Steam Greenlight allows indie developers to make store pages for their games on Steam and users can vote on whether that game makes it to the actual Steam store. Although it’s had its kinks and is now in the process of being removed, hundreds of games got greenlit by Valve and users alike. Only If is one of the latest games to be greenlit and released on the Steam store. Most games that are released end up being bargain games, being on sale for $1-$19.99, but Only If is completely free. You can’t turn down playing a game if it’s free, right?
Only If is a psychological puzzle-game, taking place in a reality bending world. Your character, Anthony Clyde, goes to a house party in hopes of talking to his crush, Samantha Graves. The game begins with Anthony walking up to the house and building up the nerve to go in, while LMFAO’s “Shots” plays in the background. You then wake up in a bedroom with a decent hangover and no idea how you got there. Thus begins your trippy adventure in Only If. You’ll have to find your voice in trashcans, sacrifice chess pieces, run from dark clouds, and shoot vases filled with power-ups.
While the story tends to be off the wall and make very little sense, the back and forth between Anthony and his captor, Vinnie, is easily the best part of the game. The voice acting is far from professional, in fact it sounds like one of the developers voiced Anthony, but this lends itself to making Anthony a more believable character. (I looked into it and Anthony is voiced by Tarek Ghandour, who animated the game.) He doesn’t sound like a rugged action hero or a brooding mystery man. He sounds like someone who eats at Chipotle and has a day job. For as short as Only If is, the dialogue keeps the trippy storyline fresh and interesting throughout the entire game.
The main frustration that you’ll experience in Only If comes from the puzzles that comprise the core of the gameplay. On the very first level, I actually restarted the game because I assumed it had encountered a bug that left me without a way to progress. That’s a feeling that will come and go for players, since the puzzles seem to alternate between the completely unexplained and something you would find on the back of a cereal box. The levels which kept me in a state of angry confusion usually were solved by a series of steps that no player would think to execute. For example, there’s a scene where you have to crawl through the brush, walk down a stone path, and then follow a dirt road to a house. Sounds simple, right? Except, if you crawl forward in the grass, you die. If you walk too quickly forward down the stone path, you die. If you walk to the right or left on the stone path, you die. If you go near a tree on the dirt path, you die. If you stray off of the dirt path, you die. All of this while frantically tapping the action key to (would you guess?) keep from dying. There are so many obscure little things you can do that cause failure that I have to assume it’s not intentional.
For a game that was spawned from an eight minute demo, Only If looks pretty damn good. The textures of the environments in Only If all look smooth and detailed, but the some of the models look blocky and dated. Even so, these few chunky looking models don’t detract from the overall great aesthetics of this game. Running on high settings, any frame rate issues I had were far and few between. While the music is kept to a minimum, Only If does its soundtrack right. Plucking the strings in time with the ticking of a clock, making you feel the intended anxiety and rush.
Only If is a tough game when it comes to recommending to friends. On one hand, it’s got a fun concept, great visuals, and fantastic character interaction between Anthony and Vincent. On the other, it suffers from frustrating puzzles, a very short play time, and has absolutely no replay value whatsoever. What tips the scales in Only If‘s favor is that it completely free to download and play. If this game cost $10, or even $5, I’d tell you to leave it in the dust. But, since it won’t cost you anything but time, I’d say that Only If is perfect for a night when nothing in your Steam library is appealing to you and you’re strapped for cash.
Only If is Worth It!
By Blake Edwards
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