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Platform

PC

 

Genre

Ambient Gaming

 

Publisher

Hemisphere Games

 

Developer

Hemisphere Games

 

ESRB

E (Everyone)

 

Released

August 18, 2009

 

 

‑ What at first seems nothing more than very casual and soothing gameplay provides completely entertaining and challenging physics-based puzzle-solving

‑ Gameplay achievements as a reward system similar to whatís found in Xbox 360 or PS3 titles

‑ At only $10US, a great PC gaming value

‑ Controls work great even with a laptop touchpad as the main mote navigation device

 

 

‑ Many levels require a lot of failure (repeating level over and over) to finally complete, bringing an aggravating frustration into the dreamy gameplay serenity

 

 

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Osmos

Score: 8.5 / 10

 

osmos          osmos

 

Quirky indie game Osmos from relatively new developer Hemisphere Games seems like a completely harmless, relaxingly soothing casual title featuring pretty-colored glowing orbs/celestial bodies along with easy-to-understand, seemingly easy-to-beat gameplay. However, once gamers begin playing, uncovered is a complex combination of physics-based gameplay where living orb-shaped ďmotesĒ both evade and even attack gamers ďmotesĒ in what may be best described as next-generation Asteroids meets the principles of osmosis.

In Osmos gamers take the role of a simplistic mote, a round, glowing living organism/celestial body orb that must essentially chase other motes and assimilate

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with them, with the goal being to become the biggest mote through osmosis.

But gameplay isnít as simple as it sounds. On many levels, thereís a ďbossĒ mote thatís also combining with other motes, essentially trying to outgrow the gamerís mote until the biggest mote absorbs the smaller ones. There are some distinct levels of gameplay. The Ambient

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levels are more relaxed without the time constraint pressure gamers will find in the more competitive Sentient levels full of intelligent motes battling for food as well as assuming hunter roles. And there are also Force zones that require a higher level of strategy, where principles of physics determine the outcome and ultimate victor. Gameplay in the physics-based Osmos requires well-thought-out planning, including when or when not to propel a gamerís mote using Osmosí excellent control system (even using a laptop touchpad as this reviewer did Osmosí controls perform extremely well and responsive).

By positioning the cursor behind their mote, gamers can propel in any direction, to either absorb other motes or to escape threatening motes. But propelling the mote leaves a trail of matter behind. The faster a gamer propels, the more matter leaves the mote, which in turn shrinks smaller and smaller. Reckless use of propelling will cause gamerís motes to transform from big enough to assimilate smaller motes to smaller, at-risk-for-termination targets.

 

osmos          osmos
 

To keep gamers interested in playing even when the going gets tough, Osmos has unlockable achievements similar to whatís present in both Xbox 360 and PS3 titles, such as the achievement given for completing the game (Graduate of the Osmos) along with bonus levels in each of the gameplay styles. Itís a nice reward system for the process of completing a highly challenging game.

The only criticism of Osmos is that many levels require a lot of failure (repeating level over and over) to finally complete. That can bring an aggravating frustration into the dreamy gameplay serenity. However, if the going gets tough, alleviating some of that frustration is that gamers can alter the Osmos gameplay. Thereís a time-control warping mechanism, which slows down time, giving gamers an edge when the gameplay gets too fast-paced. Gamers can also utilize Osmosí randomizing level generator to get an entirely new variable to a completed level.

Already, this self-described ambient game with pretty graphics and eclectic but totally serene music has had a ton of praise heaped upon it from multiple sources: It was a Seumus McNally Grand Prize Nominee at the 2009 GDC Independent Games Festival, a PAX 10 finalist, and a winner of the D2D Vision Award. And itís with good reason: Osmos is a great game (and is a great bargain, at only $10US) that will challenge the puzzle-solving skills of even the best gamers, as ambient gaming enters a new cosmos with Osmos.

- Lee Cieniawa
lcieniawa@armchairempire.com

(September 21, 2009)

 

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