There's something verging on the comical about Only One's desperate last stand.

For every knight shoved off the edge of the game's circular arena, and for every green blob with flashing eyes dismantled with a hefty blow from your magical sword, a chuckle isn't far away.

This isn't a game that laments violence, nor does it glory in it. The dimensions of the play area are designed for chases rather than furious duels, and the exposed edge plays host to more slipped-ends than dramatic pushes.

But there's a simple one-two beat to the game that makes it almost impossible not to enjoy. It's retro in the best way, stripped back and rich with gameplay, and dripping with references and in-jokes that mark it out as a labour of love.

There are niggles, and cruel swipes, but they form part of the punk rock charm of the experience. Its edges might be jagged, but they're gilded all the same.

I am the one and only

You play a lone survivor at the top of some great tower. There you pick up a sword, and beat back wave after wave of knights, blobs, archers, and bosses in an attempt to become the titular last one left.

The graphics are blocky in the best way, and your spindly legged hero is made up of only a handful of sharp pixels. You scuttle over the grey stone of the arena, enormous blade clutched awkwardly in arms that don't seem to end in hands, your life marked out by heart-shaped chunks in the corner of the screen.

The waves are small to begin with, a scattered handful of sword-wielding combatants who can be dealt with swiftly. Blades clash if you time your attacks wrong, with pixel-sized sparks cascading onto the arena floor.

Later foes sport shields, and you need to wriggle your way around behind them to sink your magical sword into pixelly flesh and let loose a spurt of square blood. Alternatively you can hack away until the shield shatters, leaving your opponent exposed.

Hack 'n' hack

Bosses sport health bars that make your own look positively malnourished. They're hefty things, dominating the screen with repeating patterns of violent attacks. Hacking them down saves your progress, though, meaning after your next death you can pick up just after them.

You grab power chits from slain foes. You can spend these on new powers and other upgrades that make your singular hero that much tougher. You can purchase extra health, shields, and buffs that make you stronger when you're down to the last section of your health bar.

These upgrades stick with your character even after death, so every playthrough is making you gradually stronger, as well as eating into the 70 levels that make up the main campaign of the game.

Slice and dice

Only One is a thick brew of simple ingredients. Its a weighty meal delivered in snack-sized portions, a veritable buffet of sword-swinging treats, surprises, and tragic-yet-timely ends.

For every boss you slay there'll be a tiny green blob that spells your doom. For every knight you manage to cut down, there'll be a sneaky archer firing that one arrow you just can't dodge.

It's a big ridiculous battle for survival played out in 8-bit hues, then twisted into a shape that befits a game you'll need to cram back in your pocket when the bus stops. And it's really rather good.