Indie games are a mixed bag, sometimes they’re great, sometimes they’re terrible, and sometimes…sometimes you wonder what the heck you’ve just played. Only if falls into the last category. Described by the developers as a game designed with the millennial in mind, Only if seeks to challenge the way we interact with games.
The game’s mechanics are designed to be experimental and unpredictable, to defy the logic of “What you see is what you get”. Is the environment changing around you, or is it your imagination? Will jumping to your death kill you, or will it save you? Could the wrong answer actually turn out to be the right answer?
The honorable path, in which players ignore the games message “Save the black pawn”, presents a delightful set of puzzles to work through. While none of the puzzles are particularly difficult, they mainly involve doubling back and observing the environment carefully, the game proves enjoyable none the less.
The player’s eternal state of confusion begins when they awaken as Anthony Clyde, a young man who finds himself in an unfamiliar home after a long night of partying. Any attempts to leave this strange new environment, are blocked by the mysterious Vinnie, an ominous antagonist who makes his presence known via radio. Vinnie, being the generous soul that he is, allows players to pick from two different paths. One path requires Anthony to sacrifice his own life, while the other sacrifices his classmate Samantha Graves.
What follows next in this surreal puzzle game, is either a walk in the park or an infuriating session of gameplay that drives home the idea that what you see isn’t always what you get.
If you dare to save your own skin, the game puts players through hell as a form of punishment, and actually hits you over the head with the very sign that told you to save the black pawn. Players end up doing double the work, and walk away vowing never to be selfish again.
Although there are golden moments, like typing answers to the game, Only if does not deliver on its promise to challenge the motto “What you see is what you get.” Experimental, confusing, rage inducing. Only if is a game that began to push boundaries, but somewhere along the way, the boundaries pushed back.