Together Alone is not an oxymoron. It is an innovative puzzle game created for Ludum Dare #22 by Jan Niestadt and Gijs Rosengarten of Qwok Games. The theme of the competition was "alone", and rather than retell this sweet little love story—which would be a moot endeavor, anyway, as individual perspectives do color its meaning—let's just say it's about Peter and Alice, two strangers passing through time, pondering loneliness and seeking togetherness.
Game wise, the objective is to eliminate all the tiles from the board by navigating the two principle characters along their paths: blue for Alice, tan for Peter. Navigate using arrows and/or clicking on the space you want to move to. As you pass over a color-coordinated square, it disappears, barring further passage, in most instances at least. If this was the sole gameplay, you'd question how Together Alone won an award for innovation, but it's not. The lovelorn duo continually gain new abilities, inspired by their circumstances and feelings, adding new dimensions and means to move on. This diversity on gameplay not only keeps it fresh and fun, it makes the narrative truly interesting and enjoyable rather than just words bridging across levels. Yes, people do like a little story with their game.
A more critical analysis could point out Together Alone's deficiencies. To be sure, most casual gamers have a wish list of features that would add complexity to the gameplay. Yet, as uncomplicated as it is, as bereft of bells and whistles the game may be, any additional elements would only diminish the story's prominence. It's the story, along with beautiful graphics and solid controls, that elevates Together Alone from a rudimentary, simple diversion to a thoughtful, insight-filled creation. Besides, the most important parts are already included: it's mechanically sound, aesthetically pleasing and, overall, it's entertaining. The difficulty progression is on a very gentle slope, with no huge bumps in challenge, making it perfect for those who love to relax while unraveling a spatial riddle. At times you'll be stumped yet, with a little time thinking it through, you can find your way forward.
So, do Peter and Alice end up together? Or are they forever alone, love passing by just out of reach? There's only one way to find out . . .