A Rare Exception (Unspoiled)


The Marcelus via Youtube // Creative Commons

My mom never bought video games, nor did she ever approve of me playing them. I am not very good at games, especially not of the virtual kind; they require too much basic coordination to play. My friends can probably attest to that fact after seeing me play Bioshock 2 for the first time on their computer. Therefore, the few video games I have played are the free ones in the app store or those that my friends own. That is probably why I never found myself absorbed in a game, nor one that I committed to playing until the end. Many games nowadays do not seem to have a proper storyline, thus they get boring quickly. However, if a game does have a developed story, it probably requires an expensive platform, is expensive itself, or are is simply too hard for uncoordinated people like me.

Nonetheless, the game Thomas Was Alone is different. Something worth noting is its ease when beginning the game. However, the difficulty escalates with the levels, including some at the end putting more of a time constraint in the gameplay. As a result, almost unnoticeably, the game gets challenging. If you play it all in one go like I did (or are used to playing challenging games), you will probably not have any trouble finishing it in two or three hours.

Granted there was a downside, I had to pay $4.99 in the app store to get it. But then again it is simple, easy, and playable on my phone and iPad. I heard about the game in a YouTube video, and having a background devoid of video games, was a little wary of paying for it at first. However, it did seem like a decent game, so I coughed up the five dollars. Needless to say, I enjoyed the game (of course, I would not be writing this article if I had not).

It is, after all, one of the only games that I have played through to the end. It is also the only story to have made me almost cry over expressionless shapes..

— Luana Tone


The game is about AIs, in other words, beings of artificial intelligence. The beings are stuck within a virtual world and Thomas, one of the game’s main characters, is one of those beings. He is represented as a small red rectangle. A unique character, he is the first AI to gain self-awareness. His first thought is: “Thomas was alone”, giving the game its name. At first, not much is known about the AIs or their goals–in fact, Thomas does not even know where he is headed, what he is doing, or what he is supposed to find. He simply arrives at a spot (i.e. a level), just to try and find a portal that fits his shape. He then repeats this cycle as the portal causes him to appear at another level. Thomas is the perfect example of the characters in Thomas Was Alone: full of personality, aspirations, doubts–they have depth. It is very hard not to get attached to at least one of them (James is my favorite).

Perhaps one of the best things about the game, besides its storyline and characters, is the sound design. The music is the same throughout the experience, but it is good enough that you do not resent this fact. It is soothing and relaxing, yet stimulates you to play well. It is not an obnoxious song that compels you to make mistakes and is distracting. In fact, it complements the story and makes it even more absorptive. Another piece to the game’s sound is the narrator. The narrator has a soothing voice and speaks clearly. He is not the most expressive of people, but he does his job well. Nonetheless, if you are bothered by music and narration, you can choose to play without sound; text boxes accompany the characters with what the narrator is saying (he only speaks at the start of a level, then lets the player go through to the next level). Even in its moments of silence, the game is still worthwhile.[YW2]

Finally, the story is told with the aid of epigraphs explaining what happened to the program containing the game’s characters. Each epigraph is a quote by the company that created the AIs, AI specialists, or other faux professions from a future world. So, the quotes in the sections are not from the same time period as Thomas and his friends–they are from a near-future. I hope that was not too confusing. Anyways, these quotes add a unique sense of realism to the game.

Thomas Was Alone is, in my humble opinion, a masterpiece. It is not challenging or extremely elaborate, yet it still proves to be a wonderful, rich experience. I doubt that I will ever find a game with a similar experience, especially with a five-dollar price tag. Even in the unlikely scenario that I do, Thomas Was Alone will always have a special place in my heart. So if you have not done so in the course of this article, do yourself a favor and buy Thomas Was Alone.