Waking up from a night out of which you have no memory, in a room you don’t recognise, with a woman you don’t remember, the question you have to ask yourself is has a lifetime of video games prepared you for the experience of unravelling the mystery of One Night Stand? Unsurprisingly, the answer is absolutely not.
One Night Stand is the creation of developer Lucy Blundell, a charming visual novel driven by dialogue and point and click investigation that draws the player into one of the more mundane mysteries you’re ever likely to face. What’s surprising is that for a game that gives the initial impression of a casual, on-the-rails experience, it’s one of the toughest dialogue-based challenges I have ever encountered. It teases you with the initial mystery of piecing together your memory of the night before, but this is quickly overtaken with a desire to learn more about the woman you have woken up with.
The game features twelve distinct endings, ranging from the beginnings of a potential relationship to a walk of shame, with a branching dialogue tree shifting depending on your choice of conversation topics and the progress of your investigation. Years of experience with video games will likely have trained you to think that the most effective way to solve a mystery is to scour the room for evidence with little regard for the ethics of your actions, and if you were to take this approach in One Night Stand you would surely fail. One Night Stand forces you to break out of this sociopathic way of viewing the world, the best way to get to know somebody is of course to speak to them, not to rifle through their belongings while they make you a coffee. One Night Stand is a test of your empathy not your logic, it asks you to treat a stranger – albeit one you have just shared a night of intimacy with – with respect and care, and it will reward you for doing so.
You will fail, and even if you don’t there will be a desire to explore the other paths you could have taken, and thankfully this is not an arduous task. Each play-through is itself relatively short, and you are able to save throughout or fast forward through dialogue you have already viewed. This introduces a degree of trial and error to the game, but far from being a repetitive slog, what drives you forward is a genuine emotional attachment to the experience. It also benefits from an appealing, hand-drawn art style with Blundell herself using rotoscoping to capture the realistic body language of a young woman, really bringing to life the character of this mystery woman.
Time and time again I found myself making decisions that may have seemed innocuous enough to me but betrayed the woman’s trust or hurt her feelings. I felt remorseful and I wanted to set things straight, upset at my own failings, I was offered a chance that you don’t get in real life. Within just a few minutes you’ll be desperate to do everything in your power to find an ending that placates you, whether it be the beginning of a friendship or the potential for something more.
One Night Stand captures the awkward, semi-intimacy of waking up next to a stranger and the hours that follow, and draws you into an engaging, thoughtful meditation not upon mystery but communication and human interaction. It’s a quietly touching game that will leave an impression on you, and you’ll probably suck at it too.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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