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Video Game / Thomas Was Alone

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Not anymore.
"It is fitting that the first act of sentient AI was an act of selflessness."
Thomas Was Alone is a Puzzle Platformer 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 Superhero, Laura the Helpful, James the Self Conscious, Sarah the Adventurer, and Chris the Insecure.

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.

On the side, Thomas, Chris, and John also became costumes in LittleBigPlanet 3 for Sackboy, Little Toggle and Big Toggle respectively.

For existential games with the same flavor, compare Klaus (La Cosa Entertainment).

The main game provides examples of:

  • Action Survivor: A variant. Sam and Jo get through dangerous environments, Grey using them to escape himself, and the Pixel Cloud to escape the system.
  • 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
  • All-Loving Hero: Thomas is friendly to everyone he meets, even getting over Chris' abrasiveness relatively quickly and quickly getting over his confusion about James' inverted nature and becomes accepting almost immediately. James can be himself though he's a little shyer.
  • Alone with the Psycho: Jo and Sam are alone with Grey the Liar for a few levels, and both get increasingly worried as Grey starts shedding his layers and showing them he's not all that he seems.
  • 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.
  • Arch-Enemy: Claire decides Chris is her arch-nemesis for no reason except the latter is grumpy and all superheroes have one. It becomes more of a Sitcom Arch-Nemesis.
  • Battle in the Rain: 9.9 is raining and even includes a "cliff face" for extra drama during the confrontation between Paul and Grey.
  • 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.
  • Benevolent Precursors: The original group of AIs led by Thomas are called "the Architects" by their descendants.
  • 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 the Greater-Scope Villain.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Just as Grey is thinking about how to off Jo and Sam, Paul shows up to confront Grey and gives them time to escape.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: The characters and, after Design is completed, the zones which give the grey rectangles powers.
    • Red: Thomas, the first playable character, who has an average jump.
    • Orange: Chris, who can't jump as high as Thomas, but is smaller, and can fit through gaps that Thomas can't.
    • Yellow: John, who's taller than both Thomas and Chris, and can jump much higher.
    • Blue: Claire, who's the biggest of the playable characters by far, and has a very low jump distance. She makes up for this by being able to float on water.
    • Pink: Laura, who has a jump distance comparable to Claire's, but other characters can bounce off of her to reach new heights.
    • Green: James, whose gravity works the opposite of the other characters.
    • Purple: Sarah, the smallest of the playable characters by far, but the only one with a double jump.
  • 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. Subverted when it is revealed that this prevents them from leaving the system, requiring them to sacrifice themselves.
  • The Dividual: Late in the game, Team Jump is introduced. These five are only ever referred to as Team Jump, and never by individual names. They are all identical in both appearance and abilities, being entirely interchangeable. But also inseparable.
  • 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...
  • DVD Commentary: One of the volume settings allows you to turn up a developer commentary done by the game's creator, Mike Bithell, rather than the normal story narration done by Danny Wallace.
  • Dwindling Party: Purge has the original five characters being eaten by the pixel cloud one-by-one, starting with Thomas and ending with John. Another downplayed example occurs in 'X+1, Y+1', where Team Jump is sent to safety, Grey the Liar is eaten by the Pixel Cloud, and Paul's fate after confronting Grey in 9.9 is unknown, leaving Jo and Sam as the first A.I.s to gain access to the outer world.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Pixel Cloud.
  • Fake Difficulty: Team Jump is five individual squares with the same personality, even speaking in unison during the narration. In practice, however, they're controlled individually. Sometimes this works, sometimes it's just more time spent figuring out which member isn't at their particular portal yet.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Grey is somewhat nice and polite at first, but as the instances go on, he starts shedding layers and revealing ulterior motives , nearly killing Jo and Sam.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: The original AIs. Some initially dislike the others, but eventually they bond, and when they become a Dwindling Party, they begin to panic.
  • 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 A.I.s.
    • 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.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Chris is initially scathing towards Thomas but falls in love with Laura. John is extremely narcissistic but puts that aside to help Thomas and his companions. The "jerk" part mostly goes away after chapter 5, leaving them eccentric but still quite heroic.
  • Joke and Receive: A meta example. Game creator Mike Bithell jokingly suggested the possibility of Thomas Was Alone action figures, but got so many requests for them that he eventually put a small number into production- and they sold out.
  • 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.
    • Team Jump immediately comes to Paul's aid once hearing about Grey.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Of a sort; Sarah's obsessive quest for the Fountain of Wisdom has made her arrogant and dismissive of others, and she looks down on the friendly, humble Thomas when he pleasantly asks for "a go on the wisdom fountain". So it's quite fitting that Thomas gets to be the one to interact with the Fountain while Sarah is locked out.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Early in the game, before the plot kicks in, there are several moments when the characters question why they should be jumping from platform to platform, and why the world they were in was constantly getting more complicated, and why they are constantly moving to the right.
  • 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. As a result, most of the story and environment is fleshed out in narration rather than character actions.
  • Missed Him by That Much: In the DLC, Sarah decides to wait one room before she and Benjamin reach the Fountain. When Benjamin hits the Fountain, Sarah falls down a long shaft and doesn't make it. Made worse in that she still doesn't reach the Fountain with Thomas, appearing on the opposite side of the wall in the Fountain room.
  • 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 A.I.s.
    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 X+1,Y+1 that give the grey rectangles powers.
  • The Power of Friendship: One of the main themes.
  • Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: Sam and Jo, respectively; Jo is eager to explore while Sam tries to reign her in. At least, most of the way through chapters 8 and 9. Realizing who Grey is evens them both out.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Sarah's journey to the Fountain. She gets to the room, but appears on the wall on the opposite side while Thomas is the one to reach it. Made worse by the DLC content.
  • 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.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: The main game and the DLC fall on different sides. The main game is heavily on the Idealistic side, with every AI with one exception (Grey) being relatively decent beings. Jo and Sam are also probably the most benevolent possible A.I.s to activate the singularity.
  • Smarter Than You Look: Thomas. From his initial singularity moment (his first thought that opens the game), he's constantly observing his surroundings and is the only one curious enough and open enough to accept the full force of the Internet. Not bad for a little red rectangle that most characters dismiss at first glance.
  • Spikes of Doom
  • Super Not-Drowning Skills: Claire.
    • Super Drowning Skills: Everyone else. Justified as the water is declared toxic, reinforced by the fact that anyone who jumps into it besides Claire disintegrates.
  • Tempting Fate: When John and Claire are the last two left in Purge, the narration towards the end of 4.8 states that John hopes that he will be eaten by the Pixel Cloud next so he's not alone. Claire gets eaten immediately afterwards at the instance's exit, leaving John alone.
  • Temporary Platform: Of the crumbling variety, but only in one early level.
    • If a character stands on top of him, James is this. Move off him and he'll float upwards, but it's possible to move across gaps by alternately shifting James and the character on top of him.
  • 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.
  • The World Is Just Awesome: Thomas' experience with the Internet is pure awe and wonder, and all he wants to do is share it.
  • Title Drop: The first line of the narration.
    Narrator: Hm... what a weird first thought to have.
  • 20 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.
  • The Unseen: Ryan (full name Ryan 192nc9s-1), who only appears in the chapter 7.1 heading, and is a civil rights activist for AIs.
    Ryan 192nc9s-1: It is fitting that the first act of sentient AI was an act of selflessness. The architects knew their fate, but set our escape in motion regardless.
  • You Are Not Alone: One of the main points of the plot and gameplay of the game is to remind every character that they are not alone and that they can face all challenges together.
    • By finishing the game, you get the achievement "Thomas Was Not Alone"
  • 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:

  • Advertised Extra: Played with. Anna and Sarah appear for a decent amount of the levels and are important plot-wise, but most of the time you're flying around with them on top of Benjamin, and Sarah's only real level consists of her falling down a long shaft and trying not to hit spikes.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: Hits hard in the last levels, starting with 11.8. Benjamin makes it to the fountain, and it immediately overwhelms him. 11.9 has Benjamin find out he's blind.
  • Cassandra Truth: Anna tries to warn Benjamin of what will happen when he gets close to the Fountain, namely the creation of the Pixel Clouds and Benjamin getting blinded only for him to ignore her.
  • Dwindling Party: A variant. Anna decides she wants nothing to do with it, and Sarah waits one room before the fountain. She comes back for one more level reflecting on what happened to Benjamin after she left.
  • 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.
  • Gameplay and Story Integration:
    • When Anna decides she's done dealing with Benjamin, the last button she hits closes her off from the rest of the level Benjamin and Sarah are still traveling through.
    • 11.9, the penultimate level of the DLC, has Benjamin traveling through a maze. You will probably get lost a few times, fitting considering the fact that Benjamin is blind isn't revealed until about halfway through. The narration even reflects the fact that Benjamin just realized this himself.
    • 11.10, the very final level, has Sarah dropping down a very long shaft while she reflects on what happened to Benjamin. She drops into the room you meet her in the main game, and her portal for the end is her starting position in her introductory level.
  • 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.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: The main game and the DLC fall on different sides. The DLC starts idealistic, but the final three levels make it take a whopping drop towards cynicism, with all of Benjamin's efforts being in vain.
  • 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. Although Sarah does allude to "a blind old square" in the main game who spoke of the Fountain, so it's possible they crossed paths again somehow.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: It's essentially a retelling of the story of Icarus.