A Consuming Puzzler of Vibrant Delights
Developed by Hemisphere Games, Osmos is an indie title that prides itself on being a fun yet simple puzzle game. And in that statement is the potential problem; there are an awful lot of indie puzzle titles out there. So how does it set itself above all the others? Well, Osmos is one of those visual and audio treats in the same way as other such titles like Audiosurf. Appealing to the senses, Osmos combines fast-thinking with a unique experience that gives it an addicting quality and renders it an easily accessible title that’s worth wading through the sea of indie games to take a look at. This isn’t the game to purchase if you’re looking for depth, but if you’re looking for something to fill a few minutes here-and-there then this could be the perfect title.
You are a mote, and it is your single prerogative to consume every other mote you can get your non-existent hands on. With this simple premise in mind, the game leaves you free to sit back and relax as you find yourself slowly sinking into the visual and audio soup of motes that is Osmos. It’s science-y in nature for sure, but there’s no actual story here. You can sit there and give a name to each mote if you want or try and sort out some sort of plot from the various levels, but at the end of the day Osmos is one of those title that’s devoid of any sort of plot. But fortunately it doesn’t suffer as a result; becoming so engrossed in the little worlds of motes and the idea of consumption appealing to basic human behaviour, you never really feel any need for a storyline anyway.
Well, with that out of the way, let’s take a look at those controls. You use the mouse to control the direction of your mote, moving the cursor behind it and using the left button to propel yourself in the opposite direction. This introduces the first interesting gameplay mechanic, as to propel yourself you have to use your own being – that is, your mote is propelled by shooting off smaller motes. The strategic player will tend to bounce the energy off walls to reabsorb it, for example, and this interesting feature sees the player being very careful about how to move around the level. If a level is causing too much grief, the player can use alt+Z to restart the level with the same objective but a new design, which is both cool and handy as a means of having some direct control over how hard the game is. And to compliment this (as is the case with a lot of indie puzzle titles) you can control time, using the right click to both slow down and speed up time to your advantage in regards to both thinking and movement. I’d also like to point out that the HUD is very sleek, consisting of merely two bars that measure progress and speed of passing time respectively.
And these controls contribute to a game that is simple, but a lot of fun within its simplicity. Like World of Goo, Osmos takes a small concept but uses it to make a big statement. Whether it’s moving around within an orbit, or trying to squeeze in between huge motes in pursuit of one a little smaller than yourself, the various scenarios are a lot of fun and require a clear head. Some levels will require very precise actions, seeing the time control feature becoming more important as you progress. It’s not all about just trying to grow bigger, however, with other objectives such as blowing up a system cropping up now and again. It all runs off the same theme of consume-consume-consume, but the game isn’t too large and manages to stay fresh throughout. Having to change your orbit to consume other motes, for example, is a really interesting idea and again science-based as you can use your orbit distance to slow/speed up your revolutions and you have to keep a close eye on both what’s in front of you and coming up behind while ensuring you don’t crash and burn.
It continues this streak of freshness by how it splits the levels; rather than progressing one-by-one, Osmos enables the player to travel along different paths. Each path is made up of levels represented by motes, and some motes will have smaller motes attached consisting of more levels. Again the game appeals to the senses, making a simple level page actually look quite pretty. Following the different paths will provide different scenarios and options depending on what you feel like playing and what your personal strengths in the game are. If one level is giving you too much grief, you can just look somewhere else for a different challenge. At first it doesn’t seem like anything special, but it is this consistent theme of flexibility that helps to add to the charm of the game.
To move on to the treats for the senses, everything about Osmos can be summed up with the word pretty. Every mote is a plethora of detail that grows in prominence the more you zoom in, consisting of detailed patterns that draw your attention. And as these pretty blobs move around the level, the tiny star-like specks of white scattered across the background move in accordance with the motes to make a pretty display that is best described as your personal light show in space. Everything has a bright neon glow, giving the title an incredible vibrancy. There may not be such elements as cut scenes, but what is here is again incredibly appealing to experience.
If the graphics are to be topped, then it has to be in the music department. Announcing the track you’re about to listen to before the start of each level, Osmos ensures it draws attention to its soundtrack – and why not? It’s composed entirely of electronic and ambient tracks and to say the least, each one is fantastic. The music is incredibly peaceful and contributes to the atmosphere of the game perfectly. Not only that, but it slows down and speeds up with the time shifting mechanic, a little detail yet executed to great effect. The music matches the simple yet enjoyable description of the game itself and, although it’s not catchy, you will find yourself immersed in the soundtrack every time you play the game.
Osmos is a simple yet engrossing atmospheric puzzle title that appeals to the thinker, the relaxer, and the casual player alike. It’s clear to see why it ports well to portable devices as an appealing game for casual audiences and its ability to be played for a few minutes and put down makes it a great filler title when you don’t have much time for your gaming. The ability to remix a level at your leisure and choose different level paths gives the player a great sense of flexibility in their gameplay and gives the game a surprising amount of replay value. Control over speed of time enables the player to contribute to the length of the title depending on your playing style, and just playing normally will provide you with hours of puzzling and dazzling fun. Its appeal to the senses aside, the simple gameplay can be addicting and makes it as fun to play as it is to see and hear. The player used to a deeper title may find themselves a bit lost, but for anyone who enjoys decent puzzle games or something they can relax to with a calm mind then Osmos is definitely an indie title worth giving a spin.
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