Review | OneShot

A child wakes up in a dark, cold world, a long-dead sun sealed up within her possession. That child, Niko, has to restore the light to the land, and they must do it with the assistance of the world’s God, you.

OneShot is a surreal, open world, puzzle game that has been developed by Team OneShot and published by Degica. It puts the player into a abstracted, dark, eerie looking world that has now succumbed to the deepest darkness. Niko, a yellow cat-eyed, child sporting a hat that seems to cover matching cat ears, is ready to take on the task of restoring the sun after waking up in a dark, and strange, unfamilliar bedroom. After venturing outside and wandering the dark, barren lands, Niko meets a robot that describes what has happened to the world, and that Niko is part of the prophecy that will restore the sun to the tower.

Oh, and also, the game takes your Steam username, whacks that into its coding, and Niko learns that you are the “God” of the world, and that only Niko can communicate with you through telepathic communications. Most of the time this feature is usually used to feed an important message back to you as a hint. Nice disguise. However, other times you end up having a good old chat with Niko, learning more about Niko’s world, and personality. It’s a nice cute element, and I really enjoy it. It gives it that charm.

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Some robots are “Tamed” and others are not. Tamed seem to be more emotional.

The other charm to the game is a very unique, and incredibly interesting, one…I think I’ll hold off mentioning anything right now until a bit later. Stay tuned.

The music for the game is enchanting, sending the occasional shiver trembling down your spine as you venture through the barren parts of the lands.

When it comes down to the gameplay, you walk around lands with various obstacles, easily overcome by simply walking around them. In the first area of three, the land hosts a lot of broken robots, or powered down robots, slowly collecting rust. Eventually you manage to power a fair amount of them back up, but they appear lost, unsure what they’re doing, following a pattern that doesn’t mean anything anymore. There are notes all over the land, and the more notes you read, the more of a back story that begins to unravel.

You learn the previous citizens stories, the history of the robots, instructions for various engineering work. A whole world that used to breathe life, now empty and bare, nothing to show but notes and robots echoing their old tasks without purpose; remaining loyal to no one.

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The map you get to see once at the start, but don’t get to carry around with you.

To progress in OneShot you have to solve puzzles. Puzzles are completed by simply finding tools, combining items, talking to people or robots, and reading notes for hints.

Now, while the puzzles are like your conventional puzzles, making you trek back and forth between landmarks and elements to collect certain items, and activate machines; there is sometimes a deeper, and more unique method of solving the puzzles. This is something that really confused me. Now, at the start, when you get the computer working,  your game glitches out. Windows error dialog boxes appear with messages aimed at you, using your name. It’s all part of the game and deliberately breaks that fourth wall and it does that incredibly well. It’s a shock when it suddenly happens, and it’s a delight because it’s so well implemented. The game starts to hijack your computer, literally. It begins telling you to go and find the answer to a puzzle piece that has been hidden somewhere in your Document files. Now, this is obviously all part of the game and all part of the installation process, so there’s no worry that the game is actually taking over your computers sensitive information, but the impression that it actually is doing just that is great. Because of this, the game ends up being a story of three people. Niko. The “World” (computer). You.

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Cutscenes are beautiful to watch, and still images that cross dissolve between other stills

Graphically it’s great, clearly inspired by those 32 Bit games of old – at least during the actual game play it does, but during moments of cutscenes the quality increases, while still maintaining a pixel art theme.

The shading is rather dark, which is to be expected considering the sun is dead. As you move around, whatever is within your frame can be seen rather clearly, but the edges of the 4:3 ratio screen begin to fade out into a black vignette. Sprites and other elements within the world sparkle, and look nice and fitting to whatever environment they are in, and elements that involve a glowing light are surrounded with a wonderfully looking and mesmerising glow.

The first land that you begin on, The Barrens is incredibly dull, monochromatic, and has areas of the map that have become victim to poisonous gas leaks. It’s mostly a blue and grey theme throughout this area. The second area, The Glen introduces you to more colour, some dull greens and browns, and some more life, bringing a nice population of people inhabiting the area. Farmers, traders, children wandering the land. When you eventually get to the city, or The Refuge the hue turns red, the scaffolding you walk amongst suspended miles above the city surface. Each area is spilt up into sections, and each time you pass through the borders of each section the world, except the sun, and your eyes, darken to blackness, then while the area loads it fades back.

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The city looks so pretty

There are several controls that are in a sense kind of confusing when playing with a keyboard. While the general controls can be used in an arcade inspired layout, meaning the use of arrow keys to walk, and Z and X keys to interact, S key to open the inventory, the space bar also does interaction in the same way the Z key does it, and to begin with it can grow fairly confusing. There is also the option to play with an Xbox controller, which does appear more user friendly in all honesty. I’d probably opt for this control scheme. Having said that I’m.surprised there isn’t an auto run function considering the sheer size of the areas and how long it can take to run back and forth between tasks. The fast travel option works, but only when outside, which can be quite irritating when in ruins or in a string of hallways.

The music for the game is enchanting, sending the occasional shiver trembling down your spine as you venture through the barren parts of the lands. Every button you press in regards to menu elements, and selection choices will result in a beautiful, ethereal ringing out sound. The only gripe I had with the audio was how when you enter a new area, the audio abruptly changes, there’s no gentle cross fade between areas. It kind of spoils the moment.

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Fast travelling works, but only to an extent.

The menus are incredibly simple, while not having a main menu with, save game, and all of the usual things, you just have fast travel, notes, and settings. Settings didn’t even work for me, so that element was void. Notes wasn’t what I was expecting; I was expecting some type of area where you could recall what you’ve got to do, or some facts. Instead of that though, it just tells you the controls and how to play. Sure, a how to play section is useful, but not implementing a notes system seems a bit odd. Especially when you are to return to the game but can’t remember what you were doing. The menus stand out with their vibrancy and look very minimal. The inventory area is nice and simple to keep a track on what you’ve picked up and never gets clogged up with pointless items, everything has a purpose.

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The computer breaks the forth wall the most.

There were a few issues I had with OneShot, but this could have been the game I had and any bugs would hopefully be fixed in the final release.

When inside, there are doorways that are at the other end of a corridor, the thing is though, they don’t look like doors. At all. The doorway is literally the same design as a wall. It’s a little bit confusing, and unless you actually run into it there’s no indication that it’s there. I found myself thinking doorways were just walls and as a result, turned around and ran around in circles for a while. Sometimes, but not always, the game menus overlayed and interrupted other tasks I was trying to perform in certain menu elements. This seemed to only happen during the first part of the world however. There’s a moment in which the game changes the background of your desktop wallpaper to the clue you need to open a doorway, the dialog box indicates that this is only temporary…it wasn’t. Even now I have the desktop wallpaper the same as what the game changed it too.

The game starts to hijack your computer, literally. It begins telling you to go and find the answer to a puzzle piece that has been hidden somewhere

There was one particularly bad bug I came across and is the game breaker for me. This bug prevented me from completing the game once I reached the city. Basically, you’re given something by the computer, and it requires you to drag it around a certain area on your computer to reveal the answer. The thing is, when the game is windowed (and for this part it has to be windowed) any dragging of the window will crash the game and progress is unsaved. Very frustrating, but something I’m sure will certainly be fixed in an update or hopefully in the launch version of the game.

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There are people in The Glen, and they all know you’re there to save them

On the note about saving, the game doesn’t have save points…well…it does. There are two weird ways to save. The first is to set the game to windowed mode by hitting F8, then clicking the close button in the taskbar. A dialog will confirm if you wish to record your progress. Then when you return, Niko will ask what happened and where you went.

The other option is to find a bed with an emblem on the covers. Find that, send Niko to sleep, and the game will shut down. When you launch it up again you’ll see a dream sequence before having a conversation with Niko about the said sequence.

I really, really like OneShot. The art style is brilliant, and the music is captivating. The story and puzzles are really engaging, and I enjoyed solving them because they weren’t overly hard, nor were they entirely easy. I found myself physically writing notes to remind myself of codes, and events. Something I find myself doing only in puzzle games that really grasp my attention. OneShot makes the game incredibly personal, and I love it. I love how this is a game about puzzles, uncovering a history of a world, and not about avoiding death, or threats. It’s lovely, charming, holds a special relationship between you and the character, and certainly a game to really check out for a new experience in puzzle solving.

[UPDATE: Since the game has been released, some of the issues have been fixed, including the dragging of the windowed game]

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