I Smashed My Head Against Puzzle Platformer One Last Breath For Way Too Long

By the second day of Tokyo Game Show, my back was killing me. After I made the mistake of lugging my laptop everywhere for the first day, my body was punishing me with aches and pains in places I didn’t even know could hurt. Add to that the fact that not a single chair at TGS had a backrest, and I had no choice but to stay in perpetual motion – if I stopped moving to sit down, I might not be able to get back up again. I found myself doing laps around the indie game hall, waiting for something to catch my attention so I could justify sitting on a chair at a booth for an indeterminate amount of time. I walked past One Last Breath once, then twice before I finally decided to sit down and check it out. I ended up there for nearly forty minutes.


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One Last Breath is a somewhat eerie 2.5D puzzle platformer based in a dark post-apocalyptic world full of grotesque, mutated creatures. You control Gaia, a white-haired plant woman who was, according to the game’s Steam page, ‘born from mother nature’s last breath’. She has the ability to control plants, which allows her to open up paths blocked by roots, use vines to swing from point to point, and more.

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I didn’t see much of the story, but from what I’ve read and seen, it seems to be very much about the consequences of not taking care of the environment. Humanity is extinct because of pollution and capitalist greed – as the Steam description says, ‘The Earth is sick and we are the disease’. I can see, in hindsight, how the setting was telling this story – I was running through disused factories and using plants and trees to create my own path through, all while being constantly beset by creepy monsters reminiscent of The Last of Us’ clickers. The sound design played into the immersion, with the protagonist’s heavy breathing getting louder and louder the more danger I was in.

One Last Breath Monsters

I was more preoccupied with its puzzles, though, which were surprisingly thoughtful and difficult. Each puzzle I solved taught me a different mechanic and a different way to continue my journey. One puzzle had me running into a fence over and over again, until I realised I could duck and crawl through a hole I hadn’t noticed before. Another had me swinging across a chasm with a vine. Yet another had me activating levers and timing my movement carefully to get to the next level without getting caught by a lurking monster.

One of the final levels had me so absorbed and frustrated that I forgot how badly I was aching. I smashed my head against it for twenty minutes, pressing buttons, rotating pillars, and growing and retracting tree roots. I looked around me desperately, trying to figure out what I was doing wrong. I did the same thing repeatedly for what felt like an eternity. “Please,” I begged a nearby dev, “I think I’m actually stupid, please help me.” He laughed and told me that was kind of the point.

He’s right, of course. The great satisfaction of One Last Breath is not in its atmosphere, its mechanics, or even its themes, though those all contribute hugely to why I enjoyed it – it’s the satisfaction of solving a puzzle that actually makes you think. Intelligent puzzles are this game’s strength, and when I finally solved that puzzle, I almost crumpled with relief and joy. It feels amazing to progress from level to level because you feel like an idiot and a genius. That’s a valuable feeling to have, especially when playing puzzle platformers that are less about reflexes and more about brainpower.

One Last Breath is projected to come out early next year on Steam and all current-gen consoles. I can’t wait.

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