A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know Thomas Was Alone is puzzle/platformer that has players controlling little rectangles as they hop around small, two-dimensional environments. More than that, it employs a narrator to tell a story rich with humor and emotion and filled with basic but enduring lessons about friendship and human relationships. It does so innocuously, without resorting to sexual themes, graphic violence, or even harsh language. However, while this game has little that might be considered inappropriate for younger players, some parts of the story may be too abstract or emotionally complex for younger kids to fully grasp.
What's it about?
THOMAS WAS ALONE is a two-dimensional platformer/puzzler about relationships. Its stars -- a cast of rectangles of varying size, shape, and color -- each have their own qualities, such as tallness or shortness, the capacity to float on water or squeeze through narrow gaps. These qualities inform their personalities. The tall one is athletic, a bit conceited, and loves to perform for an audience, while the small, simple square is bitter about how unexceptional he is. However, as the game progresses it becomes evident that each rectangle has unique attributes that the others must rely on in order to bypass obstacles. This helps the group forge a bond of friendship and trust. They realize that by celebrating their diversity they can accomplish far more together than they could alone, and in doing so they come to protect and even make sacrifices for one another -- and others they don't even know.
Is it any good?
There aren't many modern games more rudimentary in design than Thomas Was Alone. Each level is simply a flat landscape of blocks and spikes and pools of water. Even the game's heroes are simple rectangles lacking hands, feet, mouths, or even eyes. And yet thanks to a brilliant script and an impassioned, award-winning narrator, these quadrilaterals somehow have souls. Their thoughts and motivations are simultaneously more complex and more believable than those of just about any blockbuster game around. And the relationships they forge with one another are deep and authentic. You'll come to care about these little quadrangles.
The puzzles they solve (with your help) are fun, too. Switching between them at will, you'll need to make them cooperate to help one another. That could mean climbing on one's back to float across a puddle or stacking them up to let another reach a higher area. The puzzling isn't quite as bold or original as the storytelling, but it fits the tale well, often acting as visual allegory for the emotions and problems the characters face in their friendships. You've likely never played another game like this, and you won't soon forget it.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about friendship. Who are your best friends? How did they come to be your best friends? What events transpired to make them people you could trust and rely upon when needed? What have you done in return to earn this kind of friendship?
Families can also discuss puzzle solving. What is it about puzzles that makes people want to solve them? Do you get frustrated easily and lose interest, or are you like a dog worrying about a rawhide bone, unable to let go until it's been unraveled?
- Platforms: Mac, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Windows
- Subjects: Language & Reading: storytelling
- Skills: Thinking & Reasoning: solving puzzles
Emotional Development: identifying emotions, moving beyond obstacles, persevering
Collaboration: cooperation, meeting challenges together, teamwork
- Price: $12.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Not available online
- Developer: Mike Bithell
- Release date: April 17, 2013
- Genre: Puzzle
- Topics: Friendship
- ESRB rating: E for Mild Fantasy Violence, Mild Language
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