Colorfiction’s 0N 0W evokes a hazy sense of exploration seen in many strange niche titles such as Yume Nikki and LSD Dream Emulator. As a huge fan of Yume Nikki due to its subtle environmental storytelling, I was excited to see a game with such a similar style and setup. The more I played 0N 0W, the more it felt like I was exploring an endless dream. It’s an experience that leaves quite an impression through its trippy visuals as well as interesting soundscapes. Though the game carries vague themes, there seems to be a lack of any story beyond the empty environments.
The game starts off with an opening cinematic focusing on the modern nature of everyday life. It’s filled with common annoyances that come with living in an urban area, such as construction work and traffic. The protagonists starts packing up to go on a road trip. After the cutscene, they reach a small town with an otherworldly purple hue. Then, they enter a mysterious theater with a beautifully melancholic tune playing in the background. Soon after, we drift into a strange new world filled with an almost endless amount of mysterious doors.
Beyond these doors lie diverse and evocative landscapes that capture a variety of emotions. Some areas are bright and vibrant, while others are dark and moody. In a way, it feels like the developers attempted at environmental experimentation. Despite all the amazing locales, overall, the game is very much hit-or-miss. The approach to exploration is very free-flowing in a rather directionless manner.
0N 0W has very simplistic controls. The player moves with the standard WASD keys, while also having the ability to jump and run. Also, a strange level select screen can be accessed that has uninformative labels. It's only fitting as the game is intentionally trying to make the player feel lost. There isn't any sort of in-game interface, which allows for an amazing view of the experimental scenery.
Visually stunning, 0N 0W manages to create beauty from chaos. The glitch-heavy visuals are unique as most games tend to avoid the strange and unprofessional looking polygonal shapes. 0N 0W uses this classic video game imagery as part of its identity, though. Strange glitch-based entities occasionally roam the desolate lands, while mysterious landmarks leave more questions than they answer.
My greatest issue with the game lies in the lack of narrative beyond the basic setup. This is a double-edged sword in design. 0N 0W favors those who just want to have a shallow, psychedelic experience, while disappointing those of us who are looking for more substance. There are moments where the game presents some themes, but they are few and far between. The lack of depth hinders the game from moving beyond an experience with unique environments.
0N 0W excels in giving a sense of diving into an endless rabbit hole. I enjoyed playing it in one hour long sessions, as any longer periods will reveal its superficiality. By the half-hour mark, it was rather common to run into similar, if not the very same, levels that I had already seen. It didn’t help that many of the areas themselves felt copy-pasted from other levels, but with different filters.
The filter system is a well-made weak point. It hinders the rabbit hole diving experience as it results in the previously mentioned samey levels, but it makes sense if you approach the game as a long dream. The filter system seems to affect not only aesthetics, but also the audio, running speed, and gravity to fit each mood the developers were going for. Some filters really resonated with me, while others felt drab.
I'm looking forward to what Colorfiction will make next. They are talented in crafting interesting worlds, but they aimed a little too low this time around. I can see where they were going with 0N 0W, but it just doesn’t seem ambitious enough. I recommend the game to those who are looking for a bizarre, desolate experience that lacks any narrative depth.