Developer: Little Cat Feet
If you have never heard of the game OneShot before, I do not blame you. OneShot is a small indie game that released to little fanfare back in 2016; it never topped any sales charts or caught the attention of many YouTubers. Yet, this obscure game is one that you should not miss out on, as it attempts something that I’ve never seen in any other game before: it simulates a personal relationship between a god and his subject. In OneShot, that god is you.
Violence: No blood or gore is depicted onscreen, but characters die or are referred to as already dead due to the mysterious circumstances causing the world to fall apart and decay. One character dies with vines shooting out from their body; due to the pixelated visuals and the character’s distance from the camera, however, the depiction isn’t particularly graphic.
Spiritual References: OneShot’s narrative makes heavy use of the concepts of a god and a savior. Niko, the character that the player controls, is described as the savior of the world. You, the player, are referred to as the God of the world that Niko is trying to save. Niko communicates with you directly, and in his first contact with you, he specifically closes his eyes and concentrates in order to reach you, simulating a common practice of prayer. A side character is referred to as Prophetbot. There’s also a plant spirit which resides in a part of the game world, who has mystical, unexplained control over vines and plant life.
In OneShot, you control Niko, a cat-like child who one day wakes up in a dark, unfamiliar world. Soon after Niko wakes, he discovers a giant light bulb which glows when he picks it up; the residents of this mysterious land inform him that this light bulb is their new sun, and that he is their savior. His destiny is to take the light bulb to the top of a tall tower and restore light to the world. But Niko is not alone on his journey; he is guided by you, the player, who is God of this dying land.
It’s this refreshing take on spiritual themes that drew me into the game the most during my time playing it. Plenty of other games put the player into the role of a god (there is an entire genre of games known as god games), but these tend to put the emphasis on giving the player ridiculous powers and overseeing hordes of NPCs who lack personality. In OneShot, however, relationship is at the core of what makes the game special. You control Niko’s actions—where he goes, what he interacts with—but Niko is distinct from the player; he talks to you, addressing you by your own name, presumably snagged from somewhere in your computer’s files. It was quite surreal to see him literally praying to me and asking me questions about who I am, the world I live in, and the unfamiliar land he was being called to save.
Elements of gameplay also fit into this theme of the divine. Oneshot’s gameplay consists primarily of solving puzzles to proceed in the story, and some of these puzzles break the fourth wall, requiring you to find files that the game has sneakily placed into your computer. To Niko, existing solely within the game world, my actions appeared as completely unexplained supernatural powers, further driving home the sense of godhood.
These themes encouraged me to reflect on my beliefs about the real God, and how I in my role as the God of OneShot compared to Him. The God I believe in is all-knowing and all-powerful, and has a plan going into every moment. I, on the other hand, know remarkably little about the world I am trying to save; in fact, I don’t know all that much more than Niko. One time, telling Niko the truth about how I had solved a problem meant admitting that I had gotten help from another source, and thus that I wasn’t all-knowing or all-powerful myself. These reflections only served to deepen my immersion in the game world and my connection to Niko.
The game’s presentation further enhances the overall experience. OneShot’s pixel graphics won’t blow you away, but its vibrant and colorful art style allow it to punch above its weight visually. Character design is also strong; the game is filled with quirky characters, from the staff-wielding Prophetbot to the librarian with a die for a head. Niko stands out in particular; his cat-like features accentuate his childlike, enthusiastic personality, often providing a sense of wonder and levity that helps keep the game’s tone from getting too melodramatic.
Unfortunately, not all of OneShot is as compelling as its spiritual components and art design. While the fourth-wall-breaking elements are genuinely creative, the rest of the gameplay is rather pedestrian. Many puzzles in the game fit the standard formula of old-school point-and-click adventure games: find items strewn about the environment, combine them with one another in your inventory to create new objects, and then use those objects to solve a puzzle. It’s all functional, but not particularly compelling.
On top of that, the side characters in the game fail to live up to their potential. Many of them hint at having interesting backstories and relationships, but you almost never see them interact with one another; Niko gets one or two scenes with each one, and that’s about it. As a result, the side characters don’t do much to draw you into the story. This feels like a missed opportunity, especially considering how much care went into crafting the lead.
Despite its shortcomings, OneShot remains an enjoyable and fascinating game. Its fresh approach to spiritual themes, combined with its strong art style and fourth-wall-breaking puzzles, create a unique experience that you can’t find anywhere else. And as a Christian, it’s exciting to see a core element of my faith—the personal relationship between God and another individual—portrayed in a way that only a game can accomplish.
The Bottom Line
OneShot is a fascinating game that merges creative, fourth-wall-breaking gameplay with a fresh approach to spiritual themes. Its shortcomings hold it back from greatness, but its numerous strengths make it an experience you shouldn't overlook.