Thomas Was Alone | Gaming reviews, news & interviews
Thomas Was Alone
An avant-garde bedtime story that turns the 2D into 3
Thomas was alone. And then, he wasn’t. As story-time opening lines go, this one is on a par with "once upon a time" in its simplicity. Simplicity, however, can be misleading. Our eponymous hero Thomas may in fact look like a simple red rectangle with the ability to move and jump, but thanks to a mysterious "event" within the computer programme he is part of, he has also been imbued with sentience. And he is not alone.
Described by creator Mike Bithell as a minimalist game about friendship and jumping and floating and bouncing and anti-gravity, the aim of this avant-garde game is to manoeuvre all of your shapes through each level and into their own specific portals. You do this by manipulating the shapes’ varying abilities, using them to help the others out. But this is no glorified game of Tetris, and these are no ordinary shapes.
As a platform game it is pleasantly simple and satisfyingly complex
From the witty bedtime-story narration of one Danny Wallace, we are able to glean clues as to the personalities of these newly formed AI entities, and as a result the shapes come to life. Whereas Thomas the red rectangle is a curious adventurer, the small orange square named Chris is an unpleasant and impatient git. The tall thin yellow rectangle called John is a psychopath who can only mimic emotions to get what he wants, while Claire the enormous blue square is paranoid about her weight and suspects she is just being used by her companions as a convenient boat.
As you move the shapes through the levels, you can almost hear them tutting to themselves as one falls off a ledge, or huffing and puffing as they jump on top of each other, or letting out a joyous yell as they make a great leap across a spiky pit of doom. And it is this encouragement to emotionally engage with abstract geometric shapes which elevates the game into the realms of the avant-garde. In the same way that Hans Richter’s Rhythmus 21 attributed musical rhythms to abstract shapes, this game attributes emotions.
As a platform game it is pleasantly simple and satisfyingly complex, and the format is kept fresh as the pressing of switches causes the levels to alter and unfold around and beneath you and your angsty companions. The music, provided by David Housden, adds to the dreamy, bedtime-story feel of the narration, and also heightens the sense of loneliness of these characters as they journey together through the expanse of the matrix and into the dangers that await. They may be one-dimensional, but this brave fellowship of quadrilaterals on a quest for greatness is anything but square.
- Developed and published by Mike Bithell; Platform: PC, Mac
Subscribe to theartsdesk.com
Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.
To take an annual subscription now simply click here.
And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?
A beautifully detailed fantasy world to lose yourself in
Racing simulation puts choice over personality
Manifest destiny... for a few pixels more
A workmanlike second helping but things are looking up in episode three
Keep on movin' in this endless runner, roguelike and more mash-up
Blood, gore and violence – fun beat 'em up action, but not for the faint-hearted
Sleuthing on the go with this detective adventure game
Brutally hard, but rewarding action gaming
Beautifully stylish horror adventure shines out
Cops 'n' robbers should be a perfect setting for this frantic first-person shooter
Might and Delight invite you to take a walk on the wild side
Kill, die, repeat in this garish, hypnotic action sequel