Thomas Was Alone review – More emotional than you may expect
By: Mike Blithell
Version #: 1.0.2
Date Released: 2014-06-19
Developer: Bossa Studios
Price: 5.99User Rating:
The program was a failure. People forget this. It was a massive flop. The coders started adding name strings to the AIs as a joke. “Thomas-AT-23-6-12″ wasn’t special, it was just an AI in the right place at the right time.” Gordon Falkenberg, Former CTO of Artifical Life Solutions
I recommend you press play above to listen to the game soundtrack while you read the review.
There are some games out there that are not in for the fancy graphics. They are subtle jewels, with a deep story, an impressive soundtrack or just some special quality that makes an endearing impression. Thomas was Alone is hard to “sell” on screenshots, or even video alone. The same happened a few months ago with Duet. Some games, you just need to purchase them: they are classics, that people will keep talking about years to come. Like Prince of Persia, almost a lifetime ago. Like SuperMario. Like Thomas was Alone.
If I was in a descriptive mood, Thomas Was Alone‘s gameplay would be described as a multi-character platformer. Your characters are rectangles (when you start only one is available, then some new characters will appear, each with its own attributes. But this is just like saying a strawberry is red and sweet. You need to actually eat it, taste it and smell it.
For one, each character has its own personality. Thoughts arising from Thomas (or any other quadrilateral) are narrated by the exceptional Danny Wallace, who won a BAFTA Games Award for this narration. This is how you’ll get to know curious Thomas, cynical Chris, superhero-wannabe John, a real super-hero in Claire, untrusting Laura. Soon after you’ll meet “different” James and always hopeful Sarah. And yes, I’m describing coloured rectangles. The strands of Danny’s narration, a superb soundtrack by David Housden and the simple but effective platformer gameplay thread together one of the most memorable games I’ve played ever on an iPad.
Regarding the soundtrack, I’m not sure if I like it so much because I played the game while listening to it (meaning some of the feelings of “completion” from playing the game carry through to Escape, so every time I listen to it I can’t help but remember Danny’s narration and the rectangle’s journey up to that point.) I can only attest that my girlfriend also enjoys listening to it, and she has not played the game. Of course, since it is in Bandcamp you can listen to it before purchasing it. Because I’m sure you will, if you play the game.
Thomas was Alone is not a specially long game (I think I finished it in around 5 hours, including an extra level bonus pack that was included for free recently) and doesn’t require superhuman reflexes to be played. Some levels need more cleverness than ability, finding the correct way to use the special abilities each of your available characters offer to reach the level’s exit. Even a kid could play most of it and enjoy it, and the brain stretching needed to figure out the solution is probably perfect for them, too. The backstory is probably a little too subtle for non-grown-ups, but a kid would enjoy the game. An adult, either will love it or hate it. I love it.
I’m not sure what else I could add to this review to make you get the game. Because I’m sure that you, as a reader of What’s on iPhone would love it. So I hope I was compelling enough to make you get it. You won’t regret it, ever.
PS: Even though I finished the game just 4 days ago, I’m itching to find some free time to play through it again. This is something I’ve never felt about a platformer which does not even offer high scores, or a goal aside from finishing each level (it is not even timed.)
PPS: Among the acknowledgements in “Credits” there’s a name specially shining: The developer thanks the, well, mythical Eric Chahi, the developer who created the 1991 classic game Another World (also known as Out of this World.)
Would I Buy Again:Four times if needed
Learning Curve:Very low
Who Is It For:Anyone. It's a piece of art as much as game
What I Like:Soundtrack, gameplay, narration, backstory
What I Don't Like:I'd love more levels.
Final Statement:Just a game you can't miss
“Across the game’s gaps and hazards, there’s a real emotional journey filled with narcissism and jealousy.”
New York Times
"Sumptuous visuals and an engaging story."