ULTRA-INDIE Daily: Single Eye, Return to Zero

Single Eye by Koro Games is a short atmospheric story game about a lone robot in a lifeless world out to finish its task while collecting batteries to stay operational. In all its brevity it is able to evoke questions on meaning and purpose in one’s actions and one’s objective. Upon reactivation the robot detects a life signal, Single Eye has the player directing the robot’s movement as they walk from one battery to the next past the ruins of the world. The UI is unconventional but charming with the large backpack of the robot displaying the compass, distance, and time left on the current battery charge.

The aftermath of Single Eye‘s apocalypse is a peaceful snowy landscape with trees in hibernation and a blanket of white across the land. The soundtrack is gentle, soft, and slow contrasting with the earnestness in which the player must move in order to get to the next battery in time. Things begin to get peculiar as other sleeping or broken down robots start appearing and what about all those skulls? Why are there’s so many humans lying around?

If this has intrigued you, try out Single Eye now on itch.io.

Spoilers ahead

What is revealed is the remains of robots shot down next to a human-machine gun turret. It appears they were attacking someone or something. Also, the turret gunner doesn’t have a white skeleton like at the cemetery. Further along, we find a robot sitting next to one of the soldiers appearing to have broken down during some sort of exchange etched on the ground. Then another robot, sitting alone in a crater of rubble. It’s hard to make out what exactly happened but it doesn’t feel like chaos.

Passing the battlefield is a forest of tall leafless trees and some marking on a tree. I swear I’ve seen that mark before. That and a robot sitting next to a campfire, but how? Isn’t this far into the future? How is there still a campfire burning and why is the robot in need of it? Finally, we find our objective. A butterfly sitting atop a flower on a green splotch on the ground. Life, at last. On cue from the player, the robot incinerates it with what’s left of its reserves and shuts down. Its last thoughts are of the pleasant peace and silence.

Was this snow? Or ash? Those trees aren’t in hibernation, did they die from the war or are they purposely burnt to stone? Those dead soldiers, are they robots too, or are they corpses turned to carbon by the flames too?

Now sure, Single Eye is a cute story about a robot on a nature hike and then brutalizes the vestiges of life. But what it makes me think about is the purpose and meaning of such an action. Of reducing the noise of nature to absolute zero. To become like the other planets of our sun, a stone monolith of grand scale that exhibits to no one. What it means to exist in a state of absolute stillness amongst the cosmos. No aspirations, no emotions, no consciousness. Absolute nothing.

This Robot, why does it seek complete sanitization of the world? Who built this desire or why did the robots produce this goal? The answer may be irrelevant. I’d like to ask “Is this evil”? I think the complete annihilation of life in the solar system is a detestable act but I find it hard to characterize the robot as malevolent. It’s not like it’s in pursuit of power or domination like a dictator or fascist. It’s not seeking to replace life with machines. This Robot simply wants life gone and to be in silence, it completes its task and then returns to dormancy.

It’s not an act of misguided ambition or emotional instability. It’s just what it is, the end of life. The robot is simply playing the role it is built for.

…For more like this please check back at Dread XP and I hope to continue this talk with my upcoming Nier Automata Editorial.