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Score: 8.5 / 10
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
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
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,
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.