Most Intriguing Idea: Introducing powers as characters
Best Design Decision: Giving characters one purpose or power at a time.
Worst Design Decision: Over-reliance on narration.
I heard many good things about Thomas Was Alone last year but I didn’t get around to playing it until recently. It’s a minimalist platformer that tends more towards puzzles than reflex play, which is just as well since I felt the controls weren’t quite as crisp as I would like. The game starts off with a single rectangular character, the titular Thomas, and slowly adds new characters with different jumping and environmental characteristics. One can float in water safely, for instance, and another falls up and jumps down. Some well-written and excellently-performed narration does most of the work of introducing the characters, although Thomas has some nice moments of expressive play. When Chris first bounces off of Laura, for instance, there’s a great feeling of freedom that belongs to both the character and the player. The long first part also does an excellent job of connecting an ability to a name, so that in the second part I was thinking “Oh, now I have Sarah’s power” instead of “Oh, now I can double-jump.”
The unfortunate downside of the narration is that towards the end of the game, it has to do too much work in not enough time to introduce the new characters. As a result the story in this part didn’t feel as immediate or interesting to me, and the final success was less moving than it perhaps could have been. As the array of powers enables some of the best levels in the game, I would have been happy for Thomas to take more time here and set itself up for a really strong ending. Nonetheless, I found the game delightful and would recommend it to almost anyone.