Developer: Little Cat Feet
Released on Dec 08, 2016
OneShot is an eerie, top-down exploration game taking place in a slowly-decaying world, in need of a new sun to restore its light. You will help guide Niko, a lost cat-child on their pilgrimage to the tower, to put the lightbulb back where it belongs before it’s too late. The game knows you are god and Niko is the messiah of this world. But is it truly worth saving? Remember, you only have one shot at this.
Genre: Indie Adventure Game
You play as Niko, an androgynous, cat-like child who wakes up in a dark, unfamiliar house, unsure of how they got here. The only source of light is a cynical computer monitor that tells you to send Niko home by any means necessary. In the basement is a lightbulb that turns on for some inexplicable reason, the second Niko picks it up.
You begin exploring the Barrens where you are greeted by the Prophetbot, a robot that tells you basic information about the prophecy itself and the tower you are heading towards. Niko is holding the lightbulb which is this world’s “sun”, though you do wonder how it would be bright enough to illuminate the whole world just by being placed in a distant tower.
The puzzle aspect of this game consists of picking up shiny items and getting Niko to combine them from the inventory. You’ll know it worked when you hear a short tune afterward. For example, Niko needs to wear a gas mask before they can safely walk into the shrimp swamp which emits a poisonous gas. To get it you have to solve another puzzle.
The first region is called The Barrens because it is in the middle of nowhere. The people have all evacuated, save for a handful of inactive robots. There is an outpost that contains the power generator but for the most part, the buildings and factories are abandoned. Once you’ve visited an area, the game lets you fast travel there, so Niko’s little cat feet don’t get sore.
The world is made up of three layers: The outer Barrens, the flooded Glen, and the inner Refuge where the tower is located. Most of the robots in the Barren are “untamed”, having no way to override their programming limitations. The only exception here is Silver, the head engineer who lives on the outskirts of the cliffs.
OneShot won’t hold your hand nor tell you where to go next. If you’re truly stuck, the computer will drop some hints about puzzles that can’t be solved through conventional means. Of course, that just gives you more time to appreciate the lore–like the notes left behind by workers detailing how they harvest phosphor shrimp to power the machines.
Once the player completes an area, Niko will continue on their pilgrimage to save the world. You gotta admit, the visuals are quite cute and pixelated like a classic 16-bit game.
The Glen is covered in moss and populated by humans and bird-folk, whose primary source of food is dried fish. The fireflies produce green phosphor to power the villager’s homes. Robots can be seen collecting samples in the forest to study. And at the ruins down south, two children have made their home inside a labyrinth. Vines are everywhere, blocking Niko from entering doorways.
The game actively discourages you from closing it. And if you do, it opens up to Niko admitting that everything went pitch black. Your best bet is to save your progress by tucking Niko into bed when they are tired and must take a nap. The next time you launch OneShot, you will see a dream sequence illustrating Niko’s memories like this endless wheat field.
I do like the meta elements of this game: Niko actually acknowledges the player’s existence and tries to ask them questions about where they live. Moreover, the computer is aware that everyone you talk to is an NPC and by extension, only cares about sending Niko home. As for Niko, they are a precious cinnamon roll and would never want innocent people to get hurt.
Some puzzles are hidden outside of the game’s constraints. Finding Alula is a weird one since you have to check your desktop background for a symbol, then use it at the right time. It’s worth checking the documents to see if anything strange is going on. After the player saves Alula, she and Calamus will befriend Niko, gifting them an amber feather.
My favorite puzzle in the Glen is the one where you help the shepherd push all the sheep onto dark patches of grass. If you run out of moves, you can just ring the bell to start over. He is an odd fellow who rewards you with a key item–a piece of wool that you have to trade to the manic collector for a bottle of dye. Niko often finds creative uses for everyday items.
In the third and final region is the refuge where the tower is located. It’s modeled after a big city, filled with quirky characters like this guy who needs help fixing an elevator. He might not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but he is doing his best to be a lamplighter and the city’s only maintenance guy.
And so begins Niko’s quest to build an elevator button. The soundtrack here changes to a catchy, electronic tune instead of the soft, echoing melody in the first two areas. In the city, the view is pretty amazing and there are many people who live in the apartments for Niko to interact with.
However, one problem remains: The sun isn’t going to stop the world from deteriorating. The squares are still a looming threat that corrupts the robots and anyone who dares to touch them. It is here that Niko sees the damage that “squares” can do to the roads, making them impassable. Niko may be the messiah but this mess is well beyond their control.
As a completionist, I feel the urge to talk to all the NPCs because I don’t want to miss the dialogue, which has most of the fascinating, world-building stuff in it. That scene where the guy at the cafe cooked some pancakes for Niko was a rather heartwarming moment. The poor kid even cried because they really missed their mom.
On the surface are some street vendors and dark alleyways. One road leads to the library, a place for Niko to get information on how to reach the tower. The research lab is run by the lead scientist, Kip Silverpoint, who lets Niko borrow her library card to go see the head librarian, George. It’s a funny story of how Niko tricked the reception desk robot.
It can be fun to mess around with the photo booth or go read the books at the library. Bits and pieces of mystery are sprinkled into the game; you overhear about characters and secrets that never show up in a normal playthrough such as the author who is widely respected for his published books.
Oneshot’s premise is based on the idea of only getting one chance to make things right. Or at least, that’s what you’re led to believe. Of course, you won’t find all the answers right away. For one, Niko cannot read the black clover journal. And there’s still that sealed metal door below the observation deck.
Only time will tell what kind of shocking plot twists are about to be unraveled if you choose to aim for a different ending. The game will always throw you off with a curveball by directing you to its source files when you’re unable to progress any further.