Thursday, 31 October 2013
Thomas Was Alone
So goes the story. Thomas was alone. Thomas was also a simple red rectangle. And yet this did not stop him from doing something about his loneliness. It is hard to say anything about this game. It is a stroke of art. Mastery of brilliance. To evoke such feelings as regret, happiness, sadness, empathy.. Well, I would have laughed at the one who told me it could be done with a ragtag group of coloured rectangles of all sizes and forms.
Thomas Was Alone is an indie puzzle platformer made by Mike Bithell. One could cynically add one puzzle platformer among many. But Thomas Was Alone sets to do things differently. Like everyone else these days, a cynic would retort. As we accompany Thomas through the world we meet other rectangles. Every rectangle is different, It has a colour of its own, personality, and even abilities of their own.
It is through working together that they can successfully come to the end of the level. The game is short, but still manages to leave an impact on the player. Or at least on me. The music composed by David Housden, playing in the background is dynamic. It becomes more stirring when the things get more intense. A new discovery made by the group of rectangles, feels epic. Every loss, or moment of happiness is intensified by the music.
You soon find yourself measuring every other rectangle in comparison to Thomas. Thomas is your homo mensura of sorts for all the others and their abilities. He can jump higher than Thomas, she can swim, he is slower, she is magnetic, she is flat, he is taller. Every comparison you make is based on Thomas. It might be so because Thomas is the first rectangle you come across, or it might be, that in comparison to others, Thomas is your average. The golden cut.
The checkpoints are done every so often, and on right places. Rarely is there a situation where you are forced to repeat a whole section from the start. If you die (as only some rectangles can float on water, others drown), you spawn right back and can continue from where you left of.
The aesthetics of the game are simple, minimalistic. It is game about squares and their journey through the world in which they were created. There really is not much sense in making it more complicated and ornamented. The simplicity works fine. One could even argue that the job of simplicity is to bring your attention to the rectangles.
The narrator in the game is phenomenal. Just like the music, he is able to draw the empathy out of the player and make him realize the situation of Thomas, Chris, John, and the others. The narrator, Danny Wallace actually earned a BAFTA performance award for his work in Thomas Was Alone.
It is hard to write anything more. The story is simple, a hero's journey. But the way it is told makes is shine. It is hard to write anything more, because I wish for everyone to experience it on their own. It is hard to write anything more about the game because I fail to see anything bad about it. In other games I would be at the point, where I say, this is really good game, but here is what it lacks.
With Thomas Was Alone, this is impossible. It might be that I am lovestruck, blind from all the adoration for the game, but as it stands right now, I am honestly unable to say a single bad thing about the game. Maybe this is the game's flaw if any. That you are unable to say anything is bad with it. And that is not bad for the game as it stands. For the game, that is great. It is bad for its developer. Because it raised the expectation for the next game.
If anything, I resent the game its dark and hardly visible world at times. You strain your eyes to make something of the vague shapes of pitch black and a shade lighter black that are present in order to figure where you need to go in order to progress. But at the end, even this darkness surrounding serves its purpose.
It shows how rectangles stand out in this darkness, how this rectangles are the focal point of your interest. It tells you in this subtle way on what you should be focusing without uttering a single word. And this, in my eyes makes it only better.