Developer: Little Cat Feet
OneShot has been on my backlog for a while and I had been interested in its mysterious story and protagonist since I first watched the trailer. OneShot is a top-down 8-bit RPG with no combat. You play as Niko, a child who has suddenly awoken in a strange new world where he is recognized as the “savior”. Although Niko does not understand much about this world and its inhabitants, once he is told of his purpose, he decides to journey on in order to restore the light to this decaying world.
You play as Niko, but at the same time, you are actually not Niko. As the player, you play as yourself, too. That doesn't make much sense, I know, but your role is revealed to you early in the game. OneShot quickly changes the dynamics of what is a game is and almost invades your sense of privacy by not limiting itself to its actual window screen. OneShot absolutely isn't the first game to break the 4th wall, but it does so in a way that feels much more present and therefore spooky. It’s tactics are reminiscent of Undertale, but I believe this game pushes it a little further. The humor is comparable, too, but OneShot's jokes were more about its awareness of its existence within a computer.
OneShot was originally a small project, a browser game, with much more specific limitations centered around the idea of the game only giving you “one shot”. Since it was a free game, it could get away with actually limiting you to only opening the game once, never being able replay it. However, the game had to be altered and made more player-friendly by the time it was sold on Steam in 2016. Nonetheless, despite it allowing you to take the game in separate sessions now, OneShot makes note of your absence - Niko does as well. That one stings a little, since Niko is a perfectly good and wholesome child who is still very lost and alone in this new world.
The puzzles in this game felt Zelda-like at times, requiring clues and multiple tries to both understand the task and achieve it. Often these puzzles were time-consuming and fairly challenging, which I appreciate, but some of them were assigned without any reference to what the goal was. OneShot also involves a good bit of fetch-questing, which I'm all for. A fun mechanics twist on these type of quests is an ability to combine inventory items. Sure, you can only combine items that will work for your quest, but it is possible to combine them in the wrong order, and you still have to think through beforehand what item you really need. I thought this was creative and enjoyable, and involved making the solution to problems rather than just finding it.
OneShot uses a very simple pixel art style in its gameplay but a more detailed, colorful pixel art style and sometimes paintings in its cutscenes. It's combination of different art styles are perfect in representing the different moments and perspectives. It's a perfect example of how much you can do with very little, aesthetically. However, the world Niko finds himself in is very dark at first, and you slowly encounter more light along the way. Niko bears the sun, or the big lightbulb, so it makes sense why everything else must be so dark. Nonetheless it was hard on the eyes at times, especially early in the game, playing through such a dark landscape. Niko holds the lightbulb and it illuminates a certain radius of where you walk, but it leaves a blur outside the radius into the darkness.
I'd like to note that this review is a little different, as this is the first review I've done of a game I didn't completely finish. OneShot actually has a second run portion called Solstice - I only found this out a few days after I finished the main game and I was doing some research on it. First, I was bothered at myself for not knowing there was more to the game. However, I pulled up the game for the second run, where it had me start from the very beginning. The thought of re-playing the majority of the game again, despite there being a true final ending, was not very exciting for me. I didn't end up doing the Solstice run, so I can't say I've seen 100% of the game. This brings me to OneShot's primary flaw: you need to have a browser tab open way too often about what you're supposed to do next. I don't even mean in reference to in-game puzzles, I mean what you need to do on your computer in order to bring about the next chapter in the game. There isn't a ton of resources online, either, so it usually involved having to dig through forum posts.
OneShot really surprised me with its limited but gorgeous art style, as well as its quirky and warm characters. However, I just didn't feel like the pieces of the story came together in the end. I appreciate its ability to interact with players in a very new way, but for me, taking the game off-screen wasn't worth the novelty, especially since it added the extra work of searching for answers outside of the game. I recommend it for fans of non-combat RPGs, it's definitely unique in its approach to the "video game" experience; it will especially be a fit for you if you enjoy doing the extra digging and the challenge of searching for the clues outside of the game.
OneShot is available on PC.
Played on: PC (Steam)
Playtime: 7 hrs
How I heard about this game: Recommended on Steam