Yes this is a game about squares and rectangles, but it’s also so much more than that. The heart and soul of Thomas Was Alone is its story of friendship, learning to believe in yourself, and never settling for just OK. Groan worthy as that may sound, developer and writer Mike Bithell deftly avoids the pretentious and heavy-handed pitfalls that have proven to be so easy to fall into, and manages to craft a narrative that is touching, funny, and unquestionably charming from start to finish.
Equal if not greater credit for this also has to go to Danny Wallace for his spot on voice acting which includes a liberal amount of British wit, that brought to life these quadrilateral characters in a way that despite being a tired phrase, can only be described as a triumph! When the end came after just over two hours, I was saddened not because I felt unsatisfied or that it was too short, but merely wanted to spend more time with these characters I had so quickly come to love.
Even if forgoing the story, TWA is still a very clever puzzle platformer that near perfectly balances the difficulty to rarely be frustrating but always satisfying. The levels have been thoughtfully planned without any filler to speak of, which made for no obvious stopping points and instead keep the adventure rolling. What I feel is most remarkable though is how ingeniously gameplay is blended with story, building upon each other and proving impossible to separate without sacrificing what makes the various components so great. This to me is what defines a great video game story; something that couldn’t be achieved the same way in any other medium and was built with this understanding in mind.
Unlike the dozens of simplistic flash games that use similarly primitive shapes as placeholders or out of sheer laziness, here much care has been put into each block and area to make them both unique and memorable, result is not the least bit unpleasant to look at. From the subtle jump animations to the impressive lighting, upon further inspection TWA is much more detailed than it first appears, and with the engrossing soundtrack the presentation across the board is simply a treat.
I’m sure if I tried I could find something to nitpick about, but there’s no need for me to as that is all it would be. I absolutely loved every moment of Thomas Was Alone, and you would be hard pressed to stop me from recommending to almost everyone. Mike Bithell did a cracking fine job in every regard, and I’m ever so thankful he was able and willing to share it with me. Now I hope to do the same and that this prompts you to take a moment if you haven’t to meet Thomas, who as it turns out was most certainly not alone.