‘I’m here today to antagonize you.’
That’s a direct quote from the author of One Chance, a touching, strangely beautiful little flash game that flaunts convention in order to make a point, and does so with style.
One of the most exciting things about gaming as a medium (dare I say art form?) is the issue of choice. Obsidian’s ambitious but flawed Alpha Protocol made a big deal of the fact that every choice made by the player would have an impact later in the story. Yet even that game allowed you to go back, try again and see what other outcomes there were.
Once Chance gives you no such opportunity. Just like real life, there is no ‘restart’ button, no saved game to fall back on. You get exactly one go at saving the world. Chances are, you will probably fail.
Once Chance is not a complicated game to play. It’s a simple, 2d affair – you can walk left or right, and interact with things that you come across. That’s it. Stylistically, it reminds me of another thought-provoking flash game, Every Day The Same Dream. The complexity comes from the interaction between the choices you make.
I’m going to talk about the plot now, so if you’re interested in experiencing this for yourself I recommend you stop reading here and go play the game!
Spoilers start after the image.
So, there’s more than a passing resemblance to I Am Legend in the plotline, which revolves around a miracle cure for cancer turning into an epidemic of apocalyptic proportions, but the real story is that of the protagonist, John. Every day, until the end of the world, you have two basic choices – go to work and try to combat the virus, or skip work and spend time with your friends or family. I mostly chose to work, deciding that the potential to save the human race was more important than my personal life. I watched a colleague jump from the roof of the lab, and I kept on working. Eventually, more colleagues started dropping dead from the virus. My boss urged me to spend time with my family before it was too late, but I kept on working.
Suddenly, things changed. I came home one day, and my wife was dead.
Now I not only had to save the world, but I had to do it with my motherless daughter on my back. It occurred to me at this point that I’d been ignoring John’s family completely in pursuit of a cure that may not exist. I’d had many opportunities to spend time with my family, but I’d chosen to work every time.
The next day, I took my daughter to work. I wanted to have one last try. At this point, it was clearly far to late. Everyone else was dead. Even if the cure could be found, only the two of us would benefit from it. So I stopped trying.
On the last day, instead of working, I took Molly to the park.
We died there. My journey ended on a bench, in the snow, with my daughter by my side.
Now, I know I could probably delete a few files and force the game to reset, or play it on another computer. I could have another attempt at saving the world
Somehow, that just wouldn’t be right.