Title: OneShot: World Machine Edition
Developer: Future Cat LLC
Release Date: September 21, 2022
Reviewed On: PS4
Publisher: Dangen Entertainment
Three elements distinguish an indie game from any other type of video game, and no, let’s leave Metroidvanias and the current trend of Soulslike games out of this spectrum for a moment. These three elements are a narrative focus, puzzles, and 4th wall-breaking existentialism. The third of these can either be pretentiously condescending in execution, or it can make you think and feel empathy for a video game setting.
Thankfully, while OneShot by developer Future Cat may strike familiar indie gaming tropes, it brings its lofty premise together effectively in a memorable adventure. In addition, what once started out as a neat little idea on the itch.io platform, now receives a major console release in the form of the World Machine Edition.
When you first begin OneShot, you’re greeted with an operating system of all things, as you’re walked through basic functions of clicking and dragging icons, then you actually boot the OneShot game itself. So, you’re in a game within a game, essentially. Don’t worry; it only gets weirder. And yes, the first thing I did was to try to delete the game file itself, but no, you get an access error message; of course you do. You can’t delete a game even on a meta operating system, and you can’t shoot that darn dog in Duck Hunt.
The operating system, the titular World Machine itself, serves as a menu hub of sorts, where there are typical encyclopedia files, and you can even customize your window with new themes and wallpapers too. It’s more than just novelty, however, as there are elements in the system that complement the game design itself. As a “user” of the World Machine, you essentially interact within a meta-game world where you take control of a strange feline creature called Niko. As soon as our mysterious protagonist, they, you guessed it, log into a computer of their own. So, it’s an operating system within a game that is within an operating system. Still with me? Well, it gets weird.
It doesn’t take long for Niko to notice you, yes you the player, as a higher power of sorts. You’re basically a god, and Niko is a reluctant messiah to save this mysterious world. Unfortunately, the sun’s out, and you need a light bulb of all things to fix it. There’s more to this surrealist sci-fi world, which involves logging into computers and bringing stationary machines back to life. Occasionally, you may need to access system files for clues.
The existential storyline will surely intrigue you, but the game will make you earn those significant story developments as you solve seemingly opaque yet satisfying environmental puzzles. Many of these involve carefully studying surroundings and reading the proper documents for clues such as passcodes. Much of it also combines various items to create things that can be used to solve puzzles. The pattern becomes second nature quickly, but finding the correct information and knowing what to combine and where to use it becomes more challenging.
Depending on how you want to take things, this is a modestly sized adventure you can complete in a few sittings, and there’s some replay value with additional endings. The delivery, while mysterious, is never too convoluted, as even little moments like Niko commenting how things suddenly “get dark” each time you log out of the game are delivered with a convincing emotional punch. The experience translates well enough on the console, although the controls do feel cumbersome on the gamepad, not to mention Niko’s sluggish walking speed.
What brings everything together nicely is the stellar presentation. The pixel art convincingly creates a vibe and style that suits the experience’s themes and mood, and the haunting soundtrack creates a gripping atmosphere. This is the kind of experience for fans of games like Undertale and Omori.
OneShot: World Machine Edition is one of those experiences you want to try for yourself without reading too much of it. If a puzzle adventure with a mysterious storyline sounds like your thing, then this is a game that offers a sizeable journey and some measure of replay value too. It may not always feel ideal for playing on console, and the pacing can be a tad sluggish, but the meta-gaming motifs remain intact.
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