Osmos


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Rating: 4.8/5 (87 votes)
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Osmos

MarcusHave you ever had one of those dreams where you are floating around in space, slowly grasping at random objects as they pass by, with no real direction? It should be frightening, but instead you feel a level of calm serenity that you've never felt before. Okay, maybe that's just me, but it is not unlike the feeling that you get when you play Osmos, the award-winning game from new indie developers Hemisphere Games. If you're looking for something to keep you totally enthralled on a lazy Sunday afternoon, or a calming experience after a long day at the office, the ambient joy that is Osmos is just what the doctor ordered.

osmos.jpgThe main goal in Osmos is simple: you, an amoeba-esque organism known as a "mote," must absorb smaller motes to become bigger. As your size increases, you are able to absorb more and more motes until you are the largest one in the area. This seems like a simple objective, and at its core it is. But, in order to propel yourself around to capture motes, you must expel a part of your own mass, which in turn decreases your size. The faster you want to go, the more mass you must expel. Not only that, other competing motes can in turn capture the mass that you have expelled to increase their own mass. For all of its slow-paced, fluid joy, Osmos does require more than a bit of thought and strategy to be a success.

As you proceed through the levels of the game, you will run into different objectives. Many require you to capture a particular mote. Some motes are intelligent and will run away from you, or absorb other motes in an attempt to become bigger than you, thus making their capture much more difficult. Others will repel motes. Unencumbered by other motes as it repels everything in its path, it becomes a very quick target to capture, requiring you to balance your need for speed with the minimum size still required to capture it. Still others will attract nearby motes. It will be in your best interest to capture these motes as quickly as possible, before they become too big to absorb.

The orbital levels really show off the mathematical prowess of the game. The entire gamefield slowly orbits around a super organism. You must keep your vectors in check as you create a stable orbit, all the while trying to gobble up motes that come into and out of your path. Get too close to the super organism, and it's curtains for you as you are quickly absorbed by the giant sun-like creature. An option to display your orbit helps ensure that you are on the right course as you steer yourself towards the next unsuspecting mote.

Later levels are definitely more complex and not necessarily quite as relaxing as the early levels, although it all comes together with a stunning ambient electronic soundtrack that makes even the most frantic of games a soothing breeze on the wind. If you find yourself getting bored with the 47 levels included, you can always go back to any of the levels and play a completely random version. What's not to love?

osmos2.jpgAnalysis: Osmos is one of those games that comes along once in a blue moon and makes you realize that there are still developers out there that care about the game experience, not just what particular genre or brand they can cash in on. Hemisphere Games have developed a game that not only evokes the best of what it means to be quiet and tranquil, but they have crafted a game that has a great deal of replayability and keeps you coming back for more.

The ultra silky-smooth graphics are a big part of the overall feeling of the game. There is nothing clunky or choppy about the animations, and the motes move smooth and free across the screen. Absorbing motes happens just as you might think it would, with mass transferring from one to the other in a balloon-sort of fashion, as the absorbing mote puffs up. Even when you zoom out on a level such as the orbital levels, with hundreds of motes all in motion, the game remains totally playable and suffers nary a skip.

The smooth, buttery graphics are complimented by some of the best ambient electronica I have heard in some time. Names that will be familiar to those who are fans of the genre have contributed to the soundtrack, including Loscil and Biosphere. Sometimes compilation soundtracks can sound disjointed and tossed together, but the soundtrack for Osmos fits as seamlessly as the motes themselves. It is really a large part of what makes the game so soothing to play. Turn the music off, and it's still a great game, but you'll find it may become a bit repetitive. But add in the soundtrack, and it turns into more than just a game. It becomes an experience. I don't think I've ever felt quite as strong about the experience of playing a game as I do about Osmos. It is that different.

I believe I've run out of adjectives to describe this game. From start to end, it is a fluid mass of gaming goodness. Even the level selection screen smoothly flows into the game experience. There is nothing aggravating about Osmos. I never found myself becoming annoyed with the game, even when I would get stuck on a level. I would just pour myself back into the game and try again. It was all very zen. Certainly worth the ten spot that Hemisphere is asking for it. I can say nothing better than go, go now and purchase this game. I think you'll find that Osmos is truly unlike any gaming experience you've ever had.

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17 Comments

I bought this game when it came out, and have not regretted it.

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tenkuchima Author Profile Page September 6, 2009 9:09 PM

fun for a while, but later on the game gets mind crushingly frustrating. it gets to the point where its just not fun anymore.

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I love this game, it's so awesome, and totally logical physics. Sure the harder levels can cause brain cramps, but what good is a game that has no difficult levels at all? It's great for light entertainment, and for keen strategic practice, requiring quick hand/eye coordination. Man this game is the Bomb!

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The game is quite strange, but is very good and sometimes real challenge !

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ZombieKart64 Author Profile Page September 7, 2009 5:41 AM

Yaaay!
I entered this game two weeks ago and here it is! Thank you Jay is Games! I might not be the only one to ask about it, but it does make me feel important.

And everything in the review was perfect. The zen feel is every where. It is fun, long, and addicting even when stuck on all the levels. But I must say it is not a great game to play late at night, with all the lights out, unless you want to go to sleep at your computer...
Anyway, thanks again for the review, I'll keep them coming...

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Donkey Konkey September 7, 2009 10:29 AM

Great game, blisssss, and the High Skies soundtrack is awesome. its amazing how different some of the levels are, some have zen like stillness others are a mass of swirling orbits. 5 mushrooms!

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stunning game, highly recommended!

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Love this game! Osmos is so relaxing.

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I love the game, but it almost freezes when I get to the level that has the biophobe. The intro page that shows the biophobe loads agonizingly slowly, and when the stage starts, my framerate drops down to about one every three seconds. Anyone else having the same problem?

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Hey Josh,

Dave Burke from Hemisphere Games here...

Some help for your problem with the Biophobe: can you please make sure your graphics drivers are up to date? Osmos makes extensive use of blending for the Biosphere's eye particles, which some video hardware manufacturers implement poorly.

If this doesn't help you out, try cycling the rendering detail setting [Alt+D] for levels with the Biophobe (you can turn it up again afterwards).

Happy Osmoting!
Dave
Hemisphere Games
hemispheregames.com

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Alvin Karpis November 26, 2009 1:46 AM

I don't know how long the sale is going for, but right now on Steam this game is available for only 2 dollars

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OrbitalMechanic Author Profile Page January 31, 2010 7:40 PM

I've discovered that whenever Osmos becomes more challenging, I'm only thinking about it wrong. Try clearing your mind, and don't fixate on any specific blobs or objectives. First learn to move as a part of the whole.

Everything can be one, or everything can be diffused into nothing. We can "Using the Force" and "go with the Flow", or we can try vainly to fight what is.

"What?"

If you are frustrated, or are feeling stuck in a particular sector of the blobiverse, stop. Stop trying to win the round... just learn to maneuver in that space. Learn how to collide; learn how not to collide, and learn to do both with a minimum of mass/energy expended.

Trust and use your instincts- they are the valid output of our exquisite inner minds. Autonomous processing networks within our brains work wonders of computation, but the output is only available to a relaxed conscious mind that is heeding ancient instinct.

Once your mind is more centered and relaxed, take a little time to learn the interface- how to dilate time and space smoothly, and without confusing the two. Many of my early errors and were just learning to differentiate zooming and time-warping, and learning to continuously employ both in an intuitive way.

If you are not zooming and warping continuously, then you may be missing most of the fun, and slowing your progress. Zoom and warp allow you to ample time to analyze highly-dynamic situation, and also allow you to let time do the work when an advantageous and stable orbital pattern has been established.

Pay attention to the flight path vector, and its color-coding. It's vital information.

But most of all, keep close attention to your instincts. Within our primitive brains we are all capable of very complex physics analysis. In Osmos we exercise the intricate, powerful,but largely subconscious processing that empowers us to predict the motion of our bodies, the motion of objects we have been manipulating, predict rolling, throwing, catching, dodging etc. For thousands upon of years, our physics instincts have been coded into our instinctive minds.

That's why you know this game. Even if you haven't discovered that you know it yet.

So when you thin you're stuck, just focus on maneuvering; play at honing your skills.

There is no death, and no dishonor in Osmos- only learning... when something goes wrong, allow "calamity" to unfold, contemplate how it went wrong for a moment and begin again. If you aren't sure what went wrong, try and duplicate the failure or unwanted collision, and soon you'll learn to anticipate and avoid these errors with tiny corrections.

Once you can anticipate flightpaths it takes very little mass/energy to go where you want (although it's never a straight line). Not even when it seems that way.

There is basic maneuvering and conservation of energy from the outset, that is important throughout the game. At the higher levels there are patterns of orbital mechanics to recognize and exploit.

Once you can anticipate orbital patterns, you can apply it in the same way that intuitive situational awareness helps us in dynamic real-life situations In Osmos, as with real-world kinetics we can learn to use gravity and momentum efficiently and to our advantages, instead of fighting them.

Consider taking what you learn from Osmos with you beyond the blobiverse, too. Try and remember always that your brain is still far more capable than the state-of-the-art in AI now, and probably will remain the "Craown of Creation" for at least another 20, years or until many of us will begin swirling (if we choose) into an inimaginably brilliant and astounding blobiverse of shared awareness. I believe that maximizing our adaptive mental capabilities is going to open up amazing new worlds for all in the not-distant future, and part of the beauty of Osmos for me is that it's conducive not only to "mindless" play, but also mmindful meditation.

Relax, and have fun!

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OrbitalMechanic Author Profile Page February 2, 2010 10:22 AM

Master of the Force \ Force Chaos

is the last that I haven't survived so far. I've just been allowing my blob to collide, and then observing the behavior. It seems as if the frenzied period must be survived with enough mass to pick off the attractors from smallest to largest at the end.

Has anyone done it? I've got ambient, viral, and deep "master achievements", and 3x surviving Force Chaos is all that I haven't done now.

I'll be glad to share what got me through any of the other tasks, if anyone has a question-

?

Cheers!

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OrbitalMechanic Author Profile Page February 5, 2010 3:26 AM

No spoilers here- these tips will take some orbital practice to get results.

The trick to Force Chaos Forever (the final challenge for me) was to simply eat like mad from the start, constant thrusting and seeking the best lines for feeding. It's fairly easy to get big with constant acceleration- I averaged slightly over 1 click/second until reaching a dominating size. As things get more frenetic, it's best to be near the center- that's where the juicy blobs are. Hang out near the edges long, and the attractors will eat your breakfast.

Epicycles Forever wasn't really bad at all, once I realized that it's important not to hang out in the peripheral orbits too long. Grabbing the larger blobs an moving on was best. Usually I would cross to the center to another system tricky getting through the center at first, but it pays off when it's possible to return to the center orbit larger than the center attractor. Then it's just decaying the orbit and easy victory.

That finishes all Osmos "Achievements" for me. So now I'll relax with Osmos a bit now and then, and hope that Hemisphere develops a sequel someday.

Another bit of advice that I should have mentioned at the outset: Be sure to have HUD and Draw Orbits enabled in Visual Options, and learn how to interpret them well.

I mentioned "velocity vector" earlier in reference to the HUD: A fighter-pilot's HUD can display an element called the "snake" or predictor, which is a visual aid for the potential flight-path of cannon fire. The Osmos HUD similarly shows where you're going, and is color-coded white for stable orbit, red for escape from orbit, and blue for targeted collision (such as intercepting an attractor).

Maybe for a challenge, I'll see how I can do without these kinetic-visualization aids.

Have fun y'all!

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Chaotick Author Profile Page May 9, 2010 2:30 AM

Indeed, an awesome title that's bound to keep all who have the patience enthralled for a few months, possibly. I am stuck at the first or second levels just about anywhere where the split paths begin, and I'm stuck even sooner on survival of the fittest... but hey, there has to be some kind of difficulcy after all. Five stars from me!

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When i downladed the demo and played it it kept flashing on and off weirdly. What shuld i do to prevent this from happening/

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Anyone who calls this game zen-like probably hasn't played past the few introductory levels.

I love the game, but it very quickly becomes insanely hectic and frustrating. I have reached the "forever" levels and can now only play it in short bursts if I don't want to see my blood pressure going up. :)

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