Occasionally a game will make a big statement by screaming that the experience will contain multiple endings, and that the choices you make will determine how the gameplay plays out. But let’s be honest there are a huge number of games out there that don’t exactly fulfil their promises. I’m not going to mention any names here, but often you are provided with an alternative cutscene at the end of proceedings and left to get on with it. With One Night Stand the decisions you make across the smallest moments really do affect both the gameplay and story path; pretty much instantly. In fact, the game has 12 different endings to explore and all promise to give you an insight into the perils and adventures of a one night stand.
The original version of One Night Stand was developed in just 24 days for the NaNoRenO game jam. Here and now though the award-nominated game has now been taken on by Ratalaika Games, and delivered to console. You play as a man who wakes up hungover in bed, and it isn’t long before he realises he is in bed with a stranger. From that point, you make a number of choices that will determine many different consequences, leading you through the multiple endings of this narrative-led game.
The story and dialogue is the main element of this lovely little narrative drama. If anyone has ever had a one night stand it really does capture the embarrassment and awkwardness of the whole situation. The stilted conversations, the gentle probing and the utter fear that the situation could go into meltdown at the wrong turn of phrase or a bad look. If you so wish, you can finish the game in one way by just finding your clothes and making a run for the door, yet in another run through you may prefer to gently get to know the stranger and form the start of a relationship that could see a future as friends, or even something else. It’s well crafted and the possibilities involved in the many different endings are very deep. I have to say though, I personally like the funnier, more humorous ones that involve the mixing up of underwear, or how the order of coffee can make you sound like a trendy idiot.
The gameplay basically consists of making decisions and choices from a selection put in front of you. Some of these choices are from what the woman asks you directly – stuff like “What was the name of the bar we went to last night?”. Your answers are also determined by what information you can gather from around the room, as at this point you have no idea (due to heavy drinking) what actually happened the night before. The stranger will leave the room at various times to get coffee or because she feels unwell too, and this is the point when you can have a right old snoop around the room, picking up your clothes or getting an insight into her life. What does that picture of her and another man on the dresser mean? Once discovered that conversation topic will now come up in the dialogue tree for you to choose from.
It all works extremely well and after you action your first playthrough, you will find yourself wanting and needing to discover all 12 endings without a breather. And as you may expect to hear, some are that much harder to reach conclusion than others, but they will reward you with plenty of secrets, managing to give the story many more complex diversions than you first imagined. After the first run, you can also skip quickly through dialogue that you’ve seen before, which is a major help and keeps the boredom at bay.
The visual design of One Night Stand on Xbox One is pretty unique and employs life-like rotoscope animation and hand-drawn artwork to great effect. The initial creator of the game actually modeled all the woman/strangers motions and actions herself, and this comes across in the level of detail; the expressions are top notch. It reminds at times of the Life is Strange design in regards to the objects, like leaflets and flyers and the text itself. The endings themselves run as simple cutscenes, but I found each and every one moving, even the funny ones. Soundtrack wise there is no voice-over which isn’t something I particularly missed and because of the number of times you will be replaying the game I guess a repeated voice-over would get too annoying. There is an original soundtrack on offer here though, and it’s both quite beautiful and stark.
I have massively enjoyed playing this simple but complex narrative-driven adventure. The writing is very strong and the whole complex multiverse nature of the game is a delight. Some will find the prospect of sitting around and chatting too dull to warrant a purchase, and others might discover that after one playthrough, they’ll not want to play it anymore, but unfortunately for them, I think they’d be missing out on some brilliant possibilities and many “sliding doors” moments. The fact that it is a pretty cheap download helps as well, and for that reason it’s certainly worth taking a gamble on this intimate adventure. Just be prepared to have a One Night Stand.