To the Left, to the Left
The Humble Indie Bundle finishes up today, and I thought I would take a look at one of the older games packaged with this third release. Osmos, released in August of 2009 for just about every OS, was included in Bundle #2 and is available as a bonus in #3. Developed by Hemisphere Games, the player is a mote, or single-celled organism, gobbling up all the other organisms around.
Backwards, Forwards, Left and Right
Much like 7 pm at the bar, Osmos involves bumping up against those around you, trying not to get rejected. Okay, it’s nothing like that. Osmos is about propelling a mote gently among lots of other motes, sometimes computer controlled, sometimes randomly moving, attempting to “swallow” smaller motes. If the player’s mote comes into contact with a larger mote, it will lose some volume; if it slams into a larger mote with too much force, the smaller mote will be swallowed whole.
The motes appear to be in a square petri dish, bustling around across a 2D plane, somewhat larger than the average laptop screen. The busier the petri dish becomes, the harder it is to maneuver a small mote. There’s much more dodging and weaving to avoid larger motes, motes that grow larger as they pick up smaller motes themselves. All the while in Osmos, the player’s mote loses volume as it moves, propulsion depending on the amount of volume thrown out behind the mote. (There’s a bit of Newton invocation in the brief tutorial levels.) However, once a playable mote has gained enough volume, it can be quite fun to giddily bounce around, scooping up the tiny motes filling the screen.
It’s more than just getting “bigger” in Osmos, though, and as the game progresses, specialized motes are introduced that affect how the other motes behave. There are motes that cause the player’s mote to lose volume, no matter how big it is; there are motes that have their own gravity and smaller motes surrounded by faster, larger motes. Recognizing and accounting for the different Osmos motes keeps the gameplay challenging and adds interest beyond gluttonous cell-nomming.
The Osmos soundtrack is almost deceiving in its soothingness. It lulls the player into the belief that, like thatgamecompany‘s flOw or Flower, Osmos is a mood game, meant to sooth the savage game-playing beast. Instead of eat the player. Over and over.
The Osmos soundtrack is pretty remarkable on its own, though, and it won a best soundtrack award from IGN in 2010. Many of the tracks were made available for free download the same year, and the mini-album is included with the Humble Indie Bundle download.