It’s what you don’t know that hurts you
Whether or not you’ve ever experienced a one night stand personally, it’s reasonable to assume that the morning after could be a potentially awkward experience. It’s certainly not something that pops into your head when you think of video game topics, but the subject has been successfully touched upon in the short, indie visual novel that is One Night Stand.
The game has players taking on the role of a British chap who wakes up one morning with the mother of all hangovers. While trying to shake off his thumping headache and pesky phone messages, he realizes he is naked, in a strange bed, with a woman he doesn’t recognize. The events that transpired the night before are lost to a drunken oblivion, and panic rapidly sets in as the gravity of the situation slowly begins to take hold. Where did you go, how much did you have to drink, how did you meet up with this person, and where are you now?
From here, players are given a number of choices. Should they stay or should they go (and yes, there might be trouble, even double, either way)? Should they find out about what happened or should they make a hasty retreat and forget about the whole thing? Should you even say hello? Or, perhaps, good-bye? Is there even potential for something good to come out of this? A friendship, or even something resembling a relationship?
Complications arise because confronting the woman is (almost) inevitable. Players can choose to be friendly, cautious, indifferent, or downright rude. Whatever you choose, your position has a strong undercurrent of awkwardness because your character doesn’t want his date to know he can’t even remember her name, much less how he got where he is. The man has recurring doubts and paranoia about his predicament, and he constantly suspects there may be more to the whole thing than meets the eye. Surely his actions are justified if his health, and even his life, could be at risk? You’ll be wrestling endlessly with your conscience as you try to decide if the ends justify the means.
A recurring theme is the option to snoop around the bedroom and rummage through the woman’s personal belongings when she steps out, which happens several times over the course of the morning. Such blatant disrespect of privacy makes you a lout, but it may also provide some useful clues as to who your date is, what her motivations are, and what exactly happened on the previous evening. Things can turn ugly very fast if she catches you or if you unwittingly let it slip that you snooped. On the other hand, if you find yourself interested in her, you could use whatever knowledge you gleamed to help you get in her good graces. Which still makes you a complete lout, of course. Following your conscience is probably for the best, but it definitely neuters the more dramatic aspects. Though it’s very adult and serious, there are a few funny moments and some of the possible endings and decisions managed to illicit a smirk or two from me.
It’s very interesting to replay the game over and over to see all the possible branches and outcomes. You’re able to save at any point, which is very useful when you want to make some truly tough decisions. And there’s a fast forward button for when you want to skimp over the dialogue you’ve previously read, making replays far more streamlined. With 12 different endings and a multitude of achievements to unlock, there’s plenty of reasons to return to this, especially since it takes multiple playthroughs to discover what really happened.
The game employs a striking hand-drawn aesthetic that makes use of rotoscoping. Animations are attractively quirky, with a swiggly-line effect that gives it a raw and personal touch. Everything is bathed in a soft, warm, pastel-like ambiance that’s almost sepia-toned. On the audio side of things, there are relatively few sound effects, but what’s there works realistically. And I was pleasantly surprised at the various guitar cues heard throughout my play sessions.
One Night Stand is a superb, short visual novel that manages to encapsulate fun, sorrow, love, and regret in the brief time that players spend with it. There’s even a few laughs to be had. It’s engaging without ever resorting to sensationalism and it’s a refreshingly mature gaming experience. If you’re bored of gore, guns, and gruff, you’ll appreciate this atypically adult excursion. Slip on over to its Steam page to see about getting your own copy.
Final Verdict: 4.5/5
Available on: PC (reviewed); Publisher: Kinmoku ; Developer: Kinmoku ; Players: single-player. ; Released: 7 November, 2016.
Full disclosure: this review is based on a review copy of One Night Stand given to Hey Poor Player by the publisher.