World of One (Video Game)

World of OneDeveloped by Grimwood Team

Available on PC through Steam

Suitable for ages 14+


If you’re under the age of 30 and a self-described nerd, chances are you have taken part in a debate on whether or not video games are “art.” It’s one of those pointless, inapplicable debates, decided in the court of public opinion and without any lasting consequence. Anyone that takes it really seriously is just wanking about, as it’s been generally decided that yes, games can be art. Now it’s just up to the bespectacled meganerds to hash out the details for all eternity. Before you think I’m being needlessly harsh and overly critical, I actually taught a class on the topic for a few years. While I’ve written several dozen papers about the merits of various styles, titles, and modes of expression, I do realize that ultimately it doesn’t really matter.

Not to say that gaming shouldn’t be taken seriously. There are some beautiful games out there that can move hearts and change minds with the best sculptures, paintings, and films. What is a waste of time is valuing a game just because it attempts to be art. Enter stage right, World of One.

World of One

Yo dawg, I heard you like art…

I think we need a term for games that are banking on their indie art cred to move copies and hoover up positive reviews from wannabe critics. In the german tradition of just smashing clauses together to make something new, I’m going to coin the term “feelscore.” A feelscore game is one where actual gameplay is secondary, glaring design flaws are expected to be overlooked, and game breaking bugs come stock standard. But for some reason we are supposed to forget all this, because the game has an edgy subject matter and quirky art style. Sorry, am I showing my hand too early, World of One?

I suppose I should actually tell you what World of One is before I start taking shots at it from my ivory tower. World of One is an atmospheric hardcore puzzle-platformer brawler with planet-based physics and a grim papercraft artstyle. In a nutshell, it’s Super Mario Galaxy mixed with Dark Souls and Limbo all smeared in blood.

World of One

Oh boy, rotating spike balls. My favorite.

How could an indie game that’s only $7 deliver on all of these promises in equal measures? Well of course it doesn’t. The physics are inconsistent, combat terrible, and puzzles confusing. Even the blood gets a bit silly when it is decorating the same patch of land for the billionth time. Which it will be, because World of One is very very hard.

Now take note that I said hard, not challenging. I’ve had considerable debate with people over the difference between “hard” and “challenging,” and boy oh boy if I don’t have another bullet in the chamber for that argument. Games like Dark Souls and Counter-Strike are challenging, where the onus of failure is entirely up to you for just not being good enough. Games like World of One are hard because they are broken. From the intolerable combat to the game breaking bugs, I struggled to get through World of One for all the wrong reasons.

World of One

It took me a stupidly long time to beat this maggot thing for the worst reasons.

I’ll just go through my issues in the order I already arbitrarily brought them up. The physics in this game are unforgivably shoddy. On face value it makes sense: you are on a circular world, so you jump on a little curve. Smaller planets and competing gravitational pulls will lead to longer jumps. It works in an incredibly fluid game like Super Mario Galaxy, but in World of One it just feels like I’m trying to nudge a medicine ball around with an oar. I got killed several times because—while I could properly factor in the rotation of the planet, the hang time of the bounce, and my own personal momentum—I couldn’t account for just how long it would take for my command to move left to actually compel the character to move left. And let’s not even get into the three times I had to restart a level because I got locked into a fall animation on a ledge like Wile E. Coyote in his own personal purgatory.

World of One

Mechanics are also frequently abandoned. After the two levels where you use these anti-gravity moons, they are never to be seen again.

The combat is ass. It’s a whole portion of ass slapped between two loaves of ass slathered in ass and served up with a side of ass. You have two attacks: a light attack that you will never use, and a heavy attack that stunlocks almost everything. Sounds easy enough, but that’s when the shit actually works. So many times my attacks would go sailing through the enemy because the tip of my shovel didn’t connect with the few pixels that made up their actual hitbox. You die in one hit, so any kind of fuckup makes you go back to the last checkpoint. The checkpoints are in their own separate category of ass, and when I died because the lords of hitboxes weren’t properly satisfied with my morning sacrifice it’s just constant servings of crap being forced down my throat.

World of One

Riveting.

The puzzles are the game’s high point. Most of the time. Overall, I was pleased with how simple and intuitive most of it was. There isn’t much in the way of hand holding, so you feel genuinely clever when you figure out some of the harder ones. There’s one puzzle in particular that requires you to die, and it made me giddy in that oldschool way where games weren’t afraid to make you think way outside of the box.

That being said, there is outside of the box, and then there is taking the box, mailing it to Spain, changing your address, and filing a restraining order against the box. There are two puzzles in particular that I am thinking of. One involved guessing a number, which was solved with the most obtuse clue imaginable. It was nowhere near the puzzle, and had absolutely no indication it was related. I actually had to message the devs and ask for a solution. Another time, the solution to the puzzle for some reason spawned outside of my visible range. I’ve seen previous versions of the game in videos, and apparently the hint at some point was moved. This must have been a mistake, as I cannot possibly imagine why they would put the hint you need behind the door that the puzzle opens. Either it’s terrible design or completely broken.

World of One

I do love myself some good ol’ monsters standing on buttons puzzles.

But we’re all supposed to forget this, right? World of One is ART after all. There are plenty of games I love that make up for severe mechanical shortcomings with storytelling. Hell, I just gave Get Even a 4.5/5! I know that the decent visuals and edgy vibe are going to make this game call out to the souls of some particularly hxc teenagers, but World of One is not art.

From the get-go, it’s clear that the actual world of World of One is a metaphor. You play as some dude with a haircut straight from a Tim Burton inspired anime fan film, who’s traveling between these perilous planets in pursuit of a mysterious shade. Symbolic journeys through the soul are pretty standard for feelscore games, and a lot of them do it well. The problem is that World of One just has nothing to say. If you’re going to do an introspective look into tragedy and the nature of guilt, you have to have a plot twist that people can relate to. I won’t spoil anything, but the big reveal at the end feels like it was ripped from a high school edgelord’s blog.

The best thing about World of One is that it’s $7. They have mostly fixed the bugs at this point (I’m reviewing it so late because there was one glitch that prevented me from finishing), so if you’re really bored and set your expectations low enough you can easily get your money’s worth. It’s bad, but it isn’t cancerous. And it certainly isn’t a soulless cash grab. It’s obvious that Grimwood Team wants to make something good. They just didn’t. Better luck next time.

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Ted Hentschke

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