On December 2, a Flash game called One Chance came out on Newgrounds. In it, you play as John Pilgrim, a scientist that has discovered the cure for cancer. But before you can celebrate, you learn that the treatment kills more than just cancer cells. Civilization as we know it has only six days left to live, and you have to decide whether you want to spend those days searching for a cure, being with your family, or going nuts.
You really do only have one chance to make your choices. If you try to load up the game again, you'll find yourself at the end, unable to restart.
After playing it myself, I put it to the rest of the Bitmob staff to give it a try and discuss it. The following is that email thread.
There are spoilers ahead, but the game only takes about 10 minutes to play. You should probably go play it first.
Rob Savillo, editor: Interesting. It reminded me of Every Day the Same Dream.
I died with two days left — stabbed at work. I tried to defend myself, but I guess I didn't hit the spacebar fast enough. I made the decision to stay with my family with four and three days remaining. I honestly did not want to go into work with two days left. My daughter Molly was missing. I assume the virus got her, which would explain why my wife would not get out of bed.
James DeRosa, editor: I came close to saving the world, but I found the cure on the last day. I think you have to find it by the second to last day to save the world. I cured myself, but everyone else on the planet was dead. My wife and coworker had committed suicide days earlier, and Molly died on the last day as I was making the cure. I took her body to the park and stared hopelessly at the dead foliage.
This is a sad game.
Layton Shumway, writer: I got the same ending as James. I worked every day I could (one day the lab was locked — the day the coworker committed suicide). I'm not sure there is a way to find the cure before the last day. I think that's kind of the point.
James: I think there must be a way to do it. The name of the game indicates that it's possible.
Rob: Maybe "One Chance" doesn't mean what you think it does.
Andrew Hiscock, community manager: I got the same ending, although I thought the daughter survived. At least I didn't think she was dead. In fact, it sounds like I played through exactly as James and Layton.
I think the game's value is only as commentary on the idea of saved games, death, and retries in video games — which is perfectly worthwhile. In terms of the game's actual content, I "decided" (as the game implies that decisions that cannot be undone are the key mechanic) to save the earth in the best way possible, as far as I could figure given the information provided to me. I was a scientist, I have a lab, and science got me into the mess. If it turns out if I could save the world by doing something totally arbitrary on a specific day, that would make me mad.
That's how science works: chance encounters leading to inspiration. But that doesn't really work as the basis of a video game. It's a matter of cause and effect, and if a gamer can't predict effect and the appropriate cause — the end result and the agency by which the player will achieve it — I'm not sure there is much value. This goes back to the first point about any sort of commentary by this "only one shot" thing. If one cannot appropriate guide their own actions, what point is having one shot? At that point it's trial by error, and with no room for error….
Also, what's with the actual "decisions"? I wanted to do all sorts of stuff, but it seemed to me that on a given day I could either stay home or go to work, sleep with someone or go to work, or go to the park or go to work. In each case it was a matter of giving up hope or try to save the world.
Rob: I played through two more times by using my browser's Incognito function and got different endings. One kind of haunts me.
I did everything I could to be with my family. I went back to work with two days remaining, and this time I successfully defended against the knife attack. When I got home, the man (who is that smoker out front with six days remaining) had broken into my home and killed my family while I was at work. The next scene is a silhouette of two crosses and myself staring at them. The next day, I died alone. My eyes slowly closed as I collapsed to the floor.
I think the game is about the inevitability of death itself: No matter what you do, you and everyone around you dies. Also, I believe the reason for the permanence in your decisions and the fact that you can only play the game once is to encourage players to discuss the game afterwards and piece together all the possible scenarios. It's a sort of extra layer of interactivity beyond the game itself. I really like that.
Layton: Yeah, I'm pretty sure the "one chance" referred to in the title is the fact that you're not supposed to replay the game. The "chance" isn't your scientist's, but yours as the player.
Andrew: To your point Rob: Funny enough, there doesn't seem to be much variations in the endings. I've been looking, but there's nothing out there except for the couple described here.
Rob: I think that's the point, though. We're supposed to all discover that no matter what you do, you end up dead or alone (which is the same as being dead), and everyone around you ends up dead. Still, different decisions take you down different paths, even if you end up in the same place (so to speak).
Alex Cronk-Young, moderator: I ended up with the ending that James and Layton got, but I thought my daughter lived. Her eyes were closed when he came out after finding the cure, but I assumed that might have been to show that she was weak from the disease — just like the fact that you move really slowly on the last day.
But then doesn't he inject her with the cure? That's why I thought she was alive when we were on the park bench together. In that way it was like The Road by Cormac McCarthy, with the two of us left as the only ones still alive, wandering the world alone.
Also, the wife is a coward for killing herself before the final day. Sure, I spent all of my time at the lab, but she just left the kid all by herself!
James: No, he never injects the girl. That is the exact reason I assumed she was dead.
Alex: Oh. Then nevermind, that ending wasn't kind of good at all. It was all bad.
Layton: Arguably that ending is the worst of all. Because you actually manage to succeed, but you're now the last man on earth. Instead of dying in the company of your loved ones, you're now doomed to die absolutely alone. Talk about survivor's guilt.
Chas Guidry, writer: It definitely borrows a lot from Every Day the Same Dream, but I liked the concept and the clear goal (initially, at least). I got the same ending a lot of you did. The story kind of reminded me of "Race For the Prize" by The Flaming Lips. It's a song about two scientists working day and night away from their families to find a cure for a disease they know will kill them in the end, but they keep trying anyway.
Rob: If you play toward any of the other endings, you'll realize that the game never allows you to die in the company of your loved ones. I think that's definitely a commentary on this ideal way to die because the reality is that you most likely won't have that opportunity.
Dan "Shoe" Hsu, co-founder: The graphics are crude, and the controls are…nah, I'm just kidding. I got the same "saved myself and that's it" ending. I originally couldn't tell if my daughter had died, but with me not giving her the shot and her eyes being closed, I assumed the worse.
It's a very touching, lonely story (the soundtrack is excellent for this). And I'm not going to ruin the experience by replaying it (aka, cheating) as Rob did…even though I sort of wanted to see what would happen if I had skipped work with the office tramp. I'll always wonder "what if" — many "what ifs" actually — with this game. It's a very neat feeling…something you obviously don't get with most other titles.