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Design to aspire to

  • NTC3
  • 03/08/2015 03:58 PM
  • 1282 views
This is the second review of Oneshot after its staggering performance at this year’s Misaos, winning Game of the Year and nearly all other awards. There are many reasons why it’s a great game, such as the excellent soundtrack or the impressive way in which it breaks the fourth wall, but these don’t paint the full picture. The real achievement of Oneshot, however, and the reason it deserved to perform as well as it did, is because it put atmosphere at the forefront, with every other element acting to paint a more complete picture of the world. This dedication is what makes games stand the test of time, and is something many aspiring developers tend to miss.

Aesthetics (art, design and sound)

The game uses pixel art style that is simple, but very fitting to the situation at hand. Each area always had a consistent feel to it, while various little animations, such as the smoke gushing out of the geysers in one region or the blinking blue lights inside pools of gel in the other give further life to them. Each area has just enough detail like that to convince you in the reality of this world, and the masterful sound design completes the picture. Firstly, the soundtrack has some outright great compositions, (On Little Cat Feet being my favourite) that are well worth listening to outside the game, but even weaker tracks are always well-matched to the events on screen. Then, the environmental sounds are also used very well. In particular, Oneshot understands that footsteps matter, and so not only is the sound always present, but when Niko walks on metal, on wood, or on sandy ground, you’ll always hear the difference.

Lastly, I don’t know what arcane magics Matthew Velasquez had worked with rm2k3 binary, but he managed introduced a function that should’ve been present in it since inception, and the lack of which had hampered many games from achieving total immersion. Simply put, he’s managed to make the character sprite correlate with the equipment worn. It’s a little thing, but the impact of seeing Niko’s eyes behind the blue lenses of a gas mask, and then of her sprite going back to normal as it’s removed is unquestionable.

Storyline

Oneshot is a short game, and so going in depth would soon result in spoilers. Suffice to say that Niko, our cat person (the gender is never specified, but I always thought of Niko as a girl) is roused one night to find the way out of the house locked, and a cryptic clue left on her computer, a clue that directly addresses the player to the confusion of Niko. Soon after, she’s transformed to another universe, and the player is tasked with getting her back, and informed that closing the game before that will irreversibly kill her. The idea of player as a separate entity from the protagonist has been previously explored in OFF, which is referenced by Oneshot with an icon on Niko’s computer screen. However, Oneshot takes this idea much further, and goes into the territory previously only explored by imscared. Simply put, an unnamed presence from the game will soon begin to communicate through Windows information/error messages, leave txt. files with hints and do other things like that.

While you would expect such things to detract from immersion, here it’s instrumental at both hint at the otherworldly nature of said presence and showing the importance to the world at hand. The titular mechanic just wouldn’t have the same weight if Oneshot hadn’t already proven its ability to go beyond the fourth wall, and its replacement to saving, accomplished by letting Niko sleep at one of the beds, is excellent at giving more personality to Niko and forging a palpable bond with the player. And at the same time as it lets us know Niko better, Oneshot also provides more than enough information about its world through the conversations with its inhabitants as well as notes, drawings and such, all the way until the ending.

Gameplay

Oneshot functions as a puzzle game, a genre that has seen a fair few iterations on RPGMaker. While picking up items and using them on environmental objects is standard fare, Oneshot goes a step further and allows you to combine items with each other through its unique interface. It’s not perfectly intuitive, but actually seeing the item you’re currently holding remain in the lower-right corner of the screen, and then witness it change as you combine it with something else sure beats the typical menu-based stuff. Such puzzles make up the majority of the gameplay, although a couple of minigame-like puzzles are also encountered. Those often bring good rmk games down, so I’m glad to inform that they work fine.

On the contrary, some of the item-combining puzzles occasionally come off a bit limited or obtuse. The puzzle with the battery box in particular felt artificially limited, and I couldn’t help but think that other solutions were available. I actually completed the puzzle to create rust removing fluid a lot earlier, and yet I wasn’t allowed to apply it until the battery was put in for some reason. It’s not a major thing, but it did keep me from giving it a perfect score.

Conclusion

I believe I’ve said enough about Oneshot and the reasons for its success at this point. Just go and experience it for yourself now, if you haven’t already.

Posts

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Whoa, thank you for the kind words! We're glad you like the game!

Do you have any suggestions for improving the puzzles? We might be revamping some of them for the extended game but we need player feedback.
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