You can get a lot done in an hour. You can bake a cake, watch almost three episodes of The Simpsons, or -- if you really concentrate -- remove a new USB stick from its packaging. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even live an entire lifetime.
That’s the premise of One Hour One Life, a mobile version of Jason Rohrer’s acclaimed PC game in which each minute of gameplay translates to one year of virtual existence.
It’s an ingenious concept, but the real joy of the game is in the multiplayer experience. While you can only ever live for 60 minutes at a time, you can do things that have a lasting effect on the world you leave behind for others.
Objects that you make in One Hour One Life stay behind after your life is over. Your children, as well as other players, are free to play with these objects, just as you’ll end up playing with other players’ creations when you get reincarnated as their children.
This system encourages you to treat others fairly and make a positive contribution. Because you’re bound to be reincarnated, it makes sense to create a world that’s worth being reincarnated into.
That said, if you’re an inveterate troublemaker there’s nothing to stop you running wild.
One Hour One Life’s simple presentational style belies an incredible level of richness and detail. You’ll encounter stones, animals, plants, and innumerable other items on your travels through the game. Everything you pick up can be broken down to its core elements, which in turn can be used to create new items, such as tools and supplies.
It’s crafting, but not as you know it. Because each game only lasts an hour, there’s no time for cumbersome details like recipes and crafting tables. To create a new item you just have to hold a finger down on an object to see all of the ways you can turn it into another object.
This slick interface makes it terrifyingly easy to vanish down a rabbit hole as you explore the many branches of the tech tree in the blink of an eye. Fortunately, there’s always an alert to refocus your attention, generally reminding you to eat.
One of the most intriguing things about One Hour One Life is the way it handles communication with other players. There’s chat, but you can only express yourself properly once you reach adulthood. During the early stages of each life you’re limited to a few characters, just like a real human infant.
This eccentric novelty underlines the developer’s determination to create an authentic experience that encourages real social behaviour.
And it works. If you take the time to observe how other players carry on, you’ll see that they generally cooperate with activities like looking after children until conditions become more difficult, at which point they become insular and self-centred.
Unfortunately, a couple of minor flaws rob One Hour One Life of its perfect sheen. While the controls are generally intuitive, but some moves can be a bit tricky to pull off at first. There is a tutorial, but it’s still something that irks when you start off.
You’ll get the hang of it over time though, and it doesn’t really affect your progress since all you’re aiming to accomplish with every life is to learn a few more things, make some stuff, and leave the world a better place. The basic aesthetics may also put off some players.
One Hour One Life isn’t your typical mobile game. In fact, it’s completely unique, and it contains a profound message about how to spend the time you have. You should spend some of it playing this. You can download it now on the App Store (and Google Play).