I'm back again with another RPG Maker showcase; this time, it's for the game One's Desolation by KazukiT. This is an ambitious horror game with original art, mysterious music, and a unique feel. Anyway, let's jump into that ol' nitty gritty.
I can just feel the suspense here.
See what I did there? Anyway, starting the game up: there's a brief professional-looking splash screen, then we're launched into the title. Functionally, the title is pretty normal; using "Inspect" for starting a new game and "Ponder" for loading are a little a little confusing to see, but the use is entirely obvious, and it adds to the greater element of mystery. That's really what I liked about the title screen; one person looks scared, there's a cool devily guy, and a smirking dagger wielder. It's a scene with a lot of built in questions and suspense that makes for a solid tool to convince us to get started.
Once we get into the game, we're greeted with an introduction to the simple controls which is nice to have immediately like that. The game then drops our protagonist in a dark forest, where only what's in our small halo of light is readily visible. My immediate impressions were that the sprite looked really good and matched the artwork, the lighting was atmospheric, and the scenery was well drawn and placed.
After the ever-reliable dream scene opening, we're cast into the action...of watering plants. Actually, that small step in our journey was nice; it helps familiarize you with the controls and gives you some more angles of those sprites I like so much. The introductory sequence really sets up gameplay well.
Even virtual plants need water, sunlight, and positive vibes to thrive.
That's right, I really am just going to title every subsection, "One's...," and I'd like to see anybody stop me! The gameplay follows more than one established style. Most of the time, you're just walking left and right, only looking up or down to check out items or move through a doorway. It's pretty basic side-scrolling stuff, but well designed and executed. Although that's the basis of the gameplay, I'd say most of the "playing" doesn't come through until you're in one of the minigame style sequences.
There are a few of these, even in the relatively short demo. One example is a sort of dating simulator, where you struggle to say all the right things (personally, I said all the wrong things and had to try again). In another area, you're able to move in four directions as you try to light up a constellation based on a note you find. After that, you find yourself dodging Lovecraftian monsters and eldritch shadows that want to consume you. It's nice to have such an array of styles in a single game and keeps the otherwise basic controls interesting and fun.
On the other hand, you are still working with the same fundamental controls through these sections, which can be a little stiff. Connecting the dots of the constellation got frustrating, as the player is following a little glowing orb, so you have to watch where it's going rather than your character. Likewise, I found that dodging monsters and shadows with the main protagonist was hard and somewhat tedious; I had to come at it a dozen times through a string of "Game Over"s. Still, there wouldn't be too much horror to this horror game if it were easy, so I think I agree with this approach.
I'm gonna bag me a prince charming right now.
Sometimes I hate honesty. This is one of those times. Honestly, the artwork used in the game frequently didn't do it for me. The coloring and shading look great, but the characters sometimes looked disproportionate (hands suffer here in particular, but I get it; hands are hella hard to draw), and they didn't seem terribly dynamic in individual poses. Although it's all good art (at least by my standards) and significantly better than I could do, the style didn't speak to me as being truly professional.
Now, even with that being the case there's a LOT of good to say about it. For one, each character portrait has multiple poses and expressions, so even when an individual picture didn't look dynamic, the overall effect definitely did. The backgrounds matched the style and looked great. Although the art wasn't my cup of tea, it fit the mood and style of the game. Like I touched on above, all the sprites match their respective portraits really well and actually look even more organic than the detailed images. Despite my initial complaint, I thought the visuals as a whole were stunning, especially considering that this was made by an individual rather than a team of designers.
The music and writing were also both good, but neither took center stage; my focus was kept primarily on the visual art and the gameplay itself. I thought the music was dramatic and mysterious, fitting the tone of the story and keeping me tense, but it never established itself as a main element of the game; it also never took away from the game, which is a delicate line to walk. The writing was generally strong as well, but some typos and the occasional clunky dialogue stopped me from being as invested in the characters as I would have liked to be. Still, nothing was unclear or got in the way of enjoying the game; these kinds of tiny flaws are the reason we release demos before a full game.
I especially love that wall mouth, but...where am I?
The first thing that deserves to be stated here is that I played only a short bit of the story, as this game is still only available as a demo, so I can't speak to where it's going. It also has ties to the maker's previous endeavors, and I haven't played those, so I also can't say where it's been. From what's here, the story is interesting, compelling, and strange (a good strange), but it's also somewhat hard to track. This could easily be resolved as the story pushes forward, so take that with a grain of salt.
As it stands now, the main character starts in a pretty mundane fantasy world (something of an oxymoron, I know, but bear with me). Her mother has arranged a marriage for her and she's to go meet the suitor in a coffee shop. Normal but fantastic, right? After that, things start happening without much explanation. The prince is really some evil entity capable of distorting space and time into Cthulhu's playground once he captures you with a second date, but we're in good shape because the new butler is a cocky yet benign demon who's going to help us out if we just bond our soul to him. See what I mean?
Like I said, though, it's all interesting and compelling. Some of it doesn't make sense, but will probably be explained as the story goes on. Besides, in all honesty, I was invested enough to play more even in spite of the odd turns the story took. It's a video game, after all, and those aren't exactly known for simple linear plots. On the whole, the story was good; it just needs a little development.
Even with both of him trying, there's no way out!
Okay, so I did have some problems with this game. I tried to touch on most of them already, but there were also a couple bugs; once my character turned invisible, while my companion duplicated himself in some areas. Considering all the things I complained about above and these little bugs, I'd still say this is a great game. Why would I be so critical of a great game? Because I see potential for it to get even better before the final release. And with as critical as I've been, how can I say it's great? Well, hear me out.
The art comes together perfectly. The scenes match the sprites and the portraits, and all of it contributes to an air of evolving mystery. The music was just enough to keep me on edge. The story opened so many bizarre doors that I couldn't help but walk through. This game probably won't be the next big title, but when we think about all the work it must have taken a single person to compile all of this, the results are impressive at the very least. Personally, I'm excited to see the full version drop, and glad that there are other titles by the same person for me to explore in the meantime.
Go check out KazukiT's demo for One's Desolation on their page at kazuki-t126.itch.io/ and have fun with it!
My most frequented screen.