REVIEW NOTE: It is impossible to review OneShot without revealing certain minor spoilers in regards to how the game functions. I will try to avoid spoilers whenever possible but be aware that there will be some in this review. If you don’t want it spoiled for you, then here’s the TL;DR: if the idea of a unique, meta storyline appeals to you, buy this game.
When I finished playing 999: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors, I was excited because I had finally found a game story that was unique to video games. No other medium could tell the same story as effectively. At the time, though, it was the only game like that I had ever seen.
That was back in 2009 but now, it’s 2017 and we’ve seen several more examples of uniquely video-game narratives. NieR: Automata and Undertale immediately come to mind and now, I can add OneShot to that list.
It’s impossible to look at images of OneShot and not immediately think of Undertale and it’s true, there are some major similarities. The pixel art aesthetic is similar and both take a very meta approach to their storytelling. Both also demand a level of player participation, investment and involvement that is extremely rare in gaming. In fact, OneShot even makes a less-than-subtle reference to Undertale later in the game. Those similarities are all surface level, though, and it becomes apparent very quickly that this is a wildly different beast.
You start the game as a cat… person named Niko wakes up in an unfamiliar dark room with a locked door. Some basic puzzles allow you to escape the room and get you into the adventure game mindset. However, the game takes a stark turn when the game starts talking to you, the player, by name (no, there’s no name entry screen) and telling you that you only have one shot (haha, I get it!) to save Niko and return him to his own world.
The game isn’t lying to you either, it is designed to be played through once and no more. Decisions you make are yours forever and while there aren’t a ton of branching paths, each one carries more weight than it would in other similar games due to the sense of permanence.
While the game does involve you trying to save the world through Niko, the real story of OneShot is far more personal than your standard RPG epic. In fact, the world-saving aspect of the plot quickly falls to the wayside as you find yourself more invested in helping Niko himself make his way through this weird world he finds himself in. Many AAA titles these days will spend time making epic set piece moments but OneShot realizes that sometimes, the most memorable parts of a story are the quiet ones. I’ll avoid giving context so it won’t spoil anything but the above screenshot of Niko clutching his lightbulb is a moment that will stick with me long after I forget what the lightbulb is for.
The world Niko finds himself in may not be the most interesting one found in a video game but the characters are fun and fleshed out. Characters and locations are all interconnected in a manner that isn’t always immediately obvious or even ever spelled out for you. The small details that make these connections in your mind help make the OneShot world more than the sum of its parts.
In the end, OneShot will live or die based on whether you find yourself caring about Niko and his plight. If you don’t, the game just won’t jive for you. If you invest though, OneShot tells a wholly unique story that is more than worth the $10 entrance fee. Also, a small hint for those of you who do, keep going even when you think the game has “ended”. There may be more for you to find.