One Button Travel from TheCodingMonkeys is probably the most engrossing mobile game of the year. Except it’s not quite a game. And you have little say in how the experience is paced. It’s probably most accurate to call One Button Travel a visual novel. Except it’s not quite — well, you’re starting to get the idea. It’s a pretty unique title all-around.
The game begins with a tempting offer to book a cool trip by hitting a single red button. However, a mysterious entity texts you and begs you not to push that button. From this point on, all your interactions with the entity are done via back-and-forth text messages. Your friend(?) texts you, and you answer by selecting from one of a number of answers.
Who is this person? How do they know who you are? Where do they get off telling you if you can push the button? What, are they the button police or something?
One Button Travel is a pretty hefty game. I’ve been working through it for hours, and the storyline I’m following hasn’t even wrapped up. While the choices you make certainly influence who you talk to and how they receive you, I’m not quite clear on how drastically the storyline changes according to what you do. Nor am I certain what happens when the story ends.
What I do know is that I’m not looking very forward to the ending.
Not because I’m apathetic about the whole thing. The opposite, in fact. I’ve spent so much time with the entity, and I’ve guided them through so many dangers. It’s going to be hard to say good-bye, but at the same time, a farewell is vital. Because, y’know — ripped fabric of time and all that.
My impressions of One Button Travel are based off the storyline I’ve “written,” though I imagine any alternatives out there are just as weird and wonderful.
To make things as quick and spoiler-free as possible, the titular red button automatically books a trip to the future. Cool! Except for various reasons, once you’re there, you can’t get back. And the future doesn’t take kindly to the “Stranded.”
So the entity on the other side of your phone is doing everything they can to make sure you don’t wind up as a permanent stranger in a future that doesn’t want you there. But the trip can’t be cancelled without a confirmation code that’s seemingly impossible to find. There’s a museum of archived emails in the city, but the Stranded aren’t allowed to leave their camp…
One Button Travel offers tons of twists and turns. You’re constantly kept guessing, and whenever you think the story is about to be resolved, the finish line scurries further away. But you never feel exhausted or frustrated. Instead, you feel glad when you’re allowed to keep going, meet new people, and learn more about your fate, and the fate of the entity.
The future is dangerous and chilly — but there are comforting pockets of warmth, too. It’s an interesting place to explore.
Fans of interactive novels should pick up One Button Travel without a second thought, but be warned: The novel is told in real-time. There are gaps in between the narrative to reflect the entity taking the time necessary to perform actions. Sometimes a rest period can go on for hours (though very long breaks are rare). You can set the game to tell its story straight through, but the real-time story telling builds a lot of tension. It pays to be patient and let events unfold as they’re meant to.
That’s how you reshape destiny.