World of One is a dark, physics-based puzzle platformer in which a man seeks the truth about the origins of the world in which he lives.
Developer: Grimwood Team
Publisher: Grimwood Team
Genre: Physics-based puzzle platformer
Release Date: June 8th, 2017
Platforms: Windows, Mac, and Linux
World of One is a dark, physics-based puzzle platformer. In it, you live in your own little world, all on your own…or do you? One day, someone else appears, which simply should not be, and you begin to follow him. As you journey, you begin to question the very fabric of your world. Your journey will take you across multiple planets, making your way to increasingly dark and disturbing areas. Each planet has its own set of puzzles that must be solved and challenges that must be overcome, should you want to discover the truth about your world.
- A dark world – venture into a dark world, face its horrors, and seek the truth about its origins.
- Varied puzzles – take on a variety of puzzles, many of which feature their own unique mechanics.
- Intense boss fights – face off against intense bosses, each of which has its own unique attack patterns and puzzles to solve.
By Matt Chelen
Imagine that you have your own world in which only you reside. Now imagine that someone invades this world, which shouldn’t be able to happen, causing you to doubt the entire fabric of your world. This is how World of One begins, prompting a journey across multiple planets to find the truth about your world that has long since been lost to you.
In World of One, each of these planets serves as an individual level. The planets are small in size, with most able to be circled in a minute or two, and many are themed around specific mechanics or motifs. The goal of each planet is to solve puzzles, fight monsters, and inevitably make your way to a specific building, which changes as you progress through the game. If you manage to die, be it an obstacle or a monster, you will lose progress and your blood will be left behind Super Meat Boy style, reminding you of your failure to overcome that particular challenge. There is a checkpoint system that keeps you from losing too much progress, but checkpoints are generally few and far between.
These levels are brought to life in a stunningly dark style. There were times that it felt like the slight blurring effect that the game uses had blurred everything a bit too much, but the art itself is quite good. I am also happy to report that it is one of a few games of its kind that I can honestly say not only looks good in still photos, but also looks quite good in motion. Barring those of the final boss, the animations are very well done, which is always a nice surprise, given how many games get animation so utterly wrong.
Now, while the graphics are quite nice, where World of One really shines is in its puzzle design. The game features a number of unique mechanics, many of which were used in ways that I didn’t expect. For example, one level houses a machine that has several colored circles on it and a pointer that points to the currently active color. Several beams of corresponding colors are scattered across the level. You can only pass through beams that are the same color as the currently active color, whereas others will act as walls or floors. One part of the level takes advantage of the fact that you likely won’t have pay attention to the fact that your currently active color doesn’t need to be active anymore and teleports you to a space just above a beam of a different color, dropping you to your death. Albeit puzzles like this can often feel like they rely far too much on trial and error, I must admit that instances like these are quite clever.
I was also fairly impressed with the level of interactivity that certain puzzle elements had, which was ironically accentuated by the number of odd ways in which I was able to accidentally kill myself during an incorrect attempt at solving the puzzle at hand. In one case, I launched a box off of a platform and onto my head. In another, I didn’t set the pressure of a gas pipe properly before lighting it and I blew myself up. The very fact that these deaths were possible greatly enhanced the experience, as it added an element of risk that ultimately made me tread more lightly when attempting to solve the game’s puzzles.
The problem is that, while the game often has clever moments in which it makes use of a blend of unique mechanics and mundane puzzle-platformer mechanics, it also abandons many of its unique mechanics far too quickly. Puzzles early on in the game require you to use specific machines to manipulate the movement of moons, which are surrounded by low gravity fields that you can use to get over obstacles that would otherwise block your path. After the first boss, you will never see the moons again and the machines won’t be used to capture objects orbiting planets for the rest of the game. The aforementioned color puzzles are also abandoned fairly quickly, offering only one level dedicated to them and a brief appearance in a later level. I would have liked to see unique puzzle elements like these used more often and in more ways than they were.
Where World of One began to lose me is the moment that it began introducing moments that were dedicated to combat. The game’s combat system is fairly standard, featuring a light attack, a heavy attack, and a dodge. However, unlike many other games, attacks are sluggish, you can’t animation cancel, turning around quickly can be difficult, and the dodge largely feels useless, as it can’t be used against monsters that charge at you, such as dogs, which are the only ones that I really felt that I needed an active dodge for. The end result is a combat system that is functional, but often feels slow and unrewarding.
Due to the way combat works, many late-game puzzles can be downright infuriating. For some reason, many late-game puzzles have monsters scattered throughout them, some of which can’t be killed but will happily chase you back and forth. The exact reason that this is infuriating is that you don’t have health, per say; if you get hit once, you die. Therefore, you often end up in situations where you have completed nearly an entire puzzle, or even an entire level, but one piece of the puzzle is missing and, as you’re searching, you get hit by an invincible monster, sending you back to your last checkpoint. I can’t tell you how many times I had to replay an entire half of a level due to getting hit by a monster that I simply couldn’t rid myself of, but needed to pass repeatedly in my searches.
This is assuming that you even get to a point where only the invincible monster is left. The game really likes to throw multiple monsters of different kinds at you at once, oftentimes in ways that nearly instantly get you killed. I found that most of my encounters with monsters were largely based on trial and error. I have to move so far to the right to get the dog before everything else starts moving. I have to move so far to the left to make sure that the monsters line up in a manner that keeps the faster ones from hitting me while I try to quickly take out the slow one. I have to try and get these two identical monsters to stand on top of each other so that their AI will move identically and I can take them both out at the same time. It all comes down to a trial and error process that is fine-tuned over the course of multiple attempts.
There’s a specific part of a specific level that really highlights the what is wrong with the game’s combat system. You are temporarily trapped in a small area, during which time the game sends anywhere between three and five monsters at you at a time. For me, success came down to creating an exact routine that I followed in order to slowly kill the monsters that I was trapped with, usually starting with the group’s dog so that it wouldn’t charge me.
Bosses, however, are a different story. Three of the game’s four bosses contain larger puzzles of their own, each one unique from the last. They aren’t particularly complex puzzles, but, after suffering several deaths while attempting to figure out each fight’s mechanics, suddenly understanding how you’re supposed to defeat the boss at hand is fairly rewarding.
That being said, I didn’t particularly like many of the boss fights. One of them long outstayed its welcome, requiring you to go through the cycle of damaging the boss far too many times. Another one basically came down to slowly walking away from the boss as it swung at you, waiting for it to tire out and leave you with an opening; this boss was not particularly interesting and I ultimately found it to be somewhat of an exercise in tedium. The final boss was fairly creative, but I feel like another hint about how the process of defeating it was supposed to work wouldn’t have hurt. There are a number of steps that you have to take to deal damage to it and not all of them are as easily discerned as one would hope.
I don’t want to spoil much about the story, but I will say that it certainly surprised me. With games that have as much symbolism as World of One does, it’s often hard to tell where the story will end up heading. While certain elements of the story may end up being predictable to some, others will likely stun most people that play it. This story is one that, in ways feels deeply personal, but that I also hope isn’t based in reality, largely due to the implications of such a story being a reality. It is well-crafted, often misdirecting you, while the truth remains just within reach all the way up until the point that it is finally revealed.
It is said that there are three endings and that choices you make along the way will influence which ending you get, but I honestly couldn’t tell you much of what I did to get the ending that I got. The only moments that I am fairly sure that I actively made a choice that might have affected something are a moment where I skipped over a side passage and went to the end of the level, thinking that said side passage was a mandatory part of the level and a moment where there were two paths, each marked with a sign. This didn’t take away from the story as it was presented to me, but I imagine that the seemingly nebulous nature of these choices might stifle attempts to replay the game with the intention of getting a different ending than you had ended up with during your first playthrough.
I also want to note that, throughout my time with World of One, I experienced very few issues, but those that I did left me fairly frustrated. Due to the way that respawn mechanics work, a certain boss fight will sort of keep going in the background as you are respawning. If you didn’t make it very far and the boss is still within your respawn zone, he will simply keep going about his business, as if you had never died. This lead to some instantaneous deaths, as well as some unavoidable deaths that were caused by being cornered early on in the fight. I eventually found ways to more easily combat these situations, but not before the fight as a whole had frustrated me greatly.
The one obvious bug that I encountered required me to restart a level—one that I wasn’t particularly fond of, at that. I know this for sure because I had performed the actions required to complete the level several times over, but it wasn’t until I had restarted the level that said actions finally worked. I also noticed that a specific seemingly optional objective on that level had broken. There’s an item that you have to pick up and place in a specific location. After doing so the first time, I died, but, upon returning, the item was simultaneously back in the location that I had originally found it and in the location that I had to place it. Restarting the level fixed that, as well.
When World of One sticks to puzzles and dealing with enemies by avoiding them, a bright light begins to shine in its dark world. Puzzles are varied and many have multiple solutions. They are also surprisingly nuanced; simply solving some of them incorrectly will solve them, but it will also lead to your death. The experience falls apart a bit when it begins to focus on combat, but it should be noted that, despite that fact, I played through practically the entire game in one sitting, which took around seven hours, a testament to the fact that the game was still enjoyable long after the focus had shifted slightly. It’s a game that I wish had focused more on its puzzles, bringing back some of its mechanics in new and interesting ways more often, but one that still manages to remain interesting and present challenging puzzles throughout despite the fact that it does not.