There are moments in gaming where the curtain is pulled back and the game in question stares into your soul, passing by the controller in your hand to ask “What are you doing to me?”. I’m talking about those moments when things start to get a bit meta. The Stanley Parable is one of those games; something that questions the whole concept of who is in control of who. Metal Gear Solid 2 even asks you to turn your console off.
OneShot: World Machine Edition is a game within a game, one that blurs the lines between reality and the game world. Is it worth jumping into the matrix?
OneShot: World Machine Edition starts off with an operating system being displayed on the screen. Folders fill out a desktop, letting you look into them, and then there is the icon for OneShot itself, ready to be double clicked. Dropping into the game sees you playing as someone called Niko; someone who is tasked with entering a world that is dying and on the verge of collapse. You need to help Niko move from home, taking a lightbulb (the sun) to a tower, and bringing light back to the world. But what happens when Niko becomes self-aware that someone is controlling him? This is where the story becomes interesting.
The setup and world-building are extremely well executed, pretty ingenious while being very enjoyable at the same time. The characters you meet and chat to along the way highlight the good writing through dialogue. However, in the move from PC to console, the ‘one shot’ element and the chance to play with your desktop files is lost, and that in turn sees the magic diminished.
In terms of actual gameplay and OneShot lets you work the inner depths of the PC, controlling the mouse with your controller as you look to open files, double-click and open and close windows. It’s like a little hub in which you can look back on the things you have collected about the world. But there’s another part to it too – controlling Niko across the world.
It’s in this 2D world in which Niko can move freely around the space. You go up to objects or items to interact with them, pressing to collect things or chat. There are inventory combinations and the need to use items to solve puzzles in the game, with these ranging from the easy to the “How did I solve that?”. It very much has the feel of an adventure game that you would have played on systems of the past; that’s not a bad feeling.
You also can find objects dotted around the world that can be used to personalise the desktop world, something which is a very nice touch. But that said, for the exploration, there have been moments in which I’ve found myself lost, not knowing where to go or what to do next. That can get a bit frustrating.
In terms of the visuals and OneShot: World Machine Edition employs a very standard feel to the actual world Niko explores. It feels like an early Gameboy or SNES game, but it’s still very clever in how it utilises low-grade visuals, especially in terms of the desktop world. There are some well drawn slightly animated cutscenes which are beautiful. There are also points which go the other way, turning OneShot pretty dark. On the whole though, it’s okay visually, well complemented by the pleasing soundtrack. It manages to create a very dreamy, almost melancholic, type of atmosphere that works well throughout the game.
I’ve begun to tire of the plethora of old-school adventure dynamics that have seen modern gamers need to hark back to yesteryear. But OneShot: World Machine Edition does something different with this style of game, working a very clever examination of its ‘game within a game’ subplot. The story premise and concept are admirable and work brilliantly, and whilst I do think the magic of playing on PC is a bit lost on console, there are still loads of surprises in store.
OneShot: World Machine Edition is a game that has a lot of tricks up its sleeve – you should take a peek if you get a chance.
OneShot: World Machine Edition is on the Xbox Store