‘Thomas Was Alone” is the most emotional game about rectangles that I can recall playing. I was nearly in tears a few times while playing it, simply because of how invested I was in small shapes of color running around minimalist geometric rooms.
“Thomas Was Alone” begins simply enough, with a red rectangle named Thomas who naturally, begins the game alone. We know this because a soothing British voice (Danny Wallace, who won an award from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts for the performance) informs us of this fact. This narrator chimes in at the start and middle of levels, telling us what the various geometric shapes you control are thinking and feeling, what sort of conversations they’re having, that sort of thing.
Yes, shapes. Thomas is not actually alone for long. He soon meets up with several highly likable geometrical figures. Your job is to get all of them to the various “portals” in the levels that match their shapes. Each shape has its own characteristics, and the gentle level design is built around using them to their full effect.
The magic of the game comes from a combination of the narrative and the running and jumping. With only a short description from the narrator, what would normally be just a series of jumps suddenly becomes a epic journey. Each jump is a small triumph, each room deepens the tale.
You really feel the struggles of the little boxy heroes. You really get to know them and start to like them. The capabilities of the blocks play wonderfully into the atmosphere, and you really feel for the little orange square, Chris, as he is frustrated by his inability to work alone. John isn’t just a really long rectangle who can jump high — he’s a pleasant but egotistical fellow.
“Thomas Was Alone” is an experience worth having. It’s very rare I walk away from a transparently experimental game feeling more in touch with my emotions than before I played it. I literally didn’t stop playing the game until I experienced the final conclusion to the strangely moving tale.
“Thomas Was Alone” was made by Mike Bithell. It is available for PC, Mac, and Linux computers. It costs $9.99, and is available from Steam or the website www.thomaswasalone.com.
Noah Hinz is an art and game design enthusiast living in Walla Walla. Contact him with questions, game and playing suggestions or anything else related to games at firstname.lastname@example.org.