As a gaming enthusiast I’m always interested in new gaming experiences, but every once in awhile I feel compelled to go back and put in some serious time replaying some of my favorite games from the preceding years. In that spirit, I have created a new series of writing pieces titled Replaying the Classics, wherein I discuss the games that I have replayed recently. Unlike my Late to the Party series, my goal with these writing pieces is not so much to give a strong analysis of a particular game, but rather to give an informal recounting of a game and to try to convey to the reader why it’s one of my favorites. I do not come to you this time as a game reviewer, but merely as a friend wanting to have a casual chat about what he’s been playing. Today, let’s take a seat in our comfy chairs and talk about Thomas Was Alone.
Before starting I need to quickly mention that, unlike all the other games that have been showcased so far in Replaying the Classics, I played Thomas Was Alone on my PlayStation 4 rather than my PlayStation 3. The reason for this is because apparently my ownership of Thomas Was Alone on PlayStation 3 allowed me to download a free PlayStation 4 edition of the game. The PlayStation 4 edition is the exact same game as the PlayStation 3 edition, but as a bonus I was able to make use of my PlayStation 4’s screenshot functionality and take a few images of the game while I was playing (so no worries about copyright infringement in today’s post, hooray!). Anyways, with that disclosure out of the way, let’s get on to actually talking about the game.
Thomas Was Alone is the story of sentient quadrilaterals. Actually, that’s not quite accurate, but it sounded good in my head so I just went with it. The quadrilaterals in question are AI programs that are trying to solve puzzles within the computer network they inhabit. Each AI has a unique appearance and ability, and even a name that was given to it by the human engineers who created them. As you’ve probably already guessed, the AI who plays a central role in Thomas Was Alone is named Thomas. The AIs are forced to navigate a long series of levels, with the goal of each one being to reach portals that will transport the AIs to the next puzzle. At first the AIs don’t really understand what they are doing, but as the story progresses they gain an increasing awareness of what they are and the computer world they are trapped in. After managing to briefly connect to the Internet, they set about creating a way for their fellow AIs to escape their prison, and when Thomas Was Alone comes to an end you see a room with computers whose monitors suddenly start turning on. What happens next is up to the player’s imagination, but in my mind it means the AIs escaped whatever mainframe was housing them and are now in permanent contact with the outside world.
So I think you get the idea by now that Thomas Was Alone is a puzzle-platformer game. The premise of each puzzle is very simple, however the challenge comes in with the different shapes and abilities of each AI you control, and in each puzzle you have to figure out how to make the AIs work together to reach their respective portals. For example, Laura has a very short jump so she needs help from the other AIs to get over obstacles, but she has the ability to bounce other AIs up to platforms that would otherwise be out of reach. Towards the end of Thomas Was Alone a new twist gets thrown in with Shifters, which are areas in the puzzle that cause an AI to take on new abilities if they pass through it. The puzzles never get particularly hard, however, so if you’re looking for a game that will really tax your wits you’re in the wrong place. But if, on the other hand, you’re in the mood for a modest challenge for about three hours on a weekend afternoon, Thomas Was Alone is a great game to satisfy your puzzle itch.
At this point I think you have a fair grasp of what Thomas Was Alone is about, but I haven’t yet told you about its best parts. There are tons of puzzle-platformer games out there, so why should you play Thomas Was Alone instead of one of the myriad number of other games in its genre? Well, partly because it’s good game with an interesting story, but much more importantly what sells Thomas Was Alone are its narrator and the soundtrack. The story of Thomas Was Alone is narrated by Daniel Wallace, whose voice you might recognize from a few other video games such as the Assassin’s Creed series, in which he voiced the recurring character Shaun Hastings. Wallace’s voice work singlehandedly turns the story of Thomas Was Alone into an intriguing and enjoyable tale. He perfectly captures the tone of each moment of the narrative, as well as the personalities of each of the AIs. Complimenting Wallace’s narration are the ambient tunes of composer David Housden, whose music amplifies the mood of the journey the AIs are on. These two pieces—the narration and the music—are where Thomas Was Alone distinguishes itself from its contemporaries and earns your time.
Speaking of time, ours is up for the day. Thanks for giving me a chance to tell you about Thomas Was Alone, the game that did the impossible and made me care about a bunch of quadrilaterals. I hope you enjoyed our time together, and I look forward to seeing you again to discuss the next game in Replaying the Classics.