“The experience is emotional. That’s something I’ve never seen or heard of in a game.”
– Jimmy King
“[One Chance] split the vote neatly between those who admired it for being built first and foremost around emotional clout and those who loathed it for being based first and foremost around emotional clout.”
– Alec Meer
“…beyond the visceral emotional impact it had on me I have little else to say about it. Because the game only gives you one chance to play it makes it difficult to evaluate as a work or cultural artifact.”
– Eric Swain
An enraged man comes at you with a knife. Press the space bar to defend. Otherwise, die.
FEEL THE EMOTION!
I didn’t quote the above three bloggers to make them look foolish (although they do) — I quoted them to show you that some people in this world really do think this silly Flash game is “something never seen before”, “emotional”, and “a cultural artifact”.
You want to know what was never seen before? Grand Theft Auto III.
You want to know what’s emotional? The challenging, heart-pounding boss battles from Ys: The Oath in Felghana.
You want to know what’s a cultural artifact? Devil May Cry.
Was One Chance trying to directly compete with any of those games? Of course not . . . but when people ignore the history of gaming and make hyperbolic statements, absurd comparisons pop up. Unfortunately, these bloggers believe their hype. They believe that mass-market videogames aren’t emotional or inventive. They spread their nonsense to a public that thrives on hype, and they whisper their serpentine words into the ears of developers at every opportunity. They encourage companies to “learn” from bad games by imitating them. As someone who enjoys videogames and wants to see them get even better, that’s a crime.
Final Fight is a great videogame. Let’s talk about One Chance.
It’s a six-level game in which you walk from left to right. You cannot jump or express emotions via punches and piledrivers, but you get to make a decision by either pressing the space bar or not pressing it. This happens up to twice per level and influences the story. According to that story, you created the cure for cancer. This is a happy thing. On level two (day two), your cure is revealed to actually be a horrible cell-killing concoction that will destroy all life on Earth. This is a sad thing.
Celebrate curing cancer, or work. If you don’t work, you eventually lose.
No choices. The enormity of your scientific blunder is symbolized by a newspaper article and by a dark-skinned figure intentionally falling off the edge of a rooftop. This is an homage to the cinematic tradition of always killing the black man first.
Go home and have sex with your wife, or work. If you don’t work, you eventually lose.
Stay home, have sex with a coworker, or work. If you don’t work, you eventually lose.
The events of this day vary depending on previous actions. It still boils down to “work” or “don’t work”. If you don’t work, you eventually lose.
Work, or don’t. If you don’t work, you lose.
The game then ends, but it doesn’t return to the title screen — it just leaves you staring at the final image. You can never play again, because that’s what One Chance means: you have one chance to play . . . unless you mess with the Flash player’s default settings. Most endings result in your quiet death. A couple result in your violent death. And in the best ending, you manage to save yourself and your daughter as the rest of the world dies.
The “good” ending is meant to be sweet and touching, although it implies your daughter is condemned to an incestuous future as a baby-making machine. The “bad” endings are meant to make you reflect on what you could have done differently with your one chance.
One Chance’s answer is “work hard every day”. I understand that someone faced with the destruction of all life should strive to find a cure. Preservation of the species is pretty damn important. Hell, if I knew the world were ending, I wouldn’t even go home to sleep. For some reason, One Chance’s protagonist returns home every night after work. But forget that. To “win” the game, you have to work every single day, even on that very first day when you think you’ve successfully cured cancer. So the game is really teaching us to be good little sheep and never do anything fun for ourselves. One Chance thinks we should keep repeating the same routine over and over and over again, without ever taking time off to expand our minds by experiencing life.
Cocktail Soft’s ancient hentai game Welcome to Pia Carrot!! requires the player to not only make choices throughout each day, but also to strategically select tasks to improve themselves. Conversations are far more elaborate than One Chance’s simple “You wanna get out of here? YES/NO” exchanges, and players are sometimes rewarded for actually having fun. People who seek “emotion” from their games will find a lot more relevance from Pia Carrot’s divergent tales of love than from One Chance’s idiotic tale of players inventing a cancer cure that ACCIDENTALLY KILLS EVERYONE.
If a designer’s goal is to send a message, then they should put players in situations that players can relate to.
At this point, some readers are probably flabbergasted because I dared praise a hentai game. Consider this: both games have sex scenes. Pia Carrot does them better.
One Chance is a bad game for obvious reasons. The graphics are poor, the music is repetitive, the guy walks slowly, the story is silly, player interaction is minimal, and victory is achieved through repetition instead of mastery. Its claim to fame is that you only have one chance unless you game the system.
1986′s excellent and highly-interactive Starflight was like that too, unless you were smart enough to make backups of your floppy disks. Thank goodness games don’t do that anymore.