One Hour One Life – Review

One Hour One Life: I’m in trouble and I can’t remember any words I ever found. Even an Elite: Dangerous had seemed approachable to me without any particular obstacles other than that of the little time to devote to him. Here it is different; different in the sense that the work of Jason Rohrer lends itself to approaches and readings so stratified as to be something I had never met. I hear the sardonic comments of those who have seen some screenshots and are convinced that in 2018 such graphics can only accompany indie gameplay that is insufficient to satiate the hardcore gamer who lives inside him, but now I have accepted that these people should be given a copy of FIFA 19 or the last CoD to let them rest and not have them between the feet. I’m not one of the Grimm brothers and the frogs that live in my garden have kisses just for me.


I don’t know where to start, I swear. I spent two days reading the official forum and the One Hour One Life wiki discovering a complex ecosystem, made up of family trees, closed civilizations, gerontocracies, matriarchies, work planning, survival indices explained with graphs and functions but also pure experimentation and improvisation. I find myself in difficulty, I wrote, because while the game is part of the survival sandbox à la Minecraft, on the other hand, all the mechanics are based on the relationship between the players that populate the servers(and they are many), framing Roher’s work in the context of cooperative multiplayer. You are catapulted into a two-dimensional map with a newborn avatar, unable to feed and talk, destined for certain death within a few tens of seconds. Autonomy is achieved provided that a female character nurses us, warms us and gives us a name.


The first games are disarming: you can’t communicate, you don’t know where to go while everything around you moves almost frantically. If you are born on a fairly civilized map, there are roads, food stores, ever-burning fires and old men dressed from head to toe who, a few moments before they die, bequeath you an item of clothing. It soon turns out that survival is linked to life points that descend inexorably provided they don’t eat. Heat and cold, when extreme, increase energy consumption; in fact, each map has four zones with different climates where it is necessary to wear clothes, to remain naked or partially covered in order to keep the body temperature within an acceptable range to consume less “calories”. You can eat dozens of different foods, from those harvested to those grown, passing through those compounds, raw or cooked, and those of animal origin, whether hunted or bred. You can build buildings, tools, work tools; you can plow the fields, shear animals to get fur or weave clothes; it is possible to build internal combustion engines, extract black gold from the subsoil, melt metals,


Each object is built according to a precise tree order with increasing complexity: if to obtain a sharp stone it is sufficient to collect a stone and smooth it against a harder stone, to already produce an ax requires that a branch of the measure is obtained with the sharp stone adapted from a larger stick, which weave roots and flexible barks like a thread and which assembles everything. I let you imagine what it takes to build an oven, keep it on and cook a dough of flour to make bread. I’m talking about a real universe of possibilities; a sort of crafting paradise aimed at the growth of civilization and clearly explained with precise instructions.


But how is it possible to do all this if a game lasts only sixty minutes? Well, continuing to reincarnate on the same server handing down to other tasks, goals, rules, equipment and progress because they will pass them on to you when the time has come to abandon an old body and be reborn. In the many, too many games I made I met other players who taught me how to communicate correctly when I was still in bed and I could only chat with a letter (ie “f for food”); others who dedicated half their life cycle to me only to teach me how to cultivate the land; still others who explicitly discussed my fate without me being able to intervene because there were not enough resources for other users and that the best thing to do was not to adopt me making me die so as to leave that room forever.


One Hour One Life has something different; something that sets it apart from any other playful product I have ever experienced in thirty-five years of video games. I do not understand if this diversity is associated with the indispensable intelligence necessary for the players to cooperate prolifically or to the magnificence of the technological progression offered by the gameplay that requires planning and commitment, the fact remains that we are in the presence of a masterpiece of game design. On a technical level, the graphic stylization and the two-dimensionality make everything simple and immediate, with a control system linked exclusively to the mouse and a checkerboard map in which the superimposition of the elements is granted only when foreseen (ie a basket can contain tools or food, but two tools cannot be placed on the same box). The trailer and some videos show that the developer’s timetable foresees the introduction of increasingly complex machinery, reaching up to robots. This means that a player will be able to experience survival in faraway eras, going from the Stone Age to post-modernity, provided you dedicate yourself to it or have the luck to be catapulted onto the right server.


Net of what has been written so far, One Hour One Life clearly reflects the philosophy that accompanies the life of Jason Rohrer and his family, devoted to the least waste of resources possible, to environmental sustainability, to finding a simplicity proper to poverty trying to coexist in harmony with neighbor and without luxuries. There would be many other things to write about his work and his career, but the risk of diverting attention from that which you have already read to the end of the page is too high and it is not worth distracting you with anything else. Buy One Hour One Life; take a day off, switch off the phone, prepare two sandwiches so as not to skip lunch and let yourself be taken back in time, praying to meet a mother who is still able to love you and offer you her breast.

One Hour One Life is a masterpiece of game design. You have read the vote and if you want the details there is a review that tries, without great success, to summarize what this “game” has to offer. There are only two reasons that could dissuade you from the immediate purchase and are the need for a constant connection to the internet and ignorance of the basic English with which you communicate between players and explain the steps necessary to build the hundreds of objects essential to survive and evolve. To be clear: if your ambition is to play with the pad by kicking a virtual ball “this is not the video game you are looking for” (semicit.), But watching some videos on YouTube to understand what it is possible to do today with video games would do you a lot of good.