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Thomas Was Alone – Wii U

Thomas Was Alone – Wii U

header Platform: Wii U

Developer: Mike Bithell

Publisher: Curve Digital

Release Date: November 25, 2014

Genre: Puzzle

Nerd Rating: 9 out of 10

Reviewed by Cloud3514

Thomas Was Alone surprised me. I was expecting a puzzle platformer alone the lines of Curve Digital’s previous outings, including The Swapper and Stealth Inc. 2. What I got was a surprisingly compelling, if basic, exercise in storytelling.

Thomas Was Alone is a puzzThomas-Was-Alone-Screenshot 2le game about self-aware AIs that are represented by colored rectangles. The titular Thomas being a red vertical rectangle, for instance. Each of the characters have, as the game puts it, “very different relationships with gravity.” Thomas is a small rectangle with a decent jump, John is a tall yellow rectangle with a large jump, Laura is a long horizontal rectangle that the other characters bounce off of and so on and so forth.

Most of the puzzles require the rectangles to avoid water as only Clair, a large blue square, can touch the water without dying and almost all of them require using the characters as platforms to get them where they need to be.

In terms of narrative, the story starts when Thomas becomes self-aware and it explores how each of the characters interact with each other. It is told purely through equally self-aware narration that reminds me greatly of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

The narrator, played by Danny Wallace, is incredibly entertaining and comes off like he’s reading a book to a class of children. His lines are peppered with self-aware humor and references to the game being a game, as well as gaming in jokes. There’s even a “cake is a lie” reference. I’d love to see more games with this kind of humor.Thomas-Was-Alone screensht 3

The puzzles are a lot of fun and the game constant shuffles the characters the player can use to keep things interesting. There isn’t any one character that appears in all puzzles and most puzzles exclude at least a couple characters. This means the tools at the player’s disposal are constantly being shuffled.

The player has to think differently for every situation. There’s no one off plan that will get them through every level. And it’s very impressive that this is the case. There are 100 levels in the base game, plus the levels in the Benjamin’s Flight expansion that comes packaged with the Wii U version. While there repetition of some types of platforming, almost every level feels unique and fresh.

With the exception of the narration, the audio design is very simple. The sound effects are simple digital beeps, while the music is an extremely ambient affair. At times, it can almost be hypnotic in conjunction with the narration and the excellent level design.

The audio is a perfect fit. It’s quiet, but tones the mood. It plays out the emotions of the characters to go along with the narration, which only describes their thoughts. It’s a wonderfully subtle effect and it ties everything together. Everything from the puzzles to the audio design to the narrator’s descriptions of the character’s thoughts comes together to tell the story and it is a surprisingly great story to tell.

Visually, the game is extremely basic. Backgrounds tend to be simple gradients, while walls and platforms are just black blocks. The characters are colored blocks. The entire game is very simple looking, but that only enhances the game. It doesn’t need fancy or complicated graphics. All it needs are the simple blocks and colors it has.

Everything about this game is as minimalist as it can be. The music is ambient and nothing more, the graphics are extremely simple and the story told masterfully through it’s self-aware narration.

After a few sets of levels, I found myself completely and totally absorbed into Thomas Was Alone. At least until the UPS gthomas_was_alone_4uy knocked on the door to deliver my copy of Assassin’s Creed: Rogue. It’s rare for a game to do that. I had to know what was going to happen next. It may be a very simple story, but it is told in an incredibly compelling way.

Thomas Was Alone is also available on PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and mobile phones.

Read the Thomas Was Alone PS3 review here.

Written by Nerd Bacon

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