for very long. Throughout his journey he is joined by other rectangles and squares, each of which has their own distinct personality and unique ability. This is where the puzzle aspects of the game, and much of the challenge, comes in.
For instance, if a ledge is too high for Thomas to jump to, he can use one of his friends as a stepping stone to reach it. The puzzles get more and more complicated, until eventually you’ll have up to seven characters on-screen at once, who must all reach their respective exit portals.
With 100 levels to complete, the gameplay has a decent amount of variety. To be honest it’s one of those games that is best to experience for yourself, so just know that if you enjoy platformers, you should also enjoy Thomas Was Alone – just don’t expect it to tax you too much.
Thanks largely to the amusing script and Danny Wallace’s BAFTA awarding-winning narration, Thomas Was Alone’s presentation manages to do something absolutely incredible; it genuinely makes you care about characters that are literally nothing more than coloured quadrilaterals.
Of course, the story is positively heaving with allegory and metaphor. While on the surface it appears to be a jolly tale about Thomas the rectangle and his friends, the further you progress, the more you’ll find yourself questioning exactly what the purpose of the game really is.
The minimalist yet vibrant visuals are complemented by a haunting soundtrack by David Housden, a British composer who is known mostly for his work with Bossa Studios, but has also scored for projects as diverse as PlayStation Home and Jonathan Ross’s mobile game, Catcha Catcha Aliens.
New for the PSN version of Thomas Was Alone is a creator’s commentary by Mike Bithell, who talks through the design process of the game as you play it. Another nice addition is a DLC pack entitled Benjamin’s Flight, which (at least for the moment) is also exclusive to PlayStation consoles.
As the name suggests, it stars the eponymous Benjamin and adds a brand new gameplay mechanic that is sorely lacking in most other games; a jetpack! Flying around the screen is awesome fun and it is even fully narrated by Danny Wallace. It’s just a shame it doesn’t last for very long.
In fact, the short length is our only real complaint about the entire game. However, it is also a game that stays with you well after the few hours it takes to complete, which surely justifies the £5.99/€7.49/$9.99 asking price; and don’t forget that will net you both the PS3 and Vita versions.
Whether you’re a platformer fan, a gamer who’s been longing to play something a little different, or simply a philanthropist who wants to support indie developers, you shouldn’t miss out on Thomas Was Alone. It’s even free for European PlayStation Plus subscribers, so grab it while you can!
The PSN release of Mike Bithell’s platformer is particularly exciting because it forms part of Sony’s continued focus on partnering with indie publishers and developers – the title will be followed by fellow PC hits Frozen Synapse, Hotline Miami, Lone Survivor and many more in the coming months.
One thing’s for sure; PlayStation gamers have a lot of awesome games to look forward to!