One Chance cover

Enjoy the view while it lasts: you only see it six times.

Developer Beans M

Things You Might Like

  • Intriguing plot
  • Numerous choices and consequences
  • Simple mechanics
  • Moody soundtrack
  • No Reset button

Things You Might Not Like

  • Antiquated graphics
  • No Reset button

With the inability to restart the game, there are genuine consequences for your decisions for the first time ever in gaming history.

5 out of 5 Poor Choices

Jonathan David Lim


The Reset button is a hallmark of gaming. Believe it or not, the Reset button on home consoles was available before the Power switch — on the Magnavox Odyssey, the way the player would turn the console on was to insert six D batteries into the unit. They would then have to hit Reset when they wanted to change what game they were playing. Granted, the Odyssey was little more than a board game that hooked up to your television, but that’s besides the point. Since 1972, the Reset button has been an integral factor in home video gaming.

Now jump nearly forty years later. Gaming has morphed into something completely different. No longer bound to the confines of home consoles, gaming is everywhere, and encompasses everything. While Nintendo is still the king of handheld systems, a person’s mobile phone substitutes greatly as a handheld gaming device. Instead of a sharp distinction between work and gaming PCs, the Internet is so bloated with material, that even your Dad’s old laptop that still runs Windows 2000 can keep you abreast of some great gaming experiences. In short, strict Gaming Only devices are on the way out, while Absolutely Everything devices are slowly flooding the market.

So the exclusion of one of the oldest devices known to gaming was bound to come sooner or later.

One Chance literally gives you one chance to play the game through to the end. Just one. Like all of life’s choices, there are consequences, and those consequences persist through time. There’s no turning back. Even minor choices — like what you choose to eat for breakfast — come with lasting, no-turning-back effects. If you had cereal for breakfast this morning, then that’s it. No turning back. You can’t later say you had bacon and eggs for breakfast, because that would not be true. Changing your story won’t change the fact you ate cereal instead of bacon and eggs. That’s life.

In a video game, however, these strict rules don’t necessarily exist. If, say, in Super Mario Bros. you decide to descend the first pipe in World 1-1 in order to get closer to the end of that level, then that’s okay. But if you realize later that it would’ve been better to have the hidden 1-up and the fire flower found just after that first descending pipe, you can hit Reset. Nothing gained, nothing lost. The princess is still in the final castle at World 8-4, only this time you’ve one extra life, and a fire flower power-up to try and cling onto until you get there.

Not so here. As acclaimed scientist John Pilgrim — the man who discovered the cure for cancer — you have a mere six in-game days to decide what to do with yourself as the destruction of all humanity looms ever closer. Do you squander your time with booze? Do you spend it with your family? Or do you valiantly carry onward, searching for a means of fixing your mistakes?

Oh, I forgot to mention: that mistake you made was to cure cancer. As is revealed by Day 2, the cancer-curing gas you released into the atmosphere for maximum exposure — the one that was meant to destroy all cancer cells in the body —  has begun targeting normal, healthy cells as well. Mass cell death first hits plant life and the infirm. Then, it’s nothing more than a slow decline into nothingness for every living creature on Earth.

Welcome to the End of the World.

The fact that there are so many possible outcomes (four in total, I believe), commingled with the fact that the player is only given one chance to view any of them does away with everything choice-based gaming has come to rely upon. In Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, if you decide after your first playthrough that you’d rather have gone the diabolical Sith route than the noble Jedi route, you can just play it again. No problem. Same with the Fallout series, and the numerous endings one can achieve simply by playing it through ad nauseam. These types of games encourage replay, ensuring gamers get the absolute most out of the experience.

But One Chance is really the first and only game that truly ends upon completion. You can refresh your browser window all you like, but you’ll never get to see that first screen again.

Well, okay, that’s not entirely true. If one were totally desperate to see how they could have done things differently, there’s always the old cookie/cache/history-clearing option. But that takes time and effort, and is, in effect, cheating. You can’t cheat life, so why this?

Numerous players on the Newgrounds message boards and comments section have asked the developer to include a Reset button. But the one who goes by Beans M won’t budge, and more power to him. Playing through One Chance is, literally, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity (provided you don’t cheat), and should be treated as such.

Beyond the audacity of creating a game with zero replay value, there are other great things to say about One Chance. The haunting, atmospheric music is mesmerizing, throwing you right into the mindset of a man who made a huge, albeit honest, mistake. And while the graphics may be a touch antiquated by today’s streamlined standards, they do extraordinarily well to add to the haunting atmosphere that makes One Chance so immersible. Should the player pay attention to the subtle details between in-game days, they would notice how the wardrobe continues to empty of clothing, taking position instead in piles on the floor. The colour of the sky goes from a hearty light blue on Day 1, to a poetic dark grey by Day 6. The apples on the tree out front drop to the ground over time, having lost their luscious red colouring; and the leaves darken and whither to a swampy greenish-brown. When John Pilgrim’s wife committed suicide in the bathtub, a small, misaligned cross appeared next to the tree in memoriam.

Having said that, there’s a continuous downward theme in this game. Apart from the clothes and apples mentioned above, a co-worker on Day 2 jumps from the roof of the laboratory. John’s daughter’s teddy bear loses its illustrious position on her bed, and rumples to the floor. On Day 5, a car in the background can be seen without its front tires, diving into the earth. But most prevalent of all is the line graph on the wall of the lab, which shows a sharp decline in blood red, until the billboard on which it is hung is seen cascading under gravity’s pull.

These small details further thrust the player into the experience of living through the last six days of life on Earth. Without needing to explain very much (most of the expository detail is provided in the daily newspaper, which, unfortunately, has a few spelling and grammatical errors), the game does a fantastic job of providing a compelling story through its visuals, dialogue, and even gameplay mechanics, of which major developers should take note. While One Chance only utilises a three-button interface (left & right arrow keys and the spacebar), that’s all that is needed to make a superlative gaming experience.

In closing, this is the ending screen I received after hitting refresh in my browser window once I completed the game:

screenshot: a blue sky over some trees

I like to think I made the right choice.

Play One Chance over at Newgrounds today!


One Response to One Chance (2010)

  1. [...] you might be wondering, ‘Hang on. Last review, Jonathan was all about One Chance, a game so disgustingly artsy that even Jackson Pollock would look at it and think, “Damn, [...]

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