0N0W is a fairly unique game in that it incorporates the reality of video games that focuses much more on the "video" aspect rather than the "game" aspect. To take it a step further, its "purpose," should it have any at all, is to use that video aspect to stimulate the mind in whatever fashion possible. Lights and patterns and colors and perspectives and tones and twirls and lots of large, empty worlds. There have been simple games throughout the history of gaming, but 0N0W might truly be the most straightforward and open-ended game I've ever experienced.
0N0W is available on Steam for your regional pricing.
Disclaimer: In favor of showcasing more of the game's aesthetic qualities, this review will contain a large quantity of photos.
I would include "Story" in its own large header, but there simply isn't enough said to grant it its own column. From what I could gather, you (through the first-person perspective) have gathered your things and have headed out to a remote part of some unnamed city, where you stop at a gas station(?) and come across a building with large, neon letters spelling out "0°N 0°W." You enter it and are instantly teleported into a world full of doors. These doors are the doors that will lead you to your aesthetically-pleasing fate.
This is enough context (though barely) to initiate the player into the collection of universes that are promised from the game's trailers and premise. Although, part of me can't help but wonder if simply plopping the player into a "starting world" of sorts without any sort of context or build-up would have been better at arousing suspicion or curiosity. To give the player the illusion that the choice is being made by them at the start by means of fast-forwarded live-action video almost devalues the sense of mystery one could have with this game. This choice of having the player instigate this journey of aesthetic stimulation instills a feeling of "Why not?" rather than "Why?"; which isn't necessarily a fault seeing as the game isn't trying to arouse feelings of finding buried treasure—I only think it'd make an interesting possibility.
From a control standpoint, there's a great level of maneuverability present in 0N0W. The worlds traveled are fairly large, so the developers ensured anti-boredom spray through means of Gmod-level capabilities. One can travel at high speeds and jump like a certain platformer icon all over whatever map they're placed within. And yet, that's about all that one's given. To look around, to walk around, and to jump around. One cannot interact with anything, cannot trigger any major events. These worlds are large, but they are barren. They are at times colorful, at times devoid of color, but possess no signs of life or things to play with. It almost is like a kaleidoscope in that one simply looks and adjusts the image through movement. 0N0W only has hundreds(?) of different images to look at and alter.
Something I've noticed in my time playing is that a portion of these worlds are simply recycled with a different coating of color or filters to make them seem different. Perhaps in the grand scale of how many maps are available to explore this wouldn't seem too noticeable, and yet there were cases where I warped from one area to the very same area I was just in—not to mention multiple repeats of areas I had been in previously.
Still, I could be looking at this all wrong. This is a game whose purpose is to stimulate the mind through audio and video. A relaxing, "surreal" escape into many different worlds that ease the brain into a mellow state. With that in mind, did I receive any sort of stimulation through this? Only on occasions. There's particular worlds that alerted me more than others, areas that felt more realistic in presentation (an asteroid field, a foggy desert) and really vivid in their color palette. Some places have a very messy assortment of colors that disallow the viewer to know where they're going, which was more disorienting for me than anything. It was by no means a bad experience—and not one that altogether failed its mind-bending purpose—though I expected to leave the experience unchanged in demeanor: I would much rather have something to do.
Graphics & Audio
This is where 0N0W wants to make itself shine. And it does! For as (intentionally) empty as its gameplay attributes may be, its attention to the visual details are superb, though not perfect. As noted before, certain worlds really did have me in some form of awe with its grandiosity, particularly ones that didn't feel outside the realm of reality. Even the transition between worlds can be, at some points, visually interesting. These transition sequences are far more compressed with their presentation, as they take anywhere from three to ten seconds to have the game load the much larger major world the player can explore. Despite the short time, these transitions can be far more psychedelic than the more exploratory worlds present.
The worlds themselves, aside from a previous note about some repetition of assets, are generally interesting by means of contrast and lax context. Sometimes the player will be dropped into an apartment at the top of a tower with a TV and books and desks left uncleaned. Why are they there? Who was here? Me? You? Why do I care? Look at the pretty colors outside! If that seems enough of a virtue for longtime sessions, this might be your next favorite (non?)game.
In terms of audio, there's a little less focus on building the atmosphere of every world, as there's quite a bit of silence to this game, as well. To some extent, I enjoy the quiet, as it mixes well with the emptiness of the worlds, but I also could've enjoyed the stimulation of some techno-babble in the background to my neon laser city complete with every color under the sky. In some cases, the audio was rather unnerving, which made me think something was going to actually attack me, despite how dumb that is considering the type of game this is. It's a rather mixed bag.
The audience for 0°N 0°W is dedicated to those who forgo the standard practice. Wistfully spiritual, the game blends its aesthetic purpose with quiet rebellion. Free from the general confines of what should and shouldn't be, it builds for itself an identity few can accurately replicate, and still it resonates only lightly within me. The effectiveness as a stimulative is debatable, but for those who truly appreciate only the bare essentials of exploration and travel, 0°N 0°W is their game. How many people that may apply to, however, is tough to say.
|+ Aesthetically vibrant and interesting||– No goal → No interest|
|+ Does what it wishes to do fairly well||– Sound implementation could be better|
|– Worlds feel repetitive after long playthroughs|