Sidescrolling and RPG sounds likely an unlikely combination of gameplay mechanics, but that's exactly what Japanese developer Smoking WOLF has pulled off with One Way Heroics. He built the WOLF RPG Editor and used it to create this unique, tactical, turn-based permadeath game which was featured as a Casual Connect Asia 2013 Indie Showcase Official Selection. It uses text strings as seeds for randomly generated dimensions, all of which have time limits on their existence unless you, humanity's last hope, can defeat the Demon Lord and stop the encroaching darkness.

There isn't much depth to the story beyond what's said above, but that's okay, because One Way Heroics is a game that revolves around its gameplay. After creating a character for a given playthrough, you can choose a recommended dimension seed or play a random dimension. With darkness advancing inexorably from the left, you are forced to keep moving right at a steady pace, searching for food, equipment and other items necessary to see you live until you reach the Demon Lord and hopefully vanquish him. Every time you move or take an action, time rolls forward and so does the darkness. Battles are turn-based, but tactical; you never leave the world map for a separate battle screen and if you get surrounded you're going to be in trouble. All the action happens on the world map and if you want to run away from a fight, all you have to do is run far enough and hope that your foes can't keep up.

You can outrun the darkness fairly easily, but if you just go in a straight line without looking for food, you'll weaken. Extreme climates such as deserts and frosty wastes drain your energy more quickly. Helpful NPCs and better equipment is often hidden in buildings, but if you get caught inside one you'll have to hope you can break a wall in time to get out before the darkness gets you. You have plenty of time to consider your options, since the darkness doesn't advance until you do something, but every decision has the potential to lead you to your doom if you're not careful. One Way Heroics just has a lot of depth to it, even before you take into account the things you can unlock with Hero Points.

When you finish a playthrough, successful or otherwise, you get a number of Hero Points determined by things like how high a level you achieved, how far you traveled, and the like. Hero Points can be spent to unlock the ability to carry items over from one playthrough into another or to allow more character creation options. At first, the only classes available to you are Knight and Swordsman, with the former being a defensive class and the latter being an aggressive one. Other unlockable classes have different strengths, weaknesses, and play styles. You can also unlock more perks than the basic stat bonuses you start with. These allow you to further customize the character to match your desired play style. All in all, the Hero Points system makes even the shortest, worst randomly generated worlds (such as my playthrough with a huge mountain range that I just couldn't pass quickly enough just outside the starting town) feel like they have some value.


The controls are fairly simple, and very compatible with a controller. You can move horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. There is a button which forces diagonal movement, for those times when the darkness will overcome you if your movements aren't precise. Another button allows you to choose the direction you are facing, which is necessary for successfully navigating combat. Then there are the confirm and cancel/open menu buttons. You don't need anything else, since the user interface is clean and easy to understand. The downside here is that mouse controls do not exist, for those who might need them for accessibility reasons or who just prefer them. Keyboard and controller are the only options.

Colorblind folks will find that most of the game is colorblind friendly. The only thing I noticed that is definitely bad for colorblindness is that merchant types are delineated by color, with weapons merchants being red and item merchants being green. There may also be some instances where text and background colors are similar enough to cause problems. People who have colorblindness issues should watch the video at the top of the article to get an idea of whether or not the game will be comfortable for them to play.

One Way Heroics does a great job of mixing some of the strengths of turn-based RPGs with the unpredictability of random world generation and permadeath. It sacrifices narrative depth in favor of tactical depth, becoming a game in which your one life hinges on how well you plan with limited information rather than on how fast your reaction times are. Since you can retry a given world by using the same seed, however, you also have an unlimited number of chances to try new things until you fail, if you so wish.

This game has a lot to offer to many different kinds of gamers, and it is available for as little $1.99 on Playism, with the option to pay more if you want. It's Windows only, but works on Windows 2000 and XP as well as more modern versions of the OS. Edit: You can also vote for the game on Steam Greenlight.

The WOLF RPG Editor is available as freeware, though the interface and documentation are all in Japanese. It can be used to make English games, however, such as freeware game Mad Father.