Osmos, an independently-developed game for almot all popuar platforms - PC, Mac, iOS, and Andrid. The Indie developers have shown how well this game can truly work, and the presentation of the game shines too. But pretty looks and sounds do not a great game make – the game has to actually play well to be really worth its salt, and thankfully,
Osmos comes packed with a unique physics-based game that is almost as stellar as its presentation.
Now, when I say that Osmos is a physics-based game, I don’t mean in the way that a game like Angry Birds is physics-based. Osmos has you controlling an organism that must fire matter off of itself to move around, where you fire bits of matter in the opposite direction of where you want to move. Firing more pieces of matter allows you to go faster.
Now, this movement action has a cost – every piece you fire off deducts from your total mass, so every shot makes you just a little bit smaller. This is important, because the primary goal in Osmos is to get as large as possible. Here, you can absorb other organisms (called motes) as denoted by their colors – blue and bluish hues are safe to absorb, orange ones are bigger than you and thus will absorb you. This isn’t an instantaneous process – if you’re just barely touching an organism, it’ll absorb more slowly into your organism, and vice versa.
While the basic levels are typically of the type of open arenas full of motes where you must try to become the biggest, Osmos is freely willing to mess around with its concept in a variety of modes. For example, one type of level called Impasse is a maze full of motes, and you must use your matter firing to not only propel yourself throughout the level, but to influence the movement of other motes, knocking them into other motes to help clear a path for you to become huge. As well, some modes incorporate antimatter, which cancels out any matter it comes in contact with, and other organisms like Repulsors that fly away whenever they get near matter. Other matter types cause objects to orbit around them, delineated by an orbit path.
Osmos has two primary ways to play: Odyssey and Arcade mode. Odyssey starts you off learning how to play the game, and then serves as a level progression based game that continues to introduce new elements and new level types to you. Such as one game type where you don’t have to get huge, you just have to make the other mote in the level get absorbed into the mote you’re both orbiting around.
Arcade mode gives you series of levels to play in the particular game types introduced in Odyssey mode, and these levels are randomly generated, with the ability to generate a new level if one particular layout is giving you trouble. OpenFeint is also enabled, but primarily for Achievements; with no scoring in the game, no leaderboards are provided nor are they necessary.
Osmos HD is just beautiful. The graphics are simple but detailed, and feature great effects, from being able to see the other motes in the level shift color from being completely orange, to slowly get blue edges, to becoming all the way blue. Also, the zooming is exceptionally done, as you can go from seeing exceptionally detailed motes to seeing the entire game board in a second with no slowdown at all. The ambient soundtrack is amazing as well, and very much deserves a pair of headphones, as the game suggests you should do at the beginning. Experiencing the game aurally as well as visually adds so much to the game, as it puts you into the mood of the game in a way that playing on mute or even just through the speakers cannot accomplish.
That’s not even getting into the actual gameplay, which is astounding. The controls are simple, precise, and the use of finger gestures to do things like speed up time and access the menu are all wonderful, and make the game feel like it was designed from the ground up for a touch device. The game makes fantastic use of its physics engine as well, that particularly gets shown off in levels with multiple large objects that you can wind up orbiting around. In these levels you can see the path that you’re taking, and the way it gets affected in real time.
Osmos does get challenging, and can seem impossible in its later levels, but it is often just a case of trying to be just a little more perfect, trying to execute the perfect plan to increase your size and accomplish the given objective. Mastering the physics takes time, and will be frustrating when you need to be precise and you feel like you can’t accomplish the goal you’re going after, but it just requires patience. The game never sounds like it gets intense, and while you can speed up the flow of time in the game, it also forces you to be too quick with your actions. Patience is the rule of the day here, there is no clock, the only goal is to succeed. That is your task.
Osmos HD is a game that plays about as beautifully as it looks. It’s tranquil, yet it can be intense; it can be thoughtful, but require quick reactions. And this may just be the first great touch screen game, as it feels like it takes advantage of the platform in ways that other games have failed to do. Even despite the game being a port of a PC title, it feels so attuned to a tablet that it almost feels like it should have belonged to it for the whole time.