World of One is a peculiar game, that much I’ll say from the off. It’s one of those journeys that slowly feed you tidbits of narrative for each portion of progression that’s made. Though in all honesty, despite its best efforts and with its attempt at relaying a somewhat emotional plot, I cant say that I ever felt that involved with the story overall. On top of that, World of One’s gameplay leaves a lot to be desired, an awful lot. With that being said, perhaps I’m getting too far ahead of myself, so let’s take a few steps back and take this from the top.
World of One clearly pulls design inspiration from the likes of Limbo, relaying a black and white 2D design, with no color outside of that, save the blood that you’ll leave behind on your several deaths. To its credit, World of One wants to stand out on the visual front, and thanks to some articulate world transitioning, grouped with its fairly well detailed environments, it does manage to achieve that result to some degree. That alone isn’t enough to save it, mind, but it gets a pass from me for its unique presentation nonetheless.
Much of what you’ll witness is blackness; the foreground a silhouette whilst the background toys with various designs and effects. There’s a few segments of play that do indeed bring some vibrancy to the game outside of your blood stains, but it’s largely infrequent and as a result, indifferent. Whatever the case, if you enjoy the likes of Limbo and Feist, you’ll appreciate how World of One looks. Sadly, I cant extend the same level of kindness to the game’s soundtrack; pitching little more than repetitive noise and cues to fill-in the silence.
It would be unjust for me to dive too deeply into the story at hand, given the pace in which this is fed to the player. In a nutshell, you take on the role of a young man who is clearly pursuing answers to clear up an unsettling feeling that’s haunting him. Before long, we stumble upon a spirit-like being and follow it through thick and thin, with some overarching plot points thrown in to merge current circumstances with shreds of backstory. The game has a habit of being vague, so much so that you may miss the campaign point entirely.
It doesn’t really matter, to be fair, because regardless as to how you digest it, it’s unlikely to rock your world. Nevertheless, it does serve as the game’s backbone and succeeds in holding the meaning of the gameplay together, for whatever that’s worth. The gameplay loop sees you traversing a collection of small planets on a 2D field. Your character can move both left and right, hold a handful of inventory items, interact with specific objects and, eventually, wield a shovel that doubles up as a melee weapon. It’s your run-of-the-mill affair here.
You’ll typically begin each world at a starting point, and will need to work around the rim of the planet until you hit the exit-point. Between you and that lies a handful of environmental puzzles and obstacles, all of which require some degree of perseverance. Now, it’s far too easy to die in this game due to its one-hit death design, so traversal is something that needs to be done carefully. Each level, when you know what you’re doing, tends to last no more than a few minutes per-whack, and believe me, the majority of these are just too easy.
There’s a few puzzles in the mix that do require some thought and planning, but for the most part, you’ll likely breeze through the journey at hand with little trouble. Puzzles tend to rely on tried and tested mechanics; push this block here to open a door, pull levers in a specific sequence, take a battery out of a machine and place it into another, and so forth. The game does become slightly more complex later in, such as tasking you with tapping into imaginary scenery that helps you to reach new heights, but nothing that’s overly taxing.
The game’s enemies also feed into some of the puzzles. For instance, on one section of the game I needed to guide an enemy onto two switches so that I could drop a bridge further down, and then further tease my enemy to pursue me so that I could kill it by an alter; opening a door that allowed me to proceed. Though again, there really isn’t anything spectacular about World of One, the answers are usually staring you right in the face. So much so that you can often overlook them because they’re exactly that, far too simple.
Unfortunately, there appears to be a bug in the game that makes it seemingly impossible to proceed past a specific point. There’s a puzzle later in, in which you’re required to die a total of three times (yes, ridiculous, right?) to fulfill three alters. The problem is, is that unless you die whilst stood perfectly at the alter, the game will crash and return you to the home screen. I spent north of thirty minutes trying to work out what the problem was, with each crash resulting in a level-restart. It’s not fun, and it’s something that seriously needs fixing.
On to the issues that cant be fixed; the game’s combat and its unfair, cheap deaths. When you obtain the shovel, you’re afforded the ability to perform two attacks, a jab attack and a heavy attack. The problem here is that the combat is sluggish. This isn’t so much of an issue when you’re face to face with the game’s easier foes, but when you’re later in the journey and find yourselves surrounded, no amount of quick dodging (a backwards hop) or button mashing will save you from constant deaths, over and over, and over again.
The same can be said about the game’s bosses, which are about as fun as standing on a pin, barefoot. The first boss, for instance, simply has you lighting up a few beacons to kill it. The second boss follows the same concept, but has you lighting lampposts to freeze it in place so that you can get some attacks in whilst it’s blinded. The lack of innovation here is unforgivable, and its only made all the more unbearable when you’re killed by the boss’ grunts for simply dodging an attack and landing in their path; with nowhere else to go.
I’m not suggesting that the developer makes these sequences any harder, but constantly dying through unavoidable error is not my idea of a good time. If anything, it pissed me off. It’s a shame, because there’s some refreshing moments elsewhere, if indeed pretty fleeting. I quite enjoyed the gravity balls that rotated around some of the worlds, forcing me to time my jumps perfectly to clear larger gaps, and indeed, a select few enemies that encouraged me to play stealthily. It’s unfortunate that this level of ingenuity is far from consistent.
What I will say in defense of the game is that there are times in which many of the levels can be completed in different ways, or by taking different routes. Several times did I skip by something that clearly needed some attention and interaction, only to find that I was able to complete the level without it. I can say the same when it comes to the different pathways that you can take on select levels, providing you with a choice of approach. Revolutionary, no, but something that caught my eye enough for me to make a note about it all the same.
In fairness, World of One could have been a lot more than what it is had the developer paced the puzzles a bit better and made them more robust and more challenging. As it stands, the game is either far too easy or far too frustrating throughout. You’ll spend most of your time flying through it or dying due to trial and error, and although there is a decent checkpoint system within, it still wears thin a lot sooner than it should. There are multiple endings to pursue, but I doubt many will feel compelled to run this through more than once.
World of One is far more frustrating than it is fun. Don’t be fooled by its decent Limbo-esque design, because for the most part, you’re either subject to cheap deaths, sluggish combat, or bugs that are seemingly game-breaking. There’s a few exciting moments and some interesting ideas thrown into the mix later in, but nothing that can be considered particularly redeeming.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.