We find ourselves again in the strange realm that is the Artistic Video Game genre. I have delved into it a time or two with other video games. Games such as Journey, Rain, The Stanley Parable, and Mountain have all found their homes in this genre. All of which strangely only have one title. Maybe it is an air of intrigue or just pretentiousness, I’m not entirely sure. But today we are looking at a very bizarre game driven by a strong narrative and focused on nothing more than mere shapes as our protagonists, Thomas Was Alone. To say that Thomas Was Alone was an interesting play would be an understatement. To say that it was not enjoyable would be a lie. This game is certainly unique in its style of storytelling that it is something to truly behold. It is a deep and thought provoking story told through what is by all accounts a simple platform/puzzle game.
Thomas Was Alone is the story of Thomas. Thomas is simply artificial intelligence that has gained sentience. He is nothing more than the shape of a red rectangle. Thomas is a curious little red rectangle who wants to learn as much about the world as possible. You take control of Thomas as well as his cast of various shaped friends as they adventure through this virtual world and begin to learn from their experiences.
This is a game that will make you fall in love with shapes. No joke, the characters in this game are amazing and they are all just miscellaneous shapes. Large squares, rectangles, long rectangles, and so forth; you name it and you will find them in Thomas Was Alone. Each character not only has a very distinct character but each of them have an arc within the story that has satisfying resolution.
Thomas has a need to help people, Chris is an irritated pessimist, John an egotist, Claire is sweet and innocent, Lauren worrisome, and so forth. Each of these characters are unique in their own way and the narration does a splendid job in making me feel for these mere shapes.
What can I say? I’m a sucker for a good story and this one is absolutely brilliant. The story of these AI’s becoming sentient and learning as this world goes on around them, continuing to jot down information on this strange phenomenon. There are acts and the last part follows a new cast of characters that has a serious arc to it. It is all well done and a good story to go along with a great game.
I love a good puzzle solver. Really taxes the brain and makes you think outside the box (no pun intended). Early in the game the puzzles are so simplistic that you will operate them in your sleep to the point that I dare not even call them puzzles. But they are there to help set up the narrative and get the player acclimated with the game so I don’t fault them for that.
As the game goes on, the puzzles get more and more difficult. You will spend hours on a single puzzle going over it over and over again until you finally find the winning combination. It is a keyboard smashing challenge. But the feeling you get after finishing the puzzle is more rewarding than being walked from pretty set piece to pretty set piece any day of the week.
As with most of the more artistic and thought-provoking video games that make it onto the market, one of their biggest downfalls is the replay value of the game. Typically for a video game to be ranked as great or magnificent it has to have some level of replay value, something that keeps you coming back to play again and again, even as newer games are released.
While it may not be the worst culprit of this and as I would argue one of the games that is able to almost bypass this con, the fact still remains that the replay value on Thomas Was Alone is not great. Sure there are 10 levels and several puzzles to choose from and you can certainly pick and choose your favorites once the game is over. But the real meat and potatoes of the game comes from the story being told and once you have heard the story, there really isn’t much reason to go back through the levels which at that point can feel like nothing more than busy work after you figured out the puzzles and know how to beat them.
While the initial game itself is wonderful, I cannot see playing this game more than two or three times before you grow tired of the story and the busy work puzzles to go find another activity to occupy your time.
I’m a sucker for Indie Games like Thomas Was Alone, I know. But I can’t help the fact that this is an awesome game. The characters are amazing, the story is spot on, and just everything about it is what I look for in a video game. The replay value may not be amazing, but it certainly is better than the majority of Triple A mediocrity that you will find on shelves today.
Final Score 4/5
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