The RPS Advent Calendar, Dec 5th

RPS-calendar-5th

The days are so short at this time of year that the light of the sun barely touches the mighty calendar. It’s particularly dark inside door number five…

It’s OneShot!

John: Released in December last year, OneShot employs RPS’s unique Advent Rules for inclusion in this year’s list, and goodness me, it deserves it. OneShot is unlike anything else you’ve played, which is quite the claim to make in such a saturated gaming world. But a true claim.

(And no, don’t let anyone tell you, “it’s a bit like Undertale”. If you bounced off Undertale as hard as I did, ignore this. OneShot is doing something very different, something very specific.)

First, and most importantly, you are a character in OneShot. The main protagonist is a lost little girl, known in the strange land in which she finds herself as “the Messiah”, clutching a light bulb the locals think is the sun, and bemused as to how she got here. But she’s not the game’s only protagonist – that’s where you come in. And indeed the game itself. The game is a character in this game.

The layers start piling up, and then peeling off, in ways I’ve never seen a game do before. The first time it popped itself out of fullscreen to a little RPGMaker window, and then a dialogue window appeared on my desktop directly addressing me (presumably using my Windows account to get my name), I was utterly spellbound. And that’s its move for the opening moments – it gets smarter and more interesting the further you get.

But what makes OneShot so very, very special is that it’s not a collection of super-smart gimmicks – it’s a wonderfully compelling and moving story that embellishes itself with all these fascinating, frame-breaking ideas. Where it could have been smug, it’s instead full of heart. I cared about Messiah more than any gaming character I can think of in years, her vulnerability made so much more meaningful by her directly engaging with me as she explored. She knows I’m there, the game knows I’m there, and she knows the game’s talking to me instead of her. And none of us is entirely comfortable with the situation.

This becomes more complicated by Messiah’s understandable assumption that you, the person playing, might be some sort of god. The game lets you choose whether this is something you want to lean into, or dispel her of immediately, and knowing which way to go isn’t simple.

And then it just keeps getting cleverer. It does things I didn’t know my PC could even do. It messes about with you desktop, it uses hidden files, it… well I can’t spoil the good stuff. I can just implore you to switch off any non-standard desktop management software you might have running before you start (I had to disable DisplayFusion). And none of it is for the sake of it – all these odd little features directly tap into the story, and deepen the relationship between you and the game, and Messiah herself.

Oh, and even the game’s name is a stunningly clever little idea, that reveals itself as you play. Oh gosh, it’s all so clever, but also all so lovely! Games this special are rare, and it’d be such a shame if you missed out on OneShot because of its RPGMaker wrapping. It’s gorgeous and smart and packed with feels, and the most innovative game in forever.

Head back to the calendar to open the door to another of 2017’s best games.

29 Comments

  1. subprogram32 says:

    I’m suprised you didn’t remember Nico’s name despite your liking of the character. :P Reagrdless, I also loved the game, and transcended from a memorable but flawed game in the free version to one of my favourate games this year.

    • April March says:

      Yeah, John can’t remember their name, but is apparently so good he’s the only one who knows their gender!

      (Just kidding, John, I love ya. And I love you to, subprogram, even though you mispelled Niko’s name. I literally finished the game yesterday.)

      • subprogram32 says:

        Goddamnit, I was edging on Nico/Niko and kinda guessed randomly. XD
        That said, Niko is actually canonically gender-neutral, like Frisk from Undertale actually. :P
        One of the creators see them as male but it really is an up to you kinda thing that is not specificied for that reason.

        • AliciaHarvey says:

          I quit working at shoprite and now I make $82h…how? I’m working online! My work didn’t exactly make me happy so I decided to take a chance on something new…after 4 years it was so hard to quit my day job but now I couldn’t be happier… Click Here & START work

        • TheBetterStory says:

          And much like Frisk in Undertale, I totally assumed Nico was a young girl! The way you can play through the whole game without even realizing the characters’ genders are never specified is a wonderful thing.

          • Flavour Beans says:

            Exactly. During my playthrough, I’d always thought of Niko as a girl, but (after evangelizing the heck out of the game to them) my friends who played it kept calling Niko a boy, to a point where I almost assumed I’d missed something. I’d forgotten about that until I read the Advent write-up and thought “See, I wasn’t crazy!”

  2. mcgiants says:

    Also, if you played near the game’s launch, now is a good time to go back because an alternative ending has been added that also does clever stuff. (Hint, remember the countdown clock? Well, it’s done counting down by now).

  3. Ghostwise says:

    It’s in my backlog. My ghastly, ghastly backlog so full of wonders and cool stuff. :-/

  4. Kefren says:

    I always set up my Windows account as NA. Partly so I don’t run into permissions errors, partly so that Windows doesn’t broadcast my name to Microsoft or anywhere else it smears private data. So the game would probably call me NA, which wouldn’t have the same effect, and would look like a glitch.

    • Flavour Beans says:

      The game gives you the opportunity right after that moment to set a different name for yourself. And trust me, needing to do that doesn’t spoil the magic beyond that.

      • Kefren says:

        Nice touch. I’m sure it’s a cool game, I just thought it was funny that sometimes very clever tricks can fall down in some cases. Bet it’s great when it works though.

  5. cpt_freakout says:

    I bought this on John’s recommendation last year and played it a few months ago. It’s a really, really great game. I still remember stuff from it every now and then, little pieces of conversations and moods. Also, the music is excellent, and it’s too bad it didn’t make it into any best-of OST lists I saw because it was so late.

  6. Stugle says:

    I had never heard of it before. This sounds intriguing, I’ll keep it in mind for the holiday. If I may ask a question: what’s the target age? I have a ten-year-old daughter and it sounds like this might be a nice, thoughtful game for her as well. I just wanted to canvas RPS’s opinion whether it would be appropriate for a ten-year-old.

    • Flavour Beans says:

      It’s definitely not inappropriate for a ten-year-old (though the story delves into some pretty deep themes that might not be as appreciated, depending on the ten-year-old), but without any spoilers, some of the puzzles might be a bit much for a kid of that age. It’d be a wonderful game to play together, though!

  7. Deano2099 says:

    This is sort of game I should love but I bounced off it ridiculously hard now, twice. The story is decent and the clever bits are clever, but the core game was just dull. I spent most of my time wondering frustratingly slowly around a mostly empty world with no map, trying to figure out what to do and getting stuck. Not in the cool bits, just in the adventure game logic of what to use on what, in-game puzzle bits. And it’s the sort of game where resorting to a walkthrough can easily ruin it for you.

    • TheBetterStory says:

      If you’re still in the first region, that level is *much* larger and emptier than the successive ones. I found myself a bit frustrated by the beginning, too, but there’s more to see and do later on.

  8. trollomat says:

    As much as I am interested for its alleged cleverness and otherness, I uhm… I don’t want a game to mess with my PC and look into my Windows account, nope.

    That’s probably just naive and weird because any kind of software can supposedly do worse, but then again I don’t use Facebook and Twitter and avoid using Google as much as I can… so yeah I guess I’m just a weirdo.

    • Flavour Beans says:

      Very mildly mildly spoilerish-but-not-really:

      It’s actually fairly benign. Beyond guessing your name based on files that plenty of other software on your computer already pulls your name from (think of how Microsoft Office assigns an author name to Word documents, for instance) and changing your wallpaper (which, again, other software has the ability to do), everything it does is done with the game’s files. I can understand being concerned (the Steam store page even acknowledges that some might be worried by it) but it’s nothing harmful and the outcome is well worth it.

  9. lancelot says:

    The final chapter of OneShot (the “Solstice update”) was released this year, so I don’t think it’s necessary to invoke any special rules to include it in the list.

    Its “meta” features are certainly interesting, but I was actually more impressed by how well it integrates the traditional adventure game elements while still keeping the gameplay flowing. It’s probably a thing now, there are a few other games that do a casual adventure in the guise of an RPG Maker game.

  10. GlasWolf says:

    My takeaway from this article: thank goodness I wasn’t the only person that bounced off Undertale.

  11. tslog says:

    I Refuse to click on the mystery box link that doesn’t even describe what I’m opening. Ugghhh.

    The violation of what I want to know upfront no way compensates in the slightest for the ‘Christmas surprise list’.

    • April March says:

      Ha ha, on another one of these articles someone was complaining that they could tell what the game was because of the tags. Human beings, am I right?

  12. April March says:

    I have a tendency to immediately buy anything I hadn’t heard anything about prior to a positive John Walker review, and OneShot is one reason why. (Though I got burnt by Stories Untold.) OneShot is a beautiful game, full of heart and whimsy, and did things with its ‘meta’ qualities that other fourth-wall-breaking games can scarcely dream of. I recommend it without reservations.

  13. pandiculator says:

    A video game that remembers what video games are for. Simply splendid. No matter the kind of games you enjoy, take a moment and look at this one.

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    MajorLag says:

    Huh. I feel like comparing OneShot is Undertale is pretty fair because they both express a similar message to the player, they just communicate it a bit differently. Art is communication, and communication requires shared context. Undertale is more reliant on the player’s background context than OneShot is, but it also manages to communicate a lot more meaning than OneShot in my opinion.

    OneShot is one of the few games I think really offers a memorable experience. I recommend it.

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