Thomas Was Alone
There's something magical about indie games at the moment. A spirit of adventure and exploration swirls around every new title pushing forward what we thought games could be sometimes in the simplest of ways.
No title embodies this idea more than Thomas Was Alone. Originally released on the PC this charming little puzzle platformer really shows us just how our old notions of simple games can be given more complexities in the simplest of ways.
In fact, simplicity is at the very heart of what Thomas Was Alone is. The game starts with a red rectangle named Thomas. The player must guide Thomas to the end of the level using the good old-fashioned platform game mechanics of running and jumping. There's not much more to it that that.
As the game progresses, more rectangles appear with different abilities all of which complement the abilities of other rectangles as they seek the exit of the level.
As players progress through the levels they learn more and more about what the squares are and why they are trying to escape each of the levels. As it turns out they are AI constructs in a testing ground that accidentally grew beyond their programming.
It's all very Portal meets The Lost Vikings (see Trine for those not old enough to remember Blizzard's SNES platform adventure) but Thomas Was Alone has so much of its own style and quirky charisma its difficult to see it as anything other than one of the most original pieces of platform gaming we've seen since Portal first graced our screens in The Orange Box.
What is most spectacular is the sheer depth that creator Mike Bithell has managed to instill in Thomas Was Alone. It begins at just the right pace slowly drawing players in, introducing each new mechanic at a pace that will suit all but the most high-level geniuses and it creates that “one more level” feeling that every good game should have.
What makes the game so charming, aside from its simple visuals of coloured rectangles on a black and shadowed background is the narration provided by Assassin's Creed voice-actor Danny Wallace.
He gives character to each of the coloured squares reciting their inner monologue with the kind of comfortable exposition last seen in the Magic Roundabout.
There's a very personal air about it too. Each rectangle has a name and they have rivalries and romances and even conflicts all brought to life through Wallace's BAFTA-Award winning narration. It adds extra dimensions that even the most flamboyant artwork could not hope to achieve.
When you reach the end - and anyone who doesn't is really cheating themselves out of a unique a captivating experience – you'll feel like a better person and a happier person for taking this journey that Mike Bithell has lovingly created.
This is a game that's ideally suited to the PlayStation Vita. It's fairly small in terms of space it takes up on the memory card, it can be digested in small amounts without losing any of its impact and the visuals are a perfect fit for the PS Vita's sumptuous 720p HD screen.
The Vita is fast becoming an attractive playground for top independent talent and this never demonstrated more aptly than it is with Thomas Was Alone. Mike Bithell has managed to distill a kind of emotional connection and complexity of gameplay together in a spectacularly simple and charming way and it would be hard to find another platform game out there at the moment that matches Thomas Was Alone.
This game really has everything – romance, intrigue, complexity coupled with the most compelling platform puzzling mechanics around. Combine all this with the fact that Thomas Was Alone on the Vita just fits neatly into your pocket/briefcase/handbag there's very little reason not to play this game. Everyone should play Thomas Was Alone.
It's also worth noting that there's also a bundle of DLC available for Thomas Was Alone on the PS Vita which throws even more levels into the mix.
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