One Leaves made a mysterious appearance in some advertising a small while back, before swiftly being pulled from view. Naturally, this sparked quite a bit of interest, though details regarding what the game was about remained thin on the ground. Until now, that is. The premise seemed pretty damn interesting; four enter, only one escapes. That alone had even me sitting up in mild excitement. Though, now that it’s here, I can safely say that that’s about as much excitement as I was ever going to get from this messy, shoddily developed game.
Microsoft has yet to confirm that One Leaves is available, something I’m sure will be announced during their Inside Xbox episode on March 12th. Though, rest assured. You’re able to head on over to your Microsoft Store and download a digital copy of the game for the lump sum of sweet nothing. Perhaps we should take it easy on the game because it’s free, and because it houses good intentions? No. I wont take it easy. Not at all. One Leaves is a disgusting trek that relays little more than lazy ideas and poor execution throughout.
The game’s entire narrative is wrapped around quitting smoking, how smoking is bad for your health, and how badly it affects the body. There’s also elements of tobacco-related death in the game, with a theme that uses statistics to relay the fact that few who start smoking, rarely ever give up. I’ll credit the game for this. It’s an important message that any smoker, including myself, should adhere. Though, it’s very hard to take the game’s message very seriously at all, when it sits in the midst of such a technically flawed methodology.
The game starts out by placing you in a cage. Here, you’ll see three other characters in cages of their own. Each of you has a door to enter, which is locked until an audio message tells you that only one of you will escape. The moment the door opens, you’re free to patrol the game’s confined environments at your own pace. You’ll immediately see a locked gate that has some power cables running from it, and throughout the environment. The aim of play is to follow each cable until you meet its puzzle; solve said puzzle, and move to the next one.
Once you’ve successfully solved all of the puzzles, the locked gate will open and will allow you to move on to the next area. There’s three areas in all, with the full experience lasting no longer than twenty minutes in total. That said, there’s some replay value to be found through multiple runs; each new run typically brings the odd new layout, but the same dull presentation and execution. Eventually you’ll get a different ending, but the endings within consist of little more than a text-page that gives you a few statistics regarding smoking.
The game’s environments are chock-full of tobacco-related themes, and the ill affects that it has on the human body. In fact, most of the achievements are focused on finding these themes; find the diseased mouth, discover the tarred lungs, and so forth. These typically tend to be gory rooms that are full of decayed organs and unsettling imagery. Though, in truth, nothing hits the mark. I do want to point out that if this game even stops one person from smoking, it’s worth its weight in gold, but I simply cant overlook its drawbacks.
One Leaves is full of technical issues and lazy ideas. There’s no shortage of framerate issues to contend with, as well as regular crashing and kicks to the home screen. Optimization clearly wasn’t the developer’s strong suit. Then there’s the game’s visual and audio design. One Leaves is an ugly looking game, complete with poor lighting, bland textures, and all-round shoddy presentation. I can extend the same level of criticism to the game’s audio, which does little to relay any form of decent quality. It’s just a complete wreck overall.
It doesn’t help matters that the game’s core functionality is as weak as they come. The game’s puzzles amount to the likes of moving a few bookshelves around to reach a smokey vortex, activating a few lights to retrieve a torch, and something as painfully tedious as walking the same hallway several times over until a hidden switch appears. It’s bland, it’s boring, and it’s irritating. This all sits within a maze-like environment, however, the environment is that small that it’s too hard to get lost within, rather than that of the desired contrary.
Optional rooms are present to traverse. These rooms are fashioned on smoking dens, hospital rooms, and more besides. Along the way, you’ll regularly come across writing on the walls that flat out tells you that smoking is bad for your health, and that there’s no escaping the bad affects of tobacco. We also endure smoke-filled rooms that make your character cough uncontrollably. There’s little to keep on track of as far as the game’s handling is concerned; movement, an action prompt, a brief run, a jump function, and little else.
That’s the sum of the game’s depth folks. In short, it’s a game that has a powerful message, but a very poor way of expressing said message. You’ll spend twenty minutes each run, maneuvering around its isolated locations whilst solving a collection of ridiculous puzzles. Throughout, the game’s theme will persist, but it’s a theme that’s often lost in the face of the game’s more dominant technical and design issues. If that sings to you, fill your boots. If you prefer a better way to digest the game’s message, there’s a link right here for you.
Smoking is bad for you. The game clearly relays that message to its players at each and every turn. Whilst its intentions are good and it is indeed free to play, the whole experience is an ugly mess. One Leaves lacks originality, consists of little more than lazy ideas and poor execution, and is chock-full of irritating performance issues. Sadly, because of this, the majority of its narrative gets lost in the midst of its frustrating methodology.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.