I’ve been playing a lot of indie games lately on my new PS Vita and as much as I loved playing indie games on my iOS and Android devices, nothing beats using a real physical joystick and buttons. Now, I knew PlayStation had a lot of indie games featured on the PS3 but I was quite surprised that many of them were also available for the PS Vita. Over the past year I’ve been hearing a lot about Thomas Was Alone, a unique platform puzzler. Originally created for the PC and Mac by indie developer Mike Bithell, it gained a lot of press for its unique art style and fantastic narration by Danny Wallace. I never really had a chance to check it out.
A few days ago, Curve Studios released the Curve Studios Mega Bundle for the PS3/PS Vita, featuring four popular indie titles. One of the included titles is Thomas Was Alone. I was lucky enough to have Curve Studios gift me the Mega Bundle so the first game I’ll talk about from it is Thomas Was Alone.
Thomas Was Alone is a story about artificial intelligence routines that somehow glitch and become sentient. Each AI you encounter is represented by a different shape and name and also have their own unique personalities. These AI most either work together or alone in order to pass a series of events in a mainframe without exactly knowing why. Along the way, a voice (the narrator) will convey what is going on as well as what each AI is thinking and feeling. He will call these by names and over the course of time, you will begin to bond with these “characters.”
The game is almost like watching a soup opera unfold in which you are a will participant who keeps the story moving along while the characters go about their business. Each series of levels you encounter will require you to figure out how to get to the end, the end being to place each character in their respective slots on the level. This is where the puzzling comes in and it will get more and more challenging as you progress. Many of the levels are quite clever and though the game is challenging, you never feel like you want to rage quit.
The graphics in the game are quite simplistic and mainly has that blocky look to it which makes sense given the context of the story. That doesn’t mean the graphics aren’t good though because they are. These are the best blocky graphics I’ve seen. The levels feature some great lighting and shadow effects as well as water and particle effects. Even though the art style is simplistic, it is very good and really stands out when you see it. And though the characters themselves are made of simple block shapes, you really do get a sense of their personalities thanks to their actions and the way the narrator portrays them.
The other element of the game that I thoroughly enjoyed is the awesome background music that is very calming and soothing. It lends itself well to the slower paced nature of the game and also helps you relax as you think your way through. On top of that, the sound effects are really good too and have that “digital” feel to them, almost 8-bit in nature. Again, this is very fitting considering the context of the game.
Thomas Was Alone is a very unique game. The puzzling elements can be challenging, but it’s nothing that is too hard. The graphics are very simplistic, but that adds to the overall charm of the game. However, the best part of the Thomas Was Alone really is the story and how you get attached to these little blocks, each of which feel alive thanks in part to the wonderful narration. It almost has that Stranger Than Fiction feel to it, if you’ve ever seen that movie. The narrator does a wonderful job keeping you glued to the game because you genuinely want to find out what happens to these characters.
The game however isn’t that long and I was able to beat it in a couple days playing it on and off. I will note that it is very much well worth playing and if you have never played it before on the PC or Mac, I highly recommend picking this up as a standalone title or as the Curve Studios Mega Bundle. You’ll be able to play it on both PS3 or PS Vita. The Mega Bundle is $14.99 for four games that would otherwise be $45 if you purchased them all separately. That’s an awesome value right there. Regardless, you’ll be able to play a game that is not only different, but has excellent puzzling elements and an emotional story.