OneShot is a short puzzle/adventure game made by Eliza Velasquez and NightMargin (Casey Gu). The developers completed the game in one month for a 2014 Indie Game Maker contest using the RPG Tsukuru 2003 engine, but was only later released on Steam on December 8, 2016.
The charm of OneShot is very experience-oriented, so I’m going to try and keep this review as spoiler-free as possible. It is best to go in knowing as little about the game as you can (In fact, if you are already interested, I suggest you stop reading and already play it!).
After playing and loving Undertale, I was curious when I heard about a little game called OneShot that seemed to reminisce some of the same feelings in players that Undertale had accomplished. One of the most prominent similarities is that both games feature the player (you) as its own in-game entity that exists separate from the protagonist. In the most basic description, your job in OneShot is to guide the protagonist Niko to the top of a tower and give the dying world its new sun–a glowing light bulb.
The music paired with the simplistic art style of the environments have an air of mystery that follows you throughout your playthrough. You are always left feeling that there is more to uncover behind the curtains with a looming sense of dread and anxiety. It wants you to dig deeper and question what your purpose is in all of this.
Each of the environments or sections of the game also has its own feel and history surrounding it. The game is divided up into four distinct areas, the Barrens, the Glen, the Refuge, and the Tower. You start at the outer circle of the map, the Barrens, and work your way through each of the other three inner circles until you reach the Tower. The first three areas have their own colour palette that reflects the phosphorous light that originates in their respective regions: blue, green, and red. These colours are related to some of the many mysteries to uncover about the world you are journeying through. I felt that these little details really added to the experience and uniquely separated one environment from the next. They reminded me with nostalgic memories of the colour-coded regions from L. Frank Baum’s novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
The gameplay of OneShot is simplistic and similar to horror games like Ib and Mad Father. You explore the environments for items to use and help you solve puzzles, and you have an item screen where you can combine certain items together to help you progress. You are also given the ability to fast travel within the region you are in, but cannot backtrack to the Barrens or the Glen once you have progressed past them. The most unique feature of the game involves solving puzzles by “breaking down the fourth wall”, but it’s hard to say more than that without completely spoiling. Its saving system was also particularly unique and also progressed the story at times.
In OneShot, you are faced with moral dilemmas and you are put in the helm of a religious allegory that shapes the way you view the entire story. You are put in a world where there is an implicit philosophy between religion, artificial intelligence, and what makes a person, which hearkened back to my memories of playing The Talos Principle. Enough to say the least, it is a game that makes you think and won’t give you all the answers. You may find this as you play, but sometimes there are answers to be found, and not where you initially expect them to be.
The game’s conclusion had me feeling a little underwhelmed and it felt like it ended prematurely. The journey I had led myself and Niko through had led up to this huge moment, and I was left expecting more before the credits began to roll. I never quite got the answers I was expecting to have by the end, whether or not this was intentional by the developers. While I do respect that many answers were left unsolved to the player who must actively seek them, there were just some that were posed throughout the game that I expected to have some sort of answer or direction to towards the end. This is really just a minor criticism on the grand scheme of things, because the journey itself was a pleasure and the developers only had a month to complete it.
Overall, I think that there is much to be said about OneShot that I may attempt to cover in an in-depth analysis in the future.
I think that OneShot excels in providing tone through its environments, characters, and music. The story is deep and filled with hints that makes the player want to dig further into its mysteries. The gameplay is generally mediocre, but certain gameplay elements really shine through at moments, including its saving system. For a game that could be beaten in 3-6 hours, I felt that its conclusion was rushed and left me wanting more. Considering that the game was made in a month, the abrupt conclusion is more reasonable than if the developers had more time. I think that anyone who wants a unique experience and story-based game should play OneShot.