Oneshot

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Oneshot
PC
Developed by Little Cat Feet
Released in 2014

I am going to be totally honest with all of you here and admit that Stian saved my butt today. I have complained in the past that indie months are a hell to schedule and this 31-games extravaganza has been keeping me busy since october. Time has been tight and I was seriously sweating it when the game originally planned for today, This Starry Midnight We Make, ended up not being a game I can review, for reasons I’ll clarify in some later post. Within hours of this realization an email landed in my box, informing me that Stian had gifted me OneShot, a game I had my eyes on for a while, but hadn’t considered including in this month before. Way to go Stian!

Repent! The end is nigh…

Niko is a little dude with cat-like eyes and a cat-like hat who, one day, suddenly awakes in a bed that is not his own. Actually, not just the bed, but the entire world around him is different from the place he calls home. For one reason or another, he has been teleported to this new realm, and after a little exploring he finds a lightbulb that begins to emit light the moment he picks it up. As it turns out, the world Niko finds himself in is dying, its sun has perished, and Niko is now carrying the new one, making him the Messiah destined to save everybody. And the God of this world? That just so happens to be you, <player_name>!

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As an NPC early on reveals to you, the prophecy foretells that Niko must journey to the massive tower that can be seen the moment he steps outside into the first area. To do so he must traverse several zones, interact with its people to progress, and solve puzzles to clear up obstacles that impede his progress. And there are actually so many different aspects to this setup I enjoy that I am struggling to figure out where to start.

Niko, for example, I found to be an absolutely enjoyable hero, if you want to call him that. Comparing story-driven indie games to Earthbound might be a tad cliché nowadays, but he really did give me the kind of experience I felt the first time guiding Ness through his bizarre adventure. He is a little kid forced to save a world, tasked with making decisions he is too young to be confronted with, and gets to experience both joy and sadness as he goes along. Like Ness and cohorts, you really build up a bond with Niko personally. Being the Messiah, he is able to speak directly with you and will often do so to ask advice or just because he needs somebody to talk to about how he feels. I have played many roleplaying games and experienced many titles lauded for their storytelling, but never have I had as much fun with a dialogue tree as when Niko and I were comparing our homelands to each other in a casual chat. It’s adorable and pulled off wonderfully.

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The world itself is also fascinating. I wasn’t exactly hyped about saving it when I first wandered into a barren wasteland with discarded robots, but as you meet named characters and find little snippets of backstory, a lot of it begins to click together in neat ways. Like with Niko, I felt many of the interactions with the characters were really imaginative and endearing, which is helped along by the beautiful designs of these characters. I don’t really want to spoil these moments, however, as they are powerful gestures and interesting twists that only make sense in context.

Another part I won’t spoil is the ending, but I will say the game does a great job hyping you up for the moment and presents you with a choice that isn’t exactly original as far as games go, but is given a proper amount of weight due to the adventure that precedes it. You see, the game is rather bleak, and while Niko is summoned for the sole purpose of saving the world, many argue it’s beyond saving, even if you return the sun. A lot of characters paint a bleak future for the world either way, while others are hopeful, which makes the big choice you are expected to make at the end one filled with uncertainty. Unlike a game such as Bastion where my choice was instant, I actually found myself switching back and forth on this one, pondering on what was best for the world, for Niko, and myself.

Story score: 10/10

Spreading the light

Originally released as a free-to-play RPG Maker game, I ended up playing the commercial release on Steam that apparently comes with many upgrades. The game is mostly about solving simplistic puzzles by using and combining items founds across the map or given to you in exchange for helping characters. Pretty much every new area has a major problem to resolve, so you start wandering around, gobble up all the items the game will let you take, and then figure out how to move forward. For example, one zone has an elevator with a broken button, so you start figuring out a way to improvise one. It’s really more about finding the thread from which you can start unraveling, as the actual puzzles are quite logical and don’t take too much effort to figure out.

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The interface for doing this is really convenient, you can just click two items in the inventory and Niko will stick them together somehow if he can. Clicking an item just once will make that the active item, allowing you to use it on anything or anyone in the environment. It controls easily and one other feature I enjoyed is that OneShot has a rather generous fast-travel that allows you to instantly move between important places in the current zone. You see, the maps are a little too large for my liking, especially the wasteland that serves as the first real area. You see very little around you and zones tend to be large compared to Niko’s movement speed, which makes getting around a tad annoying until you realize how to optimally use this fast-travel.

While many puzzles are just about using items, the game does sometimes surprise you by requiring literal out-of-the-box thinking. Since you are the God of its world, sometimes the game expects you to find the answers to puzzles in your own reality rather than the in-game one. Puzzles will break the fourth wall, manipulating innocent things on your computer or requiring you to mess with the game in fun ways to find answers. These were always a highlight for me, with the last puzzle segment of the game being particularly interesting to solve.

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And that is pretty much it, it’s a fun puzzle game largely driven by the dialogue with its fun characters. While in the free release the selling point (and namesake of the game) was that you could only play it once, with the game becoming unplayable after completing it or closing the game window, this trait has been removed in the paid version. The game still acknowledges and alters the game if you replay it, but you no longer literally have one shot at trying to beat the game. Some might say that is pretty lame, as it removed a unique, central concept from the game, but with all the extra content added to it padding out its length, it would be a bit too unreasonable to force people to play it all in one sitting.

Gameplay score: 8/10

Niko is not a cat

I have played and made quite a few RPG Maker games and I have to say that, visually, OneShot really sets itself apart from the crowd. Especially in the Steam release the game looks gorgeous with every sprite being hand-made in a lot of detail. It presents a world that is falling apart, but there is definitely beauty to be found in the deterioration. I am not the greatest fan of the first area for example, which is a barren wasteland, but even there you got ponds with sparkling water. From there the only way is up, with the city stage in particular being really sweet to wander around in, thanks to the purple light emitted from the streetlamps.

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The character art is also phenomenal, I absolutely loved how relevant characters looked. Niko is of course adorable and a touch I liked is how his bright eyes remain visible while the screen fades out for transitions. The game is full of details like this, such as footstep noises changing depending on what you walk on. Another character design I really enjoyed was Alula, one of the bird people from the forest zone. I really enjoyed the design for her people overall, but Alula is just adorable thanks to her large eyes that peer out from the shadow of her cap and her joyous expressions. The world might be falling apart, but it was great to see that at least the kids are still having a fun time.

The music I also found nice and fitting, with most tracks being calm and having a melancholic vibe to them. Some tracks are played on acoustic guitars, others are piano pieces, there is a lot of variety. Still, I was most fond of “A God’s Machine”, a dark and industrial-sounding track that really sets the mood. The nicest addition to this game by far are the full-screen drawings that often serve to show the game’s most important events in the most detail. These also frequently appear during Niko’s dreams, as he often asks if he can take a nap before proceeding to the next zone.

Presentation score: 9.5/10

Verdict

Despite the game now allowing you to play it more than just once, I still found that OneShot was a fantastic and unique game. The story and characters were fantastic, I was so invested in Niko’s adventure that I had to prevent myself from skipping a night of sleep to finish the game in one sitting. At the same time the puzzles you are asked to solve aren’t half bad, especially the puzzles that toy with the fourth wall are an absolute delight to figure out. If you are looking for a story-driven game and the art-style appeals to you, then this is definitely a game you are going to want to play.

92/100

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