The world of 2D pixelated RPGs is a crowded one, primarily thanks to “RPG Maker” and other tools of a similar nature, which allow pretty much anyone with a basic understanding of game development to create their very own titles. The vast majority of these titles go unnoticed by people outside of small forums and blogs, usually because the vast majority of them aren’t very unique, memorable, or good in any way. But every now and then, something special comes along that brings a truly worthwhile experience with it. A little over a year ago, the gaming world saw the release of Undertale, which quickly gained a massive cult following and positive critical reception, becoming the gold standard for this genre. It shouldn’t come as too big a surprise, either. In an age dominated by loud, bombastic AAA releases, gamers seek smaller, more focused, and thoughtful pieces of entertainment as a kind of break from the mainstream. The time couldn’t be more right for the indie RPG.
This brings us to OneShot, a game originally created with RPG Maker 2003 and released in 2014 as part of the Indie Game Maker Contest. It was remade with RPG Maker XP and re-released in 2016 for Steam (this is the version I played). The game does not provide much story exposition in the beginning, thrusting the player and the main character into an unknown place and simply telling them that they “only have one shot.” I will avoid spoilers as much as possible, as the game is best experienced in a blind playthrough. The game contains no combat, instead opting to focus exclusively on exploration, puzzle-solving, and dialogue.
Right from the beginning, the comparisons between this title and Undertale are unavoidable. Both games include a protagonist with no clear gender, both include this protagonist finding himself/herself in a foreign land inhabited by different species to his/her own world, both include several meta elements, and so on. It doesn’t seem so unlikely that Undertale might have been at least partially inspired by OneShot. (However, Undertale remains the superior game for a variety of reasons, mainly because of its highly original combat system and more well-written characters.)
At its core, the story is nothing special – a mere child, named Niko, is tasked with going on a strange journey in a strange land to save its inhabitants. The best thing about this particular story is its use of explicitly meta elements. Without giving away too much, this game never forgets that you, the player, are in control of the main character. For example, when you close the game and reopen it, you receive a message that this action has affected the main character. (There are only a few times in which the game allows you to exit with no consequences, so be prepared for a few uninterrupted play sessions.) Obviously, a game having this kind of self-awareness is not a new concept, but I feel that OneShot puts an interesting twist on it. In order to spare you from having the experience spoiled, that’s all I’ll say for now
(Closing the game and reopening it causes this message to appear. You shouldn’t just leave Niko all alone like that!)
The gameplay is essentially identical to other titles within the genre. Walking around the world, picking up certain items, and interacting with characters and things in the environment are the only elements of gameplay here. The puzzles are not too difficult to solve for the most part, but I admittedly had to look up the solutions for a few of them. I had a significant gripe with a certain part of the game that isn’t even a technical “puzzle.” I was unable to enter a certain area and was told by a sign that I needed to find a certain character in order to progress. I then found this character, but she said nothing about going to the aforementioned area, and the game offered me no dialogue options to bring it up. I was stuck and had to look up a walkthrough. It turns out that all I needed to do was return to the locked area, and the character would appear when I tried to enter again. This is a highly frustrating solution that I never would have thought of. Thankfully the rest of the game’s progression is more straightforward than this.
OneShot took me approximately three hours to complete. If you’re a fan of the genre and are looking for a decently enjoyable way to pass an afternoon, you will like this game. However, if you aren’t so keen on 2D pixelated RPGs, you might want to pass on this one, as it doesn’t bring a lot of unique experiences to the table. And in this genre’s community, that is essential to standing out from the crowd.
Final rating: 6/10.
Here is the OneShot Launch Trailer:
You can find OneShot for PC on Steam.