One Night Stand is a perfect study in awkwardness. When you wake up in a stranger’s bed with a stinking hangover and no memory of the night before, just what is the polite thing to do? Get dressed and leave as quickly as possible? Pry into her wallet to try to find out her name so you don’t look like a total jerk? Or perhaps you make a go at some small talk, chatting about the stacks of books and records on her shelves to try to establish a better relationship? Or maybe you get caught trying on her underwear and get turfed out the door in the nip. All things are possible in this beautifully observed visual novel, where feeling intensely uncomfortable has never felt so damn right.
A single playthrough will maybe take you 15 minutes tops (even less if you decide to skedaddle quick-sharp before she notice) but like many other visual novels of this sort such as Hatoful Boyfriend and Doki Doki Literature Club, One Night Stand is designed to be played several times with different decisions leading to different outcomes.
I’ve already mentioned a few of them up the top there, but the thing that impresses me most about One Night Stand is the way it deftly walks the line between play and privacy. You want to discover as much as you can about this girl, but you’re also acutely aware of being found out at any given moment, casting you as both detective and curious cat burglar as you try to piece together what happened. You might feel terrible for rooting through her purse on the bedside table while she’s in the bathroom, for example, but finding her ID might get you out of a bind later on when she asks you if you remember her name or not.
It’s also a wonderfully mature and sensitive portrayal of simply getting to know someone for the first time, too, where one wrong word can instantly turn into beetroot-level embarrassment, or a single kind remark can kindle another line of inquiry that helps broadens your connection. You can be as crass or apologetic as you like, too, thanks to its wide range of natural dialogue.
It certainly makes a refreshing change from other visual novels I’ve played, where the aim is often to simply swoon and make googly eyes at the object of your affection until you finally win them round, and I don’t think I’ve encountered anything else that so perfectly captures that very human shame of being a total, floundering ass hat.
So if you’re looking for something a bit more mature than your usual visual novel fare, then why not spend an evening with One Night Stand? It won’t be for everyone, but if you enjoy reveling in the anguish of a truly mortifying morning after, it might just be the start of something special.