You swim into consciousness. Your eyes remain tightly shut, but you’re already far too aware of how bright the world is. It’s quiet, and yet the noise in your head is deafening. Your mouth feels like it’s full of sawdust, and each passing moment brings with it a new aching pain. You lie completely still, knowing that the mere task of lifting your head will likely end in a mad dash to the nearest toilet bowl.
Most of us have experienced something like this in our lifetime. A hangover so darn severe that you swear never to sip another alcoholic drink again. Until next Friday, that is – it’s Happy Hour, after all, can’t miss it. Few of us, however, can relate to waking up next to a complete stranger (this writer certainly can’t). But this is exactly what One Night Stand is all about.
Presented in a visual novel format from the perspective of an unnamed man, it explores just what might happen if you were to wake up in an unknown woman’s bedroom. With no memory of what happened the night before, it’s up to you to explore your surroundings, gather clues, and talk to your mystery woman in order to piece together the story.
Utilising either the analogue stick or the Switch’s motion controls (Switch Lite owners will have to make do with the analogue stick), you can move a cursor around the screen and investigate any items that light up when your cursor moves over them. Depending on what the item is, it’ll either give you some information as to your whereabouts the night before, or it will provide you with a conversation starter with the mystery woman.
The woman in question with flit in and out of her bedroom throughout the game. You can investigate the room when she’s not around, and talk with her when she is. You’ll mostly have a choice of three dialogue options to choose from during conversation, and they’re varied enough to encourage multiple playthroughs whether you’re striving for a different ending or not. The situation is understandably awkward with the two characters, and you can either lean right into this (with predictable outcomes) or utilise the information gathered from the environment to drive the conversation. You’ll need to be careful though if your goal is to woo the woman – one wrong move can derail the entire conversation quickly.
With 12 possible outcomes, One Night Stand doesn’t force you down any particular path. Since the story is so short (you’re looking at maybe 10 to 15 minutes per playthrough), you’re free to experiment and try out different things. Want to gather up your clothes and get out as fast as possible? Go ahead. Want to snoop around in her wallet? Well, sure, that too, we guess. The point is that there is no right or wrong way to go about it. There’s no ‘true’ ending to strive for here. You can either try and make a go of it with your new bedroom partner, remain friends, or you can try your utmost to annoy her and get yourself kicked out onto the street in nothing but your birthday suit. It’s entirely your choice.
Graphically, the game is pretty minimal with a very muted colour palette. The art style is very unique, however, and reminds us very much of independent graphic novels. There’s very little movement in the game other than when the woman speaks, and even then the animations are limited and often repeated. We have to say though, that the woman’s movements are actually incredibly lifelike, and the game portrays her awkwardness brilliantly, right down to how she strokes her forearms and moves her hair out of her eyes.
There’s also very little sound, bar some soft, ambient music that plays at key moments during the game. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. The game may well have benefitted from some decent voice acting, but the writing itself is accomplished enough that you really don’t need much else. This might have been an issue if the text was too small to read properly, but thankfully it’s clear enough whether you’re playing in handheld mode or on the TV, so there are no concerns on that front.
One Night Stand is a very unique experience that will likely feel quite close to home for some folks. It’s a very honest, almost heartwarming glimpse into the lives of two complete strangers brought together by a heavy night of drinking. The presentation may be a bit lacking overall, and some may be put off by the short length of the game, despite its many endings, but if you’re after a visual novel that’s a bit different from the norm, then this is it.