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The Game Effect Editorial

Thomas Was Alone... But His Game Sure Is Fun

Another reason to dust off the Vita

By Daniel Jones on 5/13/2013
This isn't a review. Thomas Was Alone isn't like most games we cover at The Game Effect, and thus doesn't fit into our typical review structure. No, this article is simply to tell you that Thomas Was Alone, created by Mike Bithell, is a game that's worth your time. So you can go ahead and download it right now on your PC, PS3 or Vita, I won't blame you for not reading the rest of this article. But should you stick around, I'll try to explain what makes this game worthwhile.

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It's not flashy by any means (well, aside from the fact that it started as a flash game). It doesn't have the kind of visual flair gamers are used to, even when compared with other indie darlings like Sound Shapes. The simple quadrilateral characters have barely any animation aside from a slight contraction when they jump and the backgrounds are sparse and minimal. The most spectacular visual in the game is the water, which is only noticeable for the fact that it has any depth at all.

The gameplay is even less remarkable. Each level presents the player with various quadrilaterals to navigate around the level to a different finishing point for each. Each shape has different abilities, for example: the tall oblong rectangle can jump higher than the small square, but the square can fit in tighter spaces. It's puzzle platforming at its most basic.

Yet somehow it all combines into one of the most endearingly addictive games I've played this year. That simple platforming is deceptive in its complexity, presenting some puzzles that will have you scratching your head, while brilliantly communicating new concepts and rules through discovery rather than forced tutorials. It's also one of the most precise platformers I've ever played. Never once did I feel like I died because of inadequate controls. Even the simplistic visuals will endear themselves to you by the end of the journey.

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What's that I said? Journey? You didn't think a game called Thomas Was Alone wouldn't have a captivating story did you? Well it does. In a journey (there's that word again!) to escape a world that seems to be simultaneously helping them and trying to kill them all at once, Thomas (a red rectangle) and his four-sided buddies have to work together to escape. It's all narrated by a disembodied British accent, which is charming because... well... he has an accent. You will be surprised at how much emotion, intrigue, allegory and humor can be built into a tale about simple sprites.

Then again, that's possibly the point. This is a video game about video game characters, creators, players and the complex relationship between the three. Like the simple geometric protagonists coming together to solve problems, Thomas Was Alone is composed of several disparate parts that may seem quaint when taken on their own, but together, make up a marvelously charming video game.

Did I mention it has brilliant music? Because it does. Anyway, go play it!
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