Video Game: Thomas Was Alone
"It is fitting that the first act of sentient AI was an act of selflessness." Thomas Was Alone
is a puzzle platforming game for the PC by Mike Bithell about getting coloured blocks to walk into doors. Also, heartwarming friendship, and the awakening of AI, narrated by Danny Wallace.Thomas Was Alone
is a story about a group of Artificial Intelligences
who meet up in their respective test instances thanks to an error in the coding of how each chamber is generated. It starts with Thomas finding himself alone, but after traversing through the first couple test instances (see: Tutorial) he finds himself in an instance with Chris, who doesn't much care for Thomas, or his ability to jump much higher than he can
. This goes on, showcasing each new character and their special ability in the world until we have our band of seven: Thomas
the Friendly, John
the Proud, Claire
the Helpful, James
the Self Conscious, Sarah
the Adventurer, and Chris
Additional content to the game, entitled Benjamin's Flight
, tells a story that takes place prior to Thomas's adventure. Inspired by the picnics taken with his father, the young Benjamin steals his dad's new jet pack and sets off to reach the Fountain, joined by the moody Anna and familiar face... purple rectangle Sarah.
Oh, and also...it looks like these guys are going to become costumes in LittleBigPlanet 3
The main game provides examples of:
- Adam and Eve Plot: At the end of the game, Sam and Jo are the two AIs who manage to escape the system into the real world, and apparently become parents to a new AI race. See The Singularity below.
- Advancing Wall of Doom: Several, mainly in the form of rising water. At one point you get them twice in succession, one from the left, and another from below.
- A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Most of the AI rectangles are very sweet, but Chris is a little abrasive, Sarah and John suffer from superiority complexes and Grey is downright evil. The Pixel Clouds are also shown to be intelligent, and are treated as Eldritch Abomination Hero Killer monsters.
- And Now for Someone Completely Different: Several times when a new character is introduced. Most obvious is the start of 'Generation' when Thomas and the gang are replaced as Player Characters by Paul, Sam and Jo, Team Jump and Grey; this section is very different in both gameplay and tone from the rest of the game and seems to have been the internal design for a sequel that was scrapped. This is lampshaded when 'Generation' is reached as the achievement for that section is "Electric Boogaloo"
- Anthropomorphic Personification: Rectangles with personalities.
- Arc Words: Up...And to the right.
- Benevolent A.I.: Thomas is certainly a friendly and curious little fellow, and most of the others, while a bit eccentric, are pleasant enough. Heavily implied to be the result when Sam and Jo ascend at the end to create a new race of artificial intelligences.
- Benevolent Architecture: Early on, Thomas notes that the world seems to be designed to push his abilities, not actually stop him.
- Big Bad: The Pixel Cloud for most of the game. In the final two scenarios, Grey the Liar takes this role, with the final Pixel Cloud serving as Bigger Bad.
- Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: The characters and, after Design is completed, the zones which give the grey rectangles powers.
- Cool Old Lady: Sarah, the fearless adventurer of the group, is said to have a "wizened old head" despite being a little purple rectangle.
- Cool Old Guy: Paul, the grey rectangle in the final chapters.
- Curious as a Monkey: Thomas likes to observe how things work. He's nearly bowled over when he connects to the Internet.
- Despair Event Horizon: John appears to cross this during Purge, when all his friends are eaten by the pixel cloud.
Narrator: For the first time in a while, John didn't have an audience. He was alone. Leaping from black square to black square didn't seem nearly as exciting now. It just seemed empty....John gulped. He knew he'd never escape. He knew it was waiting for him. He decided to jump the massive scary gaps, just for old time's sake.
- Disney Death: Anyone eaten by a pixel cloud is fine, just sent to storage.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: James' narration could be taken as a parallel to that of a young man struggling with his sexuality. He describes himself as "weird", "different" and "inverted" (the term "invert" used to refer to a gay man, though in this case it simply means that gravity affects him in the opposite way to his teammates) and he is worried that, although Thomas accepts him for who he is, the others won't be quite so understanding.
- Laura is tentative about forming a relationship with Chris because everyone else she allowed to bounce on top of her used her and then abandoned her. In her case, "bounce" is perfectly innocent - she's a springboard - but still. For bonus points, the level in question requires Chris to bounce on Laura while the player nudges both of them forward along the path, then adds a low ceiling causing Chris to bounce even faster...
- Eldritch Abomination: The Pixel Cloud.
- Five-Man Band
- Grimy Water: Which dissolves anything that sinks in it. Thankfully, Claire can function as a boat.
Narrator: Something about the boiling, toxic, glowing water intimidated Thomas.
- The Hero Dies: The protagonist of the story, Thomas, dies about halfway through the game. See Heroic Sacrifice below.
- Heroic Sacrifice:
- Thomas and rest of the original crew disperse themselves into the datastream in order to awaken all the other AIs.
- Paul leads the villainous Grey to the final Pixel Cloud, trapping them both forever.
- Hive Mind: Team Jump are five identical squares that speak and think in unison.
- Jumped at the Call: Claire, on discovering that she has Super Not-Drowning Skills, instantly concludes that she's a superhero and ponders getting a cape. John also engages in heroic behavior, but mostly because he likes the ego boost.
- Level Goal
- Meaningful Name: The final scenario is named "X+1, Y+1". In the Cartesian coordinate system, also known as an XY graph, this is plotted out as a shift one unit right, and one unit up. Up and to the right.
- Minimalism: All of the player characters are simple flat blocks, distinguishable only by their differing sizes and colours. The gameplay itself is platforming at its most bare-bones.
- My God, What Have I Done?: The programmers and staff who are quoted from time to time. When Thomas and co. dissolve themselves into the data stream, they lock up the company and walk away, having no idea what's going to happen next. It's also played with too; some discuss the events clinically and historically while one grumbles that if they had done things properly, he wouldn't be out of a job.
- Perspective Flip: 9.9 opens with the narrator describing the thoughts of the last pixel cloud rather than one of the AIs
Narrator: The pixel cloud had been separated from its allies for some time. She had not heard the order to retreat. She was shocked by the appearance of the four aberrations below.
- Player Character: The game often switches between them. In total: Thomas, Chris, John, Claire, Laura, James, Sarah, Jo, Sam, Paul, Grey and Team Jump.
- Powers as Programs: The zones in Generation and Y+1,X+1 that give the grey rectangles powers.
- The Power of Friendship: One of the main themes.
- Shout-Out: Namely to Internet memes, with 'cats who can't spell' but also to Portal and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.
- The Singularity: From the blurbs written at the beginning of the chapters, the narrative can be gleaned that Thomas and Co. gave the other AIs in their system the chance to escape it and awaken in the real world. In fact, one of the narrations is from an AI who's a rights activist and cites Thomas's sacrifice as the beginning of their existence.
- Spikes of Doom
- Super Not-Drowning Skills: Claire.
- Temporary Platform: Of the crumbling variety, but only in one early level.
- The Load: Chris is slow, short and has a pitiful jump. His most useful role is as a stepping stone for Laura, and even then he's not the only one. He is aware of these shortcomings.
- Title Drop: The first line of the narration.
- Twenty Minutes into the Future: There are a number of jokes revolving around soon-to-expire (or in some cases, already expired) internet memes that are unlikely to carry forward to new generations.
- Video Game Caring Potential: The ability of the game to humanize a bunch of rectangles is what the game is most praised for.
- Villain Protagonist: Grey is one of the playable characters.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Team Jump. Unlike all the other characters, their fate is left unknown. It's likely they found a way out of their own though.
The DLC Benjamin's Flight provides examples of:
- Cassandra Truth: Anna tries to warn Benjamin of what will happen when he get's close to the fountain, namely the creation of the Pixel Clouds and Benjamin getting blinded only for him to ignore her.
- Downer Ending: Benjamin is left blinded, and will likely not return home any time soon. Also, the Pixel Clouds are now unleashed upon the world.
- Foregone Conclusion: As it takes place prior to Thomas's adventure, we know that Sarah's quest to reach the Fountain will end in vain.
- Futureshadowing: The last room that Sarah winds up in is the same room where she meets Thomas and James for the first time.
- Icarus Allusion: Benjamin takes his father's invention, flies too close to the light of the Fountain, and is blinded by the Internet.
- Jet Pack: Benjamin's gimmick, after obtaining it from his father.
- Kid Hero: Benjamin.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Anna gives up on Benjamin shortly after Sarah joins the party.
- Trademark Favorite Food: Benjamin and sandwiches, which he ate with his father at picnics.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: The fates of Benjamin's father after Benjamin leaves him, and of Anna after she leaves Benjamin and Sarah, are left unknown. Additionally, as Benjamin is not mentioned in the main story, his own fate is ultimately unknown.