Weekend Getaway: Thomas Was Alone
Featuring games you can finish in one weekend!
Available On: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One, Wii U, iOS, Android, PC, Mac, Linux
Length: 3-4 Hours
Thomas Was Alone is a puzzle-platformer from game designer Mike Bithell. Released as a free flash game in 2010, Thomas was later greatly expanded and released on pretty much every platform imaginable. At first glance it looks super simple – just multicolored squares and rectangles sliding around a world of right-angles. Oddly, though, Thomas Was Alone is one of the most heartfelt and touching games in recent memory, even winning a BAFTA for its narration.
Thomas’ visual design is like PONG poured over a cold glass of Mondrian cubes and served with a garnish of Bauhaus. Everything glows like an old computer monitor, yet feels thoroughly and beautifully modern. The game’s visual minimalism is matched by that of the music; composer David Housden provides a mix of moody instrumentation and electronic blips that compliments the story’s emotional ups and downs.
Like the design, Thomas Was Alone’s mechanics are pretty spartan. Little more than basic platforming skill and logic are required of the player, and even the most difficult levels probably won’t have you scratching your head for more than a few minutes. The game’s complexity comes in the form of character interactions; this handful of quadrangular shapes have more to say about society and interpersonal connection than most human video game characters do.
“How does one grow an emotional attachment to chromatic squares?” you might ask. Through the efforts of comedian and voice actor Danny Wallace, these squares are brought to life with distinct personalities and voices. The eponymous Thomas, for instance, is somewhat of the everybody. Claire, meanwhile, is a large, blue square with body image issues who learns that what makes her different is what makes her special. Every new character is as charming as the last, and the almost constant narration nurtures a real emotional attachment to each one.
The geometric characters are diverse not only in their personalities, but in their functions as well. Each new square that is introduced adds a new layer to the platforming. One character double jumps, another is short enough to fit into spaces that others could not. Throughout each level, you switch between the characters and use their distinct talents to solve it and get to the next one. You can’t finish a level without all of the characters making it to the end, so you have to force the headstrong and complex characters to work together – however much they might protest.
Thomas Was Alone is a beautiful and moving experience. I played it for the first time over a year ago, and to this day bits of the game’s charming dialogue will pop into my head and bring a smile to my face. Like I said before, it’s available on like, everything post-Atari Jaguar, so if you enjoy feeling happy then I highly suggest picking it up.
Ya know what else makes me happy? The oodles of beautiful Thomas Was Alone fanart on Tumblr. If you’ll humor me for just a few more minutes, I’d love to share some with you:
David Ochart (pronounced Oh-Chart) is a freelance writer and social media manager. He loves loving things, and he spends much of his free time advocating his favorite things with an almost evangelical fervor. He spends the rest of that free time guzzling tea and scouring the internet for gifs. He can be found at mostwebsitesites.com/
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