We’re in a time now where more and more indie games are being released in to the market all the time. I mean it kind of makes sense to go into game development as an Indie studio, many of the major AAA game developers are now making losses and cutting staff numbers. So why risk working for someone who could axe you at any second and that may restrict your creativity when you can go it alone and let your artistic flair shine through. Of course there isn’t the same financial backing you would’ve had but that just means you can take your time and really make the game how you want it. The problem is with so many Indie games flooding the market, many will be overlooked and you will often find some people trying to clone successful games to make a quick buck or two. So I was pleasantly surprised when I’d heard nothing but rave reviews for Thomas Was Alone, it’s nothing like some of the low budget Indie puzzle platformers you get today, you know the kind, ones which struggle to hold anyone’s attention for longer than 5 minutes.
People will be happy to know as well that the Thomas isn’t alone for very long, he’s only by himself for a few levels so don’t be worried, it isn’t like some little lost kid in a supermarket crying out for its parents. But I’m guessing you’re wondering who Thomas actually is, and what part he actually plays in this game. Well it all begins when Artificial Life Solutions, a company which experiments with Artificial Intelligence, have a little glitch in the system which results in some of its AIs, starting with Thomas, becoming self-aware. The AIs perceive themselves quadrilateral shapes living in a 2D world full of dangers which you must navigate through. Doesn’t sound like anything special right now but it is thanks to the story telling of Danny Wallace who some of you may recognise from voicing Shaun Hastings of Assassins Creed 2, or his documentary ‘How to start your own Country’, who brings the game to life. Wallace really manages to give each character their own unique personality through his narration of each level, which is no easy task when you think he only has a few shapes in different colours and sizes to work with.
The aim of each level is to get each of your shapes to their target area. To do this you’ll have to collectively use the various characters abilities to help each other reach places they’d not be able to get to on their own. Some characters however have a bit of a stubborn attitude and are jealous of others, such as the short block Chris, he’s envious of Thomas because he can’t jump as high, but he has his own uses when he finds he can slip through small gaps that no one else can. Another character who starts with a lack of self-belief is Claire, a large square who feels like there is nothing special about her and stares death in the face as the world starts to crumble around her, that’s when she discovers she can float in water unlike others, making her some kind of superhero. It’s thanks to Wallace that you actually believe these characters are more than just shapes, it is one thing to say they have a mind of their own but the way Wallace tells the story just adds a certain magical spark to the game that makes you believe it, which sums up why his performance helped the game win a BAFTA games award.
But he isn’t the only thing that helps make this game great; the graphics and sound track are also brilliantly put together. For a game that you’d think was simple to design because it is just a few shapes moving around many different levels, creator Mike Bithell has managed to bring the animations to life by putting in an awful lot of detail into the game. For instance if you watch Thomas you’ll notice his lifelike movements sucking in his gut to try and extend himself when he jumps to become that bit taller just like you’d see if you watch someone playing basketball for example. Each level also has a shimmering light which is occasionally blocked off by obstacles, and the shadowed areas created by this are spectacular to, more so because some AAA developers struggle to do shadowing properly but Thomas Was Alone executes it perfectly.
As for the games sound, it really does a good job of bring the game to life. The melodies manage to capture the atmosphere of certain situations in a level and also help in asserting the personalities of the characters. At times though the repetitive tone during some levels will drive you crazy, but more so because it’s a tune that will easily get stuck into your head and you can’t get it out.
In fact the only issue I had with the game (other than music getting stuck in my head) was the controls. Don’t get me wrong they weren’t overly complicated; there were two arrows to move left and right on the iPad screen, and a button on the right to jump. But to switch between different characters you have to select a colour on either side of the screen to choose the shape you want, problem was I often kept selecting the wrong one as the colours were quite close together and I have stubby fingers. So not entirely the games fault, but I’m not too sure what exercises I can do to try and tone my fingers up so I can prevent this issue happening in future.
This is possibly the best Indie game that I’ve played since Darwinia. It’s beautifully crafted, with catchy melodies that will drive you crazy and a great story teller who brings the characters to life with a pinch of comedic value. It is understandable now why Thomas Was Alone was such a hit on PC and why the decision was made to release the game on iOS, it is a really enjoyable game that you can just sit down and play while on the move or as a relaxing activity in the evening. The puzzles like any game get harder the further you make it through the game, and really do test your brains at time by making you utilise the abilities of all characters rather than offering a straight simple solution that takes no effort. If you haven’t played it yet, I’d recommend this to anyone who enjoys a puzzle game; if you’ve played before on a different platform then I’d just say go back and play it because it truly is an Indie game masterpiece.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.