If I was reviewing the title of this game I’d have to give it a pretty low score. During the opening chapter of the game, Thomas (a red rectangle) is indeed alone. And going by the title you’d be forgiven for thinking that he stays this way. However, this is not the case. He soon meets Christopher, a short yellow rectangle. And then goes on to meet a whole host of other coloured rectangles. Thomas Was Alone is perhaps then, not the most appropriate name for this game. Maybe ‘Thomas was alone initially but after a short period of time he was no longer alone’ or ‘Thomas was alone and then wasn’t alone’ would have been more apt titles. Thankfully I’m not reviewing this game’s title, I’m reviewing the game. And I’m pleased to say that if I had to give it a score, it would be much higher than its title’s.
It’s a good thing that he’s not alone for very long mind you, as it is the relationship between the different rectangles that makes Thomas Was Alone so good. They each have different personalities and you will see their characters and views of each other change as the game progresses and their story unfolds. Not that any of the rectangles speak themselves, the game is narrated brilliantly by Danny Wallace and he provides a voice for all the characters. It works fantastically well. Thomas Was Alone‘s script has taken much inspiration from the Portal series and I’d argue that the characters it creates are on a par with any found in those games. It really is a testament to the quality of the script that it manages to give such life to a group of silent, coloured rectangles.
The rectangles themselves come in different shapes and sizes and each have their own abilities. Take John for example: he is a long, thin, yellow rectangle and can jump much higher than most of the other rectangles. Claire on the other hand is big, blue, slow and cannot jump very high but can float on (and survive in) water, something none of the other characters can do. Oh, and she thinks she’s a superhero.
You then use these rectangles and their various abilities to try to solve puzzles, allowing you to reach the end of the level. It works well. If Thomas really had been alone for the entirety of the game it could have been merely a pleasant but rather mundane platformer. As it is, it adds new characters regularly and does a great job at keeping things fresh; I was always looking forward to meeting the next character but never felt like I was bored with the ones available at that time. As you progress, new mechanics are added. Again, these additions are spread out well. Some work better than others though. Towards the latter stage of the game puzzles which need to be solved by pushing blocks into holes are introduced and I found these a bit fiddly, there aren’t too many of these though so it’s not too much of a problem.
A slightly bigger problem is how you control switching between characters. Pressing either Q or E will scroll through the list of characters involved in the current level. When you only have a few characters to deal with it works fine, but in the levels where you’re in control of a lot of them it can be a bit frustrating to scroll through each character until you get to the one you need to use. Again, it’s more of an annoyance than a huge problem, but it’s something that I think could be fixed fairly easily by allocating rectangles numbers and pressing that number’s button to switch to that character.
The game is also fairly short, I finished it in around three hours, and you will probably find yourself getting through each chapter (of which there are ten) fairly rapidly. I opted to play it in short bursts, it’s a really nice game to just play for twenty or so minutes at a time in between doing other things, but obviously you may chose to play it differently. If you do though, I think it may seem like it ended a bit too quickly. Collectibles add some replayability but for the most part these aren’t too hard to spot and you probably won’t have too many to go back to find once you finish the game. I picked up Thomas Was Alone in the latest Humble Bundle (which at the time of writing ends in just two days) so the length doesn’t bother me too much, but if you pay full price for it (£5.99 on Steam) you may end up feeling a bit disappointed once the credits roll.
I really like Thomas Was Alone and I hope that has come across in this review. It’s just a really nice game to play. It’s got a simple, clean look and the music is lovely to play along to. The script is brilliantly funny and delivered excellently by Mr.Wallace. It’s not perfect by any means, but what’s bad is easily forgotten when there’s so much that’s good about it. You will really care about the characters and what is happening to them, and there’s not enough games that manage to do that as well as this does.
Oh and despite what I said in the introduction, I actually do like the name.