I’m not going to talk about this game excessively, because it is a game of no excess itself. Originally released as a Flash game in 2010, it was created solely by Mike Bithell; the only collaborative part of the game is the phenomenal soundtrack, which Bithell co-created with David Housden. Since then, it has seen releases on PC, Mac, Linux, PS3 and PS Vita. It is a puzzle-platformer where the player takes control of several AIs, who represent themselves as various quadrilaterals in a 2D environment. Each AI has a unique shape or ability that the player must use in conjunction with the others to progress through each level. The story is told through text, with accompanying narration by Danny Wallace.
And that’s about as far as I want to go into things, other than to tell you that you should go pick it up and play it, right now; or at least the next time you have three-and-a-half hours of free time. Journey, The Unfinished Swan, Quantum Conundrum, and Antichamber are the closest things I can think to compare it to, because these are all games that hinge on how much you are willing to give to them and receive in return. I’m sure there are people who would never be able to see these characters as more than colored rectangles; I personally came to feel very close to Thomas, Chris, Laura, Claire, John, James, and Sarah.
I mentioned the music and narration because the game simply would not be what it is without the involvement of either party. The score is a “procedurally-generated assembly of multiple instrument tracks over a fixed song line” according to Wikipedia. That’s the technical term for something I had noticed during play, which is that each track starts out small and then slowly builds over the course of not just each level, but each world as well. I often found myself pausing to just listen to it in the background; I also found myself coming to a dead stop any time Danny Wallace was speaking, for fear that I might miss some little nuisance in his delivery of the script.
I loved every second of Thomas Was Alone, and if I had one recommendation, it would be to make an effort not to rush through the experience. Try and detach yourself from thoughts of “beating” the game and just enjoy Claire’s super-power, or James’ unique disregard for Newtonian laws. Because this is the kind of game that you only really “experience” the first time through. It wasn’t until the credits were rolling that I realized that it was not Thomas who was alone now, but me.