Mike Bithell's classic indie puzzle platformer Thomas Was Alone has been released on the iPad today. The game, ported by Surgeon Simulator developer Bossa Studios, features 100 levels, a new on-screen control system designed for iOS, and the same narration by Danny Wallace for which the British filmmaker and actor won a BAFTA Games Award in 2013.
Thomas Was Alone is one of the best games I've played this year. I bought the PS Vita version a few months ago, and I've been constantly impressed by Bithell's tasteful level design and focus on collaboration between characters to get through stages. In Thomas Was Alone, you control a group of AIs who have become sentient and want to escape the computer mainframe they're trapped into; the AIs (Thomas and his friends) are rectangles, and each one of them has a special ability, whether it's higher jump or the ability to float on water. To complete stages, you'll have to think in terms of collaboration rather than individualities: there are platforms that can be reached only if one character helps another jump onto it, while water-based sections require the AIs to proceed on top of the one that can swim. The way AIs, game mechanics, and narrations are intertwined makes for a classy, precise, and elegant game that always requires you to think of platforms as puzzles that can be solved by collaborating instead of running towards the end of a level. I love Thomas Was Alone and I can't wait for Bithell's next game.
“On either side of the screen, we have these color balls that you put your thumb on in order to select which character you want to use,” he said. “It's a really intuitive, easy thing that you can basically play the entire game without moving your hands.
"That was the thing. It's on iPad. If you're holding the iPad, I don't want you to ever have to move your hands from flanking either side of the iPad in your hands. I don't want you to have to put the weight of the iPad in one hand and then use your finger for something else. It's all played in that kind of default gamer position of the two thumbs, ready to do stuff on the screen.”