What defines a true friendship is much more than a number on a social networking site, or a silent collection of followers. No one is perfect, and a true friendship involves taking two broken pieces and making each one more complete. It’s the knowledge that you can overcome just about anything with the help of people who know you just as much as you know yourself. They make up for your limitations, and help you be what you perhaps never thought you would. Friendship means you are not alone.
On that principal, neither is Thomas, star of Thomas Was Alone. Created by Mike Bithell, Thomas Was Alone grabbed the attention of all levels of the gamersphere when it originally released on PC in July of 2012. Happily in conjunction with Curve Studios, Bithell brought the now classic indie game to Playstation 3 and Vita.
This story, being one of friendship and jumping, starts out in a lab where a disaster has occurred and the confused artificial intelligence have become sentient. Thomas gradually encounters other four-sided AI as he progresses through the game’s numerous levels (up and to the right), each one having distinct personality quirks that make them surprisingly memorable. Bithell either, with expert care or expert luck, created characters that are both very much nothing, yet even more something.
Thomas Was Alone is a game about cooperation. Each of the characters possesses impressive strengths, and disadvantageous weaknesses, both physically and psychologically. Stages task with escorting Thomas and friends (whoever may be present), to the end, which are small and mysterious portals. While Thomas or Jon can easily make many of the game’s jumps themselves with their elongated shape, characters like the wearily disgruntled Chris, being a small, pudgy square, often needs help. The gameplay transcends itself, and instead of playing a platformer with basic shapes, you are watching the emergence of transcendent friendships, built through the cooperation of friends.
The challenges are never difficult, but they don’t need to be. Thomas Was Alone isn’t trying to be a difficult game. It’s a platformer that tells a deliberate story. That in itself is something to be marveled at. While a single playthrough can be completed in possibly a sitting, replaying to rekindle the emotive qualities of the tale is a quickly occurring thought. For those willing, commentary from Mike Bithell himself on each stage is offered.
While the stages are easy, they contain enough variation and charm to make you excited to move forward. The diversity of traits makes each stage a joy to figure out, without ever being completely oppressive about it. New levels mean more ways to enjoy Thomas’ beautifully sleek minimalistic art style. Bright colors are worn by each of the game’s characters, while backgrounds are awash in blackness. The effects are a grand feast for the eyes.
The soundtrack is the weakest part of the experience. The tracks, mostly tranquil bleeps and bloops among standard chords, are no doubt pleasant, but each one is so similar that after several hours of continuous play, they all begin sounding exactly the same. It is a real shame. The music doesn’t warrant hate at all and even makes for a good accompaniment to light rain and a cup of hot chocolate. The lack of variation is the sole weakness.
Overcoming one’s weaknesses with the help of others in order to thrive is one of the greatest experiences life has to offer. It’s so empowering, yet also radiantly subtle. Thomas Was Alone is the greatest video game representation of the feeling of achievement in that regard. From its uniquely crazy characters, up until a tear-jerking climax, it’s a great game to slip into your pocket on the go or to play at home. Perhaps Bithell hid messages much deeper in this experience than even I could bring forth. There could be glorious statements buried within the oceans of putrid water, or at the core of Thomas himself. The only thing I know is that I now feel not so alone.