One Button Travel opens with a red button invitingly asking you to push it. You know you probably shouldn’t, but you do anyway. ‘Confirmation’ is sent, but confirmation regarding what? It turns out you’ve just enrolled on a terrifying trip to the future.
Through some kind of magical version of instant messaging, you end up conversing with another traveller who pressed the button. It turns out he didn’t have a nice holiday in an era of gleaming skyscrapers and flying cars. Instead, he got stuck after the wibbly wobbly, timey wimey travel company went bankrupt. And the future is not a nice place to be.
A trip to avoid
Future people don’t like people from the past, you see, to the point they’re rounded up and locked in a park. They’re given clothes that are recycled every day, subjected to ongoing surveillance checks, and treated like garbage. And if you haven’t detected some black and bleak social commentary here, you should probably look harder.
Rather like Lifeline, the story plays out in real time. Dual aims are to cancel your trip and help your new friend. Mostly, as is the case in this kind of app, the story barrels along regardless of your choices — you’re just there for the ride. You get messages, occasionally tell your friend in the future what to do, and then may wait for hours to receive a response - something that can make for a disjointed playing experience.
Aesthetically, One Button Travel is striking, with a vibrant interface and lovely soundtrack. Unlike other titles in this rapidly expanding sub-genre, you sometimes receive photos rather than just text. There’s also intrigue in the form of a separate ‘trip cancellation’ screen — an obscure lock with a combination that needs cracking.
The flip side is that One Button Travel feels very much like a game. With Lifeline, especially when played on a wearable, you were almost tricked into feeling like you were conversing with someone, and it offered serious emotional clout if that person came to harm. Here, the narrative doesn’t feel especially genuine.
But that doesn’t mean One Button Travel isn’t worth experiencing. It has a lightness and sense of humour that makes it an enjoyable romp, and if the pacing drives you nuts, you can override it by typing F-E-D-E-F into the trip cancellation screen. The result is a breezy slice of slightly throwaway sci-fi — a brief and amusing visit to a kind of cartoonish dystopia, where genetically engineered unicorns roam, the term ‘Retina’ denotes a literal and painful implant, and a phone box — with the cord still attached — is an antique you’re quickly shooed away from by someone in uniform.
One Button Travel is available on the App Store, for iPhone and iPad.