Thomas Was Alone takes place inside a computer where, suddenly and inexplicably, several strands of code – or artificial intelligence entities – have developed the capacity for independent thought and personalities of their own. Chief among these is Thomas, represented on-screen by a small, red rectangle. Thomas has no idea why his artificial intelligence is no longer quite so artificial, but he knows one thing: he doesn't want to be stuck inside this program forever. So he sets about trying to escape.
As he progresses through the labyrinthine innards of his virtual world, Thomas is beset by various obstacles and hazards, and it soon becomes clear that he can't proceed alone. Fortunately, he'll soon chance across fellow AI entities coming to terms with their own dawning self-awareness. Moreover, each new buddy has his or her own skill or special attribute that will play a part in aiding Thomas's bid for freedom.
Abstract and unconventional, Thomas Was Alone is a masterpiece in storytelling, a clever, stripped-back riff on classic platform games with a plot so enchanting and expertly spun, you soon forget that the characters you're controlling are actually a jumble of colourful polygons. Before too long, they'll seem like old and much-loved friends – and their quest for freedom will be more important than ever.
Sound and vision
Thomas Was Alone offers a heartfelt, human spin on modern, minimalist design.
The visuals are a joy to behold, with bright, glowing colours and simple geometric construction which soon come to embody much more than you might expect. The game creates an emotional connection between you and your troop of silent shapes that is at once ingenious and inspiring – and due in no small part to the invitingly naïve aesthetic. Basically, Thomas Was Alone is super cute.
The audio is also superb, with a great electronic soundtrack and some amazing narration voiced by British writer and funny man Danny Wallace. None of the characters in the game can speak, but we find out their inner feelings, doubts and desires from Wallace, whose warm tones are a perfect match for the game's central themes of friendship and co-operation.
The script is truly brilliant, with a gentle humour and lightness of touch befitting the quirky subject matter, and there are many moments, such as when Thomas discovers the concept of a jump – or, to his fledgling consciousness, an inverted fall – when only the stoniest of hearts could fail to be entranced.
Last but not least, Thomas Was Alone is incredibly easy to enjoy, with excellent animation and intuitive controls. Whether you're jumping, floating, bouncing or soaring about on jet engines, this is a fresh, fun sensory experience that feels as great as it looks and sounds.
Alone with everybody
Thomas Was Alone is a unique puzzle-platformer that hinges on notions of friendship, community and co-operation.
At the start of the game, you control Thomas – and he really is alone, moving and jumping across each maze-like stage to reach the exit. Soon, however, the obstacles in his path become impossible to pass, the hazards too dangerous to navigate. Try to leap too great a distance or take a dip in a pool of liquid and you'll find Thomas summarily extinguished, only to re-materialise at the last checkpoint. What your little red friend needs is help – and luckily for him, he's not the only stray bit of code to have sprung to life today.
Dotted about the dozens of brain-teasing stages are other AI entities with a hankering for freedom, and by switching between them you can use their different skills to help every last one to its own designated exit. If a shape can't make a jump, its pals can form a handy staircase; if one shape can't cross a pool, a floating friend can ferry it across.
In this way, the game's central objective – to lead all the shapes to freedom – gets more tricky as you continue, and working out the best means and sequence by which your little gang can help each other to progress becomes a deliciously head-scratching challenge. The beauty of Thomas Was Alone is the way it balances the desire to move forward with the delight of staying put and figuring out the puzzles in your path. What's more, the experience is just as satisfying enjoyed in bite-sized chunks as in one or two marathon sessions, so the game is perfect for playing at home or on the move.