In Thomas Was Alone, Sound Design Is Everything

Thomas Was Alone

Back when it was brand new, I played the prototype Flash version of Thomas Was Alone. It wasn’t all that memorable, actually. In fact, it was so unmemorable that when I finally picked up the full retail release, I didn’t even remember that I had played the original until I was on Chapter 2.

Now, I don’t want to give the impression that it was a bad game, because that’s not the case at all. The original concept, a bunch of shapes that help each other through a series of puzzle-platformer mazes, was interesting enough. But it had no real audio, as far as I can remember.

Upon finishing the full version of the game, there are two things that stood out to me: the ambient background music and the narration. These two elements elevate what was once merely a sort of interesting idea into something that feels genuinely artistic and emotional. I actually felt as if each of the game’s “characters” had its own personality, and I was starting to form opinions about each one.

Thomas made me sad. Claire made me laugh with her delusions of grandeur. Christopher’s cynicism was somehow endearing, especially once he started falling for Claire. But here’s the thing: These characters are nothing more than colored rectangular objects. Still, they felt like actual characters to me.

I didn’t have the same reaction to the Flash prototype. Some might argue that I would have had an experience that was at least comparable had there been some text prompts in the game, but I honestly don’t think that’s the case. The music is so engaging and the narrator’s delivery is so dynamic and precise that these audio elements work in perfect harmony to completely sell the game’s concept. I think they more than succeed at that.

Thomas Was Alone serves as an example of how sound design can elevate a simple puzzle game into a true work of art, and I love it for that.

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