One Shot is a humble little Indie Game on Steam with even more humble origins. With the original version made in a mere month for an Indie Game Competition in 2014. It was reworked by a team of three people for a full on Steam release in 2016, and announced for consoles some time in 2021.
Yet, while its fanbase is small, the effect the game has on people is undeniable and its Steam Reviews are overwhelmingly positive. So what makes this game so special? Has it withstood the test of time, being able to compete with modern releases like Horizon Zero Dawn or Elden Ring? Or is this just another game on Steam that already had its time to shine? It is time to find out exactly what One Shot offers to the player.
The game opens up with a beautifully drawn title screen of the Main Character, Niko, holding a lightbulb as a haunting and chilling melody plays over it. The song alone creates a feeling of isolation and sadness. Off the bat, we, as the player, can tell this is not going to be a normal game. While most title screens are warm, and inviting, One Shot opens with a rather somber note.
This is not to say that there are no happy moments in the story, but the story itself is rather dark. The main premise is that Niko awakens in an unfamiliar world to him. The world is dark, and abandoned. Notes can be seen of the residents abandoning their homes. The only source of constant light in the world being a lightbulb Niko finds shortly after he wakes up. Niko ends up learning that this lightbulb is this world’s new Sun. The old sun disappeared ages ago, and the world is using an element known as Phosphor to keep the world lit. But this element is finite, and running out quickly.
Niko, a child from another world, is foretold to be this world’s savior, this world’s messiah. In Order to save this world, he must put the new Sun on top of a large tower which will also return Niko back home. He learns that he can talk to the god of this world, which is you, the player. The game calls out to you directly. Using the name you set for the User of the PC you are running the game on. The amount of shock I felt to have the game use my real name immediately without me having to input it in was quite scary, and foretold how meta this game would truly get.
The story is not a happy one. NPC’s you encounter across the world have all but given up hope. Have never seen sunlight in their lives, and are embracing their literal dark future ahead of them. Niko, a mere child, holds the weight of an entire world on their shoulders, and begins to get homesick towards the end. The player, as Niko calls out to them often, will end up forming a connection with both Niko and the world itself as they learn more about it. There are some happy moments spread throughout this game so it is not all doom and gloom, but the prevailing mood is one of a negative outlook.
Without spoiling anymore about this game, all I am at liberty to say is that this game is extremely meta. And that this game is best played without spoilers. There are numerous points where you think the game has ended, but it is not over yet. You must find a way to keep the game going. You must play this game at least twice to see everything it has to offer. Even when I thought I knew the direction the story was going to take, I was surprised by how it all played out. The story is by far the best part of this game, aided by how meta the game gets, and it’s themes and messages it conveys will be sticking with me for a long time to come.
The graphics consist of magnificent pixel art that brings me back to my DS days. The sprites look fantastic, and the images that act as cutscenes are both magical, and isolating. Seeing Niko face the tower for the first time feels daunting, and overwhelming. While seeing Niko cross a river with wide eyes shows how beautiful this world can really be. That despite all the darkness and despair, there is still light at the end of the tunnel. The facial expressions from Niko in the dialogue boxes add a lot to Niko’s character as I can tell exactly what they are feeling at any given time, which really helps at establishing Niko’s character. Other NPCs have this as well to a lesser degree, and it really helps flesh out the world as a whole. The graphics combined with the amazing soundtrack really helps set the tone for any given moment.
The soundtrack in this game is absolutely phenomenal. The music carries with it a somber one for most of the game. It perfectly reflects how the remaining citizens of this world must feel with their only light sources dying out in front of their eyes. Songs like “On Little Cat Feet” perfectly portray the despair of those around Niko, as well as the urgency of the situation. This is your only shot. If the Sun shatters, not only is this world doomed, but Niko will be trapped here forever.
The title theme, “My Burden is Light,” plays at only one other moment in the entire game, and it feels like it was tailor made for it. There is no song in this soundtrack that is a miss, as everything fits right where it should, and only further amplifies the emotions that the story is trying to drag out of you.
The gameplay of One Shot is solid. Combining elements from point and click adventure games, like combining items, and puzzle elements on how to use those items or finding out what order to do things in. There is no fighting, or anything like that. It is just you and Niko figuring what to do in order to progress. While this can be a bit confusing at times, I did not think any of it was too hard to figure out with some trial and error thrown into the mix. Aside from traditional gameplay, there will be more meta elements as well.
My only hints on these sections, is turn off Wallpaper Engine if you have it installed, keep the game in windowed mode, and have your files open. These meta elements have redefined what gaming means to me, and what games are capable of. These are genuinely some of my favourite moments of not only this game, but my entire experience as a gamer.
For a $10 game on Steam that was made in a month, this game defies all expectations. From the moment I booted up the game, I knew it was going to be something special, and not only did the game prove me right, but it surpassed every expectation I had for it. This game is a real hidden gem, buried among more popular games. It is in its own class at making the player feel connected to the world and its characters, and the writing is simply phenomenal. Everything about this game from the concept down to its audio is executed flawlessly.
Aside from a few confusing puzzles, this game has nothing bad going for it at all. Every aspect of this game serves to make the player feel connected to it, which makes it all the more sad when you finally have to say goodbye. Despite it only being a 5 hour game, and despite the lack of popularity it received, this is easily one of the best games I have ever had the pleasure of playing. One Shot will be in my head years from now, and easily scores a 10 out of 10 on my end.