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There’s a definition tucked away in a video game dictionary somewhere that defines game worlds. That definition is overlooked because it’s an indie title developed by one man with a mission to bring so many workable elements into a puzzle platformer that it makes some blockbuster titles beg for that same gripping immersion. The definition lies beneath the words, “accessible, rich, engaging, unforgettable, and even ambitious.” That definition is Thomas Was Alone.
Thomas Was Alone is a beautifully designed game because everything about it is really playable to disabled gamers and non-disabled gamers alike, even one-handed gamers. All players will instantly enjoy the characters that are different quadrilaterals on a quest for greatness and discovery. They’ll watch as they jump along, backed by whimsical observations, empowering heroic thoughts, amiable love, and a chic sense of pride with a wild mesh of beliefs, emotions, and character narrated splendidly by Danny Wallace.
The game’s mechanics are very simple. Each level tasks you with getting your group of colored quadrilaterals to the portal that matches its shape. This is achieved by navigating a large array of mind warping puzzles, jumping from platform to platform as well as switching characters in order to get them where they should be. By jumping with X (On PS3) and switching characters with the shoulder buttons, the puzzles will soon be just as memorable as the story, even to disabled gamers, because emphasis is placed on brain function rather than limb function. This makes the game far more accessible to the physically disabled than most blockbuster titles.
The visuals are easy for the visually impaired to see, with all surfaces being a black outline and the character’s stark colors and shapes, making them very distinguishable visually alongside from their personalities. The game is subtitled, though deaf gamers may get annoyed because the subtitles are not static. They move with the character being controlled, and this could make it hard to read the subtitles. The text, however, can be placed onto any environmental background and that will help work around that factor.
Thomas Was Alone‘s memorable narration by Danny Wallace injects many different emotions, narrative fervor, and character depth into syllables and sentences crafted with obviously careful word choice. Players will meet Thomas, an average block that can do everything averagely with the added bonus of hilarious observation, and uncanny wisdom that sometimes annoys the rest of his friends. Chris, the block who struggles with identity and purpose more so than any other character because his weight inhibits his jumping, and who needs an endless supply of hugs to boost his tormented dormant spirit. Laura, a thin pink flat block that can bounce the others to new heights while dealing with the love in her heart for Chris. Claire, a blue superhero with the misleading power to float on water and have an extreme sense of resolution to aid. James, a green block that navigates the puzzles in a unique way where he sticks to the roof rather than the ground, wondering why differences are so differently viewed among the world with musings of hope and acceptance. Jon, a thin yellow stick that soars as high as his boisterous ego, and finally, Sarah, the double jumping mystical vat of weird declarations of intentions laced with power behind each thought. Each character has their own purpose and will need to be utilized, sometimes all at once in a puzzle that utilizes all of their abilities, sometimes with only one of the many wonderful personalities.
Disabled gamers won’t have a problem with the game at all because everything is very streamlined and plain, making for vast customization types, such as using the analog stick instead of the D pad to move characters. Even people who use one-handed controllers could play this game without assistance because the difficulty lies within tacking new challenges onto the brain and not the limbs with a variety of jumping puzzles. The most complicated aspect of the game is making staircases with the characters in order to progress certain characters, but those scenarios happen sporadically and don’t hinder gameplay for very long. The more it’s required the more comfortable and natural it is to do.
Thomas Was Alone gives an all-encompassing experience that’s nestled inside a marvelously crafted world of stories, friends, and jumping. Disabled and non-disabled alike will easily remember the dashing characters and elegant level designs nestled inside of a very solid framework that stands tall and strong amongst bigger titles. The numerous memorabilia sprinkled throughout this game definitely show how even the simplest of implementations can be crafted with vivid vision into something that’s both mind blowing, and inclusive for the disabled.
Accessibility Rating: 10/10
The author played this game on PlayStation 3. Is it also available on Steam, current gen consoles and mobile devices.