A cat-like child named Niko wakes up in a decrepit house, locked in a room with a bookshelf, a password-locked computer, and a TV remote control on the floor. It’s too dark to read the books and there’s no sign of a password anywhere – it's up to you to find a way out. Not long after, Niko stumbles upon a massive lightbulb in the basement. Carrying this prize into the lightless wastes, a prophetic robot claims Niko is the saviour – a messiah meant to carry the sun to the tower at the centre of the world to restore daylight. This is the set-up of OneShot: World Machine Editiona short point-and-click adventure game originally developed in 2014 with an endearing, sombre story.
Games like OneShot are difficult to review because to delve too deeply into the narrative would ruin the experience. Just know this: developer Future Cat makes you – the player – a character in the story. Niko’s quest is framed as a game installed on a PC that functions as both a menu and narrative device. Options to choose wallpapers, change the colour scheme, view achievements, and the like take the form of desktop icons. Niko will frequently break the fourth wall to address you by your Nintendo Switch profile name as you guide her through a dying world. Future Cat makes clever use of this dichotomy between the desktop PC and the game within to add creative layers to an already compelling adventure.
Item-based puzzles – think The Secret Of Monkey Island with a touch more despair than blatant humour – bar Niko from advancing through three distinct areas. For example, a gatekeeping robot asked us to sign a ledger to pass yet had no pen. Off we went, guiding Niko throughout the crumbling Glen to trade for an inkwell and find something suitable to dip in it. This consisted of speaking with forgotten robots and downtrodden denizens, all of them full of charm and with an undercurrent of humour keeping things from getting too bleak. Unlike the point-and-click adventures of two or three decades ago, none of the puzzles stumped us, yet the dopamine rush hit us all the same when things slid into place. Before we knew it, the credits rolled, and we sat back, pensive from the bittersweet ending.
If we had to name a gripe, it stems from how OneShot was originally designed for actual PCs. Controlling the mouse pointer and the sizing of the in-game windows have been lost in the process of getting the game onto the console. We found it either hard to see the finer details of the pixelated world in windowed mode – especially with the Switch undocked – or too blurry when in full-screen mode with thick, distracting borders.
Still, these aren't major issues. In fact, we can’t think of a legitimate reason not to recommend OneShot: World Machine Edition to anyone with a passing interest in point-and-click adventures. There are, after all, much worse ways to spend an afternoon or two than guiding Niko through one of the most endearing and creative indie titles available on the Switch.