Oneshot

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What’s this, Aether? Yet another RPG Maker-created indie adventurish game? And this one doesn’t even seem that spooky. You’ve been on a real kick with those, haven’t you, Aether?

Well, sort of. Thanks to my friend and yours, Red Metal, I had the chance to try this game out. I hadn’t heard of this game before. Knew absolutely nothing about it. Yet it ended up being the kind of thing that absolutely vibes with what I look for and enjoy about video games. This is an experience.

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In a sentence, Oneshot is a game with the art style of Cave Story set in an Undertale-esque world mired in the tone from Dark Souls’ Firelink Shrine as played through an RPG Maker puzzle adventure, with a fun and unique twist. And it all comes together, and it works, and it’s good. The game feels like something special, like a real labor of love.

So the big selling point behind Oneshot, the headlining factor that makes it stand out from the rest of the market, is that Oneshot is a game that does its best to make you believe it’s not really a game. You play as yourself, an incredibly sexy warbeast named Aether (or, you know, whoever you are, although I don’t know why you’d want to play as anyone else), who has discovered a piece of software on your computer that allows you to interact with and guide a single catperson, Niko, themselves a stranger in a dying world. You are revered as a deity in that world, much as I am in this one, while Niko turns out to be a sort of messiah, tasked with delivering a light bulb that illuminates whenever he touches it to a tower, where it will serve as the worlds new sun after the last one burned out a while ago.

This game will mess with your computer, and you’ll need to look outside the game itself to solve some of the challenges it presents you with. Puzzle solutions will wind up in your documents, on your desktop, in mysterious programs you don’t remember putting on your computer, etc. The game says in the beginning it’s best played in windowed mode, and that’s true, because sometimes you’ll need to play around with something on your computer or the game window itself to figure out something or other.

That’s the gimmick, and it’s used really creatively throughout, but rarely in a way that you’ll be lost without outside help. After you’ve got the logic of how the game works down, you can usually follow along pretty easily.

It’s not just that alone that comes into play, though, as far as the immersion factor goes. You’re constantly referred to, Niko will chat with you and you have your own dialogue options, and a few characters will bypass Niko and address you directly. If you’re into immersion, few can match this game.

Of course, all the immersion in the world doesn’t matter if the game itself isn’t good. And Oneshot is good. It’s the type of good that’s completely reliant on characterization and storytelling and a lot of things that are way more subjective than the already subjective gameplay-mechanics, so of course, your mileage may vary, but if you’re into the types of things I’ll be talking about here, you’ll probably find the game very solid as well.

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Characterization is really strong, here. Niko, the character you interact with this world through, is one of the few that’s around long enough to get any real depth to them, but he/she is quite interesting. A child, passed from a happy life into a world seeing its sunset years and tasked with being its one ray of hope, they often get overwhelmed, or don’t know how to handle the situations before them, but keep trucking on. They’re decidedly human, as well. They have very understandable desires and impulses, and though they are childlike and a catperson, they’re very relatable.

The other characters you come across are a little different. It’s clear from the outset that you and Niko are very different from the rest of them. And although you can easily find plenty of characters who go beyond the shallow level, you always get the feeling that there’s something a bit off about them. That they’re playing by a set of rules you can barely penetrate and have no hope of ever fully understanding. There’s a point to that. You and Niko both may be one of a billion in your world (unless you’re playing as me, in which case even then, you stand apart), but here, you are something completely unique. The plot takes it from there, but the ways all the characters interact with you keep hammering the point home.

There are puzzles in this game. Again, no real stumpers, even though they do require a lot of outside the box thinking. I think there was one I needed to consult a guide on, and a few I needed to get some mental distance on, take some time away and come back to, but most of the rest I just cruised through easily. It does occasionally work on cartoon physics, but when you get used to how they work, they’ll work pretty well. This would be a very individualized experience, but for me, they generally hit the sweet spot where it takes a bit of thought but not so much that you’re getting frustrated or wasting a lot of your precious gametime retracing steps over and over again.

The plot is one of the stronger parts of the game. It’s one of those good indie-style plots, not a lot of moving parts but what is there is well done and thought provoking. I love a story that lies to you, and Oneshot is playing off your expectations from the moment it drops that title. Even with that in place, though, the story is simple enough to be relatable, and peppered with enough Earthbound-esque surreal humor to keep the dark story from going full on sad. It controls the tension, the bits you may remember from the classic Freytag’s pyramid, very well, going on a slow burn through most of the opening, reaching the climax and having a good denouement, then breaking out the intensity once you’re on the path to the true ending.

Oneshot feels like a special experience. I find myself staying vague with quite a bit of things about it, just because it’s the type of game that’s really best experienced in a vacuum, in a quiet room by yourself. I don’t think it’ll be everyone’s cup of tea. But if it’s yours, it delivers like none other. If this sounds like it’s up your alley, give it a try. I know I haven’t found much else quite like it.

11 responses to “Oneshot

  1. Hey! I’m glad you enjoyed it as much as you did. I knew it would be the kind of game that would be right up your alley. I don’t recall how I found out about it, but I’m glad I did.

    I remember hearing about Yume Nikki several years ago and thinking it a bit strange for an RPG Maker game to feature no combat. I did see a lot of interesting adventure games made with the program, but this one was the first I played, and it singlehandedly sold me on the concept. In fact, a few days ago, I ended up playing through another one by the name of Rakuen. I’ll definitely review both games in the near future, so I’ll expand my thoughts then.

    I’ve heard the phrase “quiet triumph in video game storytelling” used to describe a game I reviewed in 2017, but in all honesty, I feel OneShot is more worthy of that description. Like Undertale, it uses the medium in a very unique way to tell a story that couldn’t exist in a non-interactive medium.

    You know, if it’s one thing I’ve done with games I particularly liked, it’s saving the file of my first playthrough. I ended up doing that when I beat MGS3 for the first time as well as Undertale. The best part about the latter is that when I eventually wish to do a second playthrough, I won’t have to erase it.

    • Thanks a lot for it! You were right, as you can tell from above, I enjoyed it quite a bit.

      I think I’ve actually played more good adventure games made from RPG Maker than I have traditional RPGs. It’s kind of funny to me, that an engine built for a certain type of game does so well at making games of another type entirely.

      I think that does definitely apply to OneShot. It’s a game that goes way outside the bog to tell it’s story, but in doing so, it actually makes it work. Not a lot of games with so wildly creative tales do that, but this one does so. And yeah, as you said, this story is wholly dependent on it being a video game. It wouldn’t work at all in any other medium. And that’s even more rare.

      I try to collect completed game saves. It’s a mark of pride, how many of those files I can get. Unfortunately, Oneshot doesn’t give you that chance. Well, sorta.

      • That’s true. In fact, the only games I’ve completed that were made using RPG Maker so far (OneShot and Rakuen) were indeed adventure titles with no combat. This game proves that as long as one has the vision and the means, the sky’s the limit. I’m still left wondering how the creator managed to pull a lot of this stuff off because it’s an incredible technical achievement.

        It’s a game wherein the player is a character in the story, which by itself disqualifies it from being told properly in any other medium. Then again, it’s technically an unstated truth in every game; it’s just that this game runs with the fact, and the narrative is far more powerful because of it.

        Speaking of which, one thing I’ve observed over the years is that some storytelling techniques don’t translate well to video games. However, I’ve also noticed that there are techniques that would be considered the sign of bad/non-serious storytelling that suddenly become entirely valid in an interactive medium. It’s like how a plan will not come to pass if the audience is aware of the details. That limitation often doesn’t matter in video games because the player is the one making it happen; if anything, the player not knowing the plan would usually be considered bad game design. In the case of this game (and Undertale), the fourth wall is regularly broken. In a non-interactive medium, something like this is almost exclusively used for comedies because a serious work breaking the fourth wall would shatter the tone into a million pieces. However, because there is direct, instantaneous human feedback involved in playing a game, creators can break the fourth wall for reasons other than to tell a joke as OneShot demonstrates (i.e. Niko getting advice from the player, the entity messing with the player, etc.).

        Yeah, that’s true. OneShot is probably the only game I can think of where the save file is created as soon as one gets an ending rather than as soon as the game begins as is standard.

  2. Very cool. I think I’ve heard of this game – one that messes with your computer, but I forgot the name of it. Probably this one haha

    Anyway, this sounds like a really unique and neat concept that was implemented well! Color me interested in this one…

    • Probably. How many games can there be that do that, after all?

      Although come to think of it, if this gets popular, lots of games are going to be picking up that practice. It’s fun when one game does it, but it would be a pain in the butt if you have all sorts of games out there messing around with your compy. Let’s just keep this one a fun little secret.

      • Not many, that’s true.

        Sounds good. I just watched a Let’s Play of Pony Island and while I don’t think it messes with your computer the exact same way, it’s one of those reality-bending ones…. I can see how it’s unnerving and cool in one or two games, but yeah if it wound up commonplace it would lose that punch, I think…

  3. This game is amazing! It even made it on my top 10 games I played in 2017 list! It’s an amazing title! Thank you for writing an article about this, since I was unable to actually write a decent article about this without getting too much into spoiler town.

  4. The puzzles sound very creative. I just hope those documents and programs that appear on the desktop are easy to remove when you uninstall.

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