Pretentious introductions from smitten reviewers are the norm when it comes to a game like Osmos, which screams innovative indie title with its minimalist design ethos and down-tempo electronica soundtrack.
Unlike some of its peers, though, Osmos doesn’t forget the vitally important aspect to which every game should remember to adhere: fun.
By giving this straightforward element top priority, Osmos ends up one of the best titles iPad games thus far.
Initially Osmos is a game about an organism (called a mote) which absorbs smaller ones in order to rise up the food chain. Moving your blue mote past bigger red ones and towards smaller, munchable blue foes, is a matter of touching the screen.
The position of your tap dictates the direction in which your primordial protagonist ejects a tiny piece of itself. This ejected piece barrels off into the unknown, propelling your creature in the opposite direction, only now with the additional concern of momentum to worry about.
Run into a smaller organism and your creature absorbs its mass, the camera pulls back, and the process begins again.
This is as peaceful and as relaxing as gaming gets; although, it's also a pretty shallow and ultimately dull collect-em-up. Then, suddenly, the game evolves.
Adapt and change
The first instance in which you notice the gameplay change is in the act of propulsion itself.
The ejected pieces are small organisms in their own right and can be absorbed by larger creatures just as with regular organisms, altering the recipient’s mass and trajectory accordingly.
New types of organisms appear as the game progresses from sentient foes to anti-matter, all adding to the complexity. By the time the final stretch of the game's main Odyssey mode comes around, the motes feel more like planets orbiting stars than lowly life-forms fighting against complicated, multi-gravitational centres.
There's definitely a little of early Spore levels about it.
Despite this development, the basic controls, graphics, and rules in Osmos never really change. The elegant one-touch movement system and goal of absorbing others remain the same throughout.
Not every stage in the game is a success. The Repulsion levels are too shallow, focusing on short bursts of acceleration towards an annoying repulsing mote, while some of the more complicated gravity stages like Epicycles can be infuriatingly obtuse as to where your taps will take you.
Yet, the overall atmosphere and evolving gameplay of Osmos make it easier to forgive these occasional missteps, especially since once the Odyssey is complete, there’s the option of playing randomly created levels.
And it was during one such stage that I realised why Osmos wouldn't need a pretentious introduction. There's no need to deconstruct its themes and foist my own opinion on what the game is about onto you.
It didn’t need it because Osmos is, at its core, a fun game to play and that should be allowed to speak for itself.