You know that dream where you’re running, and everything behind you is disappearing into darkness and you just know that it’s crumbling away into nothing and somewhere out there is a platypus? No? Just me, then? Okay.
Well, One Way Heroics is the RPG-style version of that dream, minus the platypus. The darkness encroaches from the left, so you head forever to the right, fighting monsters, gaining levels, and finding better gear so that you can eventually best the demon lord and save the world.
While it looks like a lo-fi JRPG, it’s really a puzzle game. Keep going right, manage your energy and hit points, and improve your gear through loot drops or buying from merchants. The hardest part is managing your inventory. You can only carry around 20 weight-units, and armor and weapons can weigh anywhere from 2 to 8. Fighting monsters consults the random number generator for hitting and damage, and most of the strategy is making sure the monsters come to you and knowing when to run.
And running to the right. Always go right, because if you tarry the darkness catches up with you and devours you.
As with a lot of games lately, One Way Heroics makes death a stepping stone. You earn points depending on how well you did, and you can spend them to keep items for your next life and unlock new classes and abilities. It also gives you the opportunity to express something about your death: Was that enemy too tough? Was your armor just not good enough? The game gives you a selection of last words. My favorite: “I curse youuuu!”
Those come more into play on the public games. I don’t know exactly how it works, but you can join new-generated worlds (or return to old ones), or join existing worlds where others are playing. You can see when they get to new regions or when they die (and how they feel about that death).
So far, it’s a fun puzzle. My deaths feel earned. When I don’t run from the Phantom Knight, or when I get stuck in a maze and the darkness catches up, or when I forget to use one of my powers and die, it’s my fault, not the whim of the game. And I like that. It makes me feel like I can learn from it, and makes me want to play again to demonstrate that.
If anything annoys me, it’s that gear isn’t identified when you first find it. It always makes me uncertain about whether I should use it, and since pack space is in such short supply, I usually don’t. I’m not sure what game purpose it serves, requiring me to ID weapons before I know what type they are or how much durability they have left. But I need to swap eventually, as all gear eventually falls apart.