Osmos HD: Chilled-Out Arcade Fun

Another incredibly popular iOS game has been ported to Android! Osmos HD puts you in control of a biological mote that is drifting aimlessly through space. Your task is to keep it alive, and destroy all the competing motes. Sounds like a classic formula, but how does the gameplay hold up?

How Do You Play?

The theme of this game is that you are a micro-organism – a “mote” – drifting around in space. Your only way of survival is to absorb other smaller motes to increase your mass, and to avoid the already bigger motes who would steal away your own mass. The process of matter travelling through membrane in cells is called osmosis, hence the game’s title.

This is how most levels in Osmos start off. By the end, few motes are left, as smaller ones are absorbed by larger ones.

In the screenshot above, I am the light blue mote in the center. The smaller, dark blue motes can be absorbed into my mote because they are smaller. The larger, red motes are currently dangerous, and if I touch them my own matter is drained. Once I have absorbed enough blue motes, the red ones will become blue themselves. The green mote is called an Ovarium, and is a target I am supposed to absorb to complete the level. You can’t tell from the screenshot, but all these motes are lazily drifting around; they are very rarely still.

You fly around the game’s petri-dish of space by ejecting your matter, which then propels you in the opposite direction. Sometimes the journey from one position to another can take a long time, especially if you don’t have much matter to spare in generating speed. To overcome long waits you can speed up or slow down the gameplay, which helps in many situations. For example if you foresee a collision with a larger mote, you can slow down the gameplay to think about which route you can take to avoid it.

Very Chilled Out

Of all the slow-paced games I have ever played, this has to be the most relaxing and chilled out of them all. The combination of concentration, great ambient music, and floating bubbles makes for a great way to just unwind and let go.

Focused on Physics

Osmos is physics-orientated. Though some levels have you drifting mindlessly in a big box, others have you in orbit around ‘attractors’ or suns, as seen in the screenshot below. If you don’t move between orbits successfully you will either drift out of the system, or fall straight into the sun. Every adjustment you make uses up the precious matter you have acquired, so you have to think a long way ahead. Sometimes the transitions can be quite long, since if you are low on matter to begin with, you can’t spare much of it for movement.

The Attractor is causing all the motes to flow around it. In some levels you have to get big enough to absorb the Attractor itself.

Various Levels and Foes

The levels you play through vary in style. Most of them have a focus on gravity, such as orbiting a sun, or having to travel between multiple attractive bodies orbiting a central sun.

Rather than just constantly hunting for motes smaller than your own, the developers of Osmos decided to throw in some ‘bad guys’. The most notable of these is Anti-Matter, which rapidly drain your mote when touched, Nemocytes, which follow and attempt to engulf you, and Biophobes, which run away when you try to capture them.

To be honest, I thought the game could do with some more levels. I completed the Odyssey level pack fairly quickly and without too much effort. Rather than having a challenge to beat it was more a case of being extremely patient and taking advantage of situations that randomly cropped up. Some more levels that require genuine strategy would be welcome.

Arcade Mode

This is a fun little bonus, and becomes your main reason for playing Osmos once you complete the 27 Odyssey levels. Arcade mode randomly generates a level from your choice of eight styles (e.g floating aimlessly, running from Nemocytes, or in orbit) at a certain difficulty. Once you beat one difficulty you unlock the next, with each mode having up to eight difficulty variations. You certainly get your money’s worth in the form of a challenge, because try as I might, I cannot beat the sixth difficulty level in any game mode.

From top left to bottom right: Ambient, Anti-Matter, Impasse, Repulsor, Sentient, Solar, Warped-Chaos, and Epicycles.

Final Thoughts

Osmos is a great slow-paced and strategic game. There is a demo available, and the full game is £3.18.

Alternatively, you can get it as part of the Android Humble Bundle, which expires on the 14th of February.

With regards to how powerful your phone needs to be, anything relatively up-to-date should handle it without issue. I occasionally got some very minor jerking on the levels where are hundreds of motes as soon as you start. Once a few are absorbed into either your mote or others, everything speeds up again. Tablet optimisation is all there, and I am betting this game would look great when scaled up on one.

I’m going to give Osmos HD a rating of 9/10. The only thing that is needed to make that score 10/10 is more levels in the Odyssey pack, but I’m hoping they will release more level packs soon.


Summary

A slow-paced game in which you fly a mote around space, collecting smaller motes to make yourself grow. Featuring orbital physics and variety in levels and opponents.

9
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