Thomas Was Alone - iPad review

Thomas Was Alone 1

The critically acclaimed platformer is out for the iPad we've reviewed it for those thinking of trying it.

Don’t be put off by the stark, minimalist appearance of Thomas Was Alone; it’s well worth a play through, it’s a well-worked concept with bundles of charm, great music, fun gameplay and a good sense of humour.

Enter Thomas and friends a group of AIs (artificial Intelligences) made self aware by a network connection spike. Inhabiting a world in 2D the AIs envision themselves as quadrilateral shapes. As the story progresses Thomas chooses to become an ‘architect’ sacrificing his own emergence into the real world so that other AIs may enter the ‘creation matrix’. Sound familiar? I sense a Matrix parody, the irony being that you feel a closer connection to a bunch of coloured shapes than Neo and pals.

The voice of comedian Danny Wallace paints a picture of the AI’s individual personalities through the game’s narrative. We soon learn that the AIs, who all have common-or-garden names, display some distinctly ‘human’ traits and the story that unfolds begins to feel something like a soap opera for coloured blocks.

Gameplay-wise this is a puzzle-platformer where you have to lead the AIs on screen into exit portals that match their shapes accordingly. Each AI can move about and jump with some performing better jumps and others offering different special ‘abilities’ - a flat pink rectangle called Laura for instance acts as a bouncing pad for other blocks to launch off.

Switching between each shape on screen you need to work out how to use them in combination to reach the exits. You’ll have to compensate for the weaknesses of some of your blocks with the strengths of others. Sometimes larger shapes will get in the way of smaller ones and certain areas of the level map might only be accessible to blocks with the required skills to reach them.

Thomas Was Alone 2

Claire can float and carries Thomas and Chris to safety

 

The game that unfolds whilst being rather short has a gentle learning curve that along with the emerging story of the AIs keeps you engaged. What’s particularly good is that by moving the blocks to their exits out of the required sequence won’t break the level so you won’t need to restart if you make a mistake.

In many ways Thomas Was Alone is a game of apparently jarring contrasts that somehow manage to mesh together. The flat 2D blocky 'staircase' platforms against dynamic particle effects, the abstract reductive treatment of the AIs personified by some quite ‘real’ attributes, even the ambient glitchy soundscapes supplied courtesy of David Housden work against the pong-style 8 bit noises the AIs make when jumping.

If you’re jaded by  platformers try Thomas Was Alone it’s a great antidote. It's a title that stands as testament to the fact that games don't have to be all about flashy graphics and as an example of how games can still be popular without sticking to tried and tested formulas. 

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