Six hours to live is six hours too many
HIGH Some gems in the soundtrack’s large assortment of songs.
LOW Unpleasant visuals.
WTF The game-within-a-game about getting high and going to classes.
One Way Trip will either grip players or lose them completely within the first five minutes of gameplay. Structured like a visual novel with only the most rudimentary of possible interactions, it sells itself entirely on the story it tells.
The game begins with college students/brothers Gordon and Barry drinking and watching TV in their dorm room when an announcement comes on screen. Apparently, the nation’s water supply has been poisoned, and anyone who drank tap water that day has less than six hours left to live. Both boys infected, they determine that their story mustn’t end on their couch, so they choose to set off in pursuit of a cure. Before long, they get involved in sci-fi rebellions and cross hostile terrain on the backs of cockroaches with the heads of wolves.
Suffice it to say, things get a bit trippy.
From the very first moments, its presentation hits hard. I hardly know where to begin, but let’s start with the visuals. They are garish. Drenched in pastel colors, the backgrounds look like they’ve been drawn with crayon and colored pencil while the character sprites seem to be traced from photographs of real people.
These two styles don’t fit together at all, and the drawings each character has are inconsistent and often quite ugly. One Way Trip seems to be going for an avant-garde “so bad it’s good” aesthetic, but it never pulls it off.
Sound design, similarly, seems to be aiming for a very minimalist, postmodern, anti-art feeling as well. Throughout the experience there are few sound effects. In fact, the game is silent with the exception of music in the background.
The soundtrack has surprising variety, although my guess is that it was performed by the dev team, or friends of theirs. Offerings here range from alternative hip-hop to shoegazey electronic rock, to some accomplished post-rock compositions. It fit the adventure well and a few were rather enjoyable, but in general the audio gives One Way Trip a “cheap” feeling.
So what about the writing? The entirety of gameplay/storytelling takes place within a text box at the bottom of the screen, and while there’s an impressive amount of it, it’s tedious and meandering. The characters speak casually and in their manner of speaking (not their content) they come across as real people. Most of the conversations don’t end up going anywhere, though, and One Way Trip has terrible economy of language — it takes forever for anything to happen in the story. The unlikable cast spends far too much time just shooting the shit with repetitive, meaningless chatter.
The lackadaisical script could be forgiven if it delivered humor or a great story, but neither is the case. It seems to be aiming to deliver a stoner version of Earthbound in its tone and scope, but the narrative is only half-baked.
For instance, within minutes of starting, the main characters meet a professor at their school who was an assassin who’s killed over 1,000 people. That level of WTF could play well if it was a pure comedy or an absurd adventure like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but the text drags too much to impart any sense of comedic timing, and it contradicts the ‘serious’ premise of the characters fighting for their lives against a strict time limit.
Even worse, for a game where the vast majority of time is spent thumbing through line after line of text, it’s presented in a font that can be difficult to read!
As a reviewer who relishes titles with artistic aspirations and uncompromising vision, it pains me to say that I wasn’t able to find anything to enjoy about One Way Trip. Nearly every aspect of its aesthetic was, paradoxically, both aggressively unpleasant and lazily innocuous. Its story switched between wild flights of hard-to-follow, drug-like fantasy and drudging resistance to do anything at all for long stretches of time. I’m certain that this work will connect with a very specific type of player, but it was like nails on a chalkboard to me.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Beret Applications LLC and published by Beret Applications LLC. It is currently available on PS4. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS4. Approximately four hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was not completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated M and contains Sexual Themes, Violence, Use of Drugs, Strong Language, and Blood. Drug use is a strong, reoccurring theme in the game. Even as someone who does not mind profanity, this game’s excessive use of profanity came across as juvenile.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The game does not use audio cues in any meaningful way (and, in fact, playing it without audio may be preferable in some ways).
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.
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