New To Me Review: Thomas Was Alone

Thomas Was Alone will make you care about the lives of colorful shapes.

Every so often I get some free time to work on my backlog of games that I never got around to playing when they first came out. For people like me, Playstation Plus is a godsend. It’s like a library card that lets me rent out games that I’ve been curious about for one reason or another. In the case of Thomas Was Alone, it was all the love from critics that got me wondering exactly what was so special about this game. After a 6 hour play session and 100% of the trophies, I understood why.

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The game itself, created by Mike Bithell, is a puzzle game where you have to use different colored quadrilaterals with differing abilities to get through the levels. Some puzzles will require using a buoyant blue square to ferry other shapes across water while others may have you using a pink rectangle to bounce other shapes to higher platforms. Learning how to use these shapes and their powers together is the core of the gameplay and it works pretty well. However, the magic of Thomas Was Alone isn’t in the game mechanics or the puzzles. The magic is in the shapes themselves.

Claire heroically helps Thomas

Quadrilaterals Shaped My Heart

Every shape you meet has a name and a personality to go with it. That buoyant blue square I mentioned before? That’s Claire and she’s a wannabe superhero. The bouncy pink rectangle? She’s Laura and looking for a group of friends that won’t abandon her. Every shape is more likeable and relatable than most human characters in million dollar AAA titles. It’s even more impressive when you consider that the shapes themselves never actually speak.

All the dialog and exposition is beautifully delivered by a narrator voiced by Danny Wallace, who you might recognize as Shaun Hastings from the Assassin’s Creed series. This game is an absolute masterpiece of writing with each line of dialog being filled with sharp wit and playfulness that keeps the game from being heavy-handed.

The true reward of finishing levels is hearing the narrator chime in to deliver more tales of distrust, jealousy, love, and other things. I became so invested in these quadrilaterals that I let out an audible, sad “No…” during one twist in the game. I grew to care more about Thomas and his friends than any character I’d played in the last year short of Elizabeth from Bioshock Infinite.

Puzzles Are A Second Thought

The only drawback of this narrative heavy approach is that the gameplay only exists to serve the narrative. While games like Portal beautifully blend the narrative into the gameplay, Thomas Was Alone merely uses the puzzles to pace the story out so that you don’t blaze through it too quickly. Most of the puzzles are pretty easy to figure out except for a couple in the middle that were surprisingly difficult given their placement in the overall game. The game never really throws any curveballs either, leading me to use the same tricks over and over again. It’s lucky that the narrative is so great, because that’s the only satisfaction you’ll get out of finishing these puzzles.

This game is an absolute masterpiece of narrative that could have been so much more. The sharp writing and expertly delivered narrative create characters out of simple shapes that you’ll grow to love and care about. It’s fortunate that the narrative is so good because the new lines of dialog from the narrator are usually the only reward you’ll get from beating the puzzles. Still, this game is definitely worth the current Steam asking price of $10 dollars. You may not remember the puzzles, but you will never forget the tale of Thomas and the original architects.

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New To Me Review: Thomas Was Alone
Thomas Was Alone will make you care about the lives of colorful shapes.

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Author
WesleyG
I'm a freelance contributor that adores the art and culture of gaming. I'm an indie game enthusiast who loves supporting a game with a small budget and new ideas. I also love pro wrestling, tabletop RPGs, and Cadbury Creme Eggs.