Sheeeeeep!!! Hyper cute (and fuzzy) critters star in Thief creator Phillip Reagan's Osmosis, an entry to our 4th Casual Gameplay Design Competition. It seems you've fallen asleep while taking a test (again), so the sheep of slumberland decide to lend you a hand. Each maze-like stage has one or more sheep which must make it to the goal. Being a dream and all, you have control over some forces you normally don't have power over, such as gravity and friction. By changing the direction and power of these forces you can move the sheep around, careful to avoid the orange areas that put them to sleep. It's equal parts action and puzzle woven into a webtoy-like atmosphere that's as creative as it is fun.
The most inviting aspect of Osmosis is the mouse drawing gesture interface. Instead of clicking a button or hitting a keyboard key, Osmosis gives you a big pencil and a short list of shapes to draw. The easiest is a straight horizontal line that sends your sheep spinning in the direction you draw. To reverse or increase gravity, simply scribble a vertical line. Increasing and decreasing friction is as easy as drawing part of a triangle. The chief barrier to most gesture systems is having to memorize a large set of commands. In the case of Osmosis, however, you only have a few things to remember, and they're all so simple it takes no effort at all.
Analysis: One thing I would really like to compliment Phillip on is the high level of polish he's given Osmosis. Everything in this game shines, from the underpinning game mechanics to the gorgeous presentation and relaxing music. The big, brightly colored and slightly shadowed elements in the game pop off the screen and beg you to play. I encountered a few minor hiccups in the gesture recognition system, but nothing smarter penmanship didn't correct.
A very slight obstacle in Osmosis is the level of difficulty. The game fools you into a relaxed mode with its polished presentation and soothing music then jolts you awake and forces you to both think and act quickly to move sheep through the stages. Some levels are downright tough, but the challenge is usually a welcome one.
Cheers to Phillip for an excellent game! (And one that very nearly placed within the prize winners.)
Jay - I love to see games entered into our competitions that show creativity and style. Phillip demonstrates both along with his ability to take a concept such as "ball physics" and create something wholly unique from that; something completely unexpected. Games based on a gestural mechanic are not necessarily unique, but Osmosis is playful, creative and fun, and a fantastic competition entry. My only criticism would be that the gestural input, although a creative application for a platformer and well executed here, does not seem necessary for the design of this game. A very minor complaint, however, to a very polished entry. Well done, Phillip!