Insert Credit endeavors to suss out where you should be allotting your video game allowance, sifting out a single title from many and crowning it as The One Game You Need to Get This Week. Don’t consider these reviews, gentle reader. Rather, think of Insert Credit as a mix of hands-on time, informed opinion and intuition.
For the week of July 27, 2010, you should insert credit into: “Osmos”
I’ve spent a fair amount of time trying to find an all-new game that would feel as addictive on iPad as “Drop7”, “Canabalt” and my other favorite iPhone games felt to me. The big differentiators between iPad and iPhone are processing power and screen size. The games that have tried to capture hearts and minds on the big-boy iDevice have mostly tried with sharper, faster graphics and bigger levels. That’s great and all, but those are means and not ends unto themselves.
But no game’s sported design ideas that made me feel like they were native for iPad until I played “Osmos.”
In the title by indie developer Hemisphere Games, you control a globular lifeform floating in a field of differently sized motes. You can absorb motes that are smaller than you but can also get subsumed by ones that are bigger. To move around the screen, you tap to eject mass from your mote and create thrust. The risk/reward dynamic is well-tooled here: if you zip around the screen, you can prey on smaller motes, but can wind up being too small to avoid absorption. ou’ve also got the ability to conrol the speed of time with a finger swipe, which also makes the great electronic soundtrack moodily hypnotic or snappy and catchy. (Note: “Osmos” has been out in other forms, including Mac and PC, but feels especially good on iPad.)
The one caveat I have to offer about “Osmos” is that the reason I like it is because it reminds me of other games I already love. It shares a synaesthetic design sense with “Rez,” “Every Extend Extra” and Tetsuya Mizuguichi‘s other work. It looks a bit like “Eliss,” and its touch implementation feels similar to the beautiful simplicity of that game.
With that all said, it still stands out. Its smartly executed physics feel real and just right for the virtual cosmos it portrays and there’s a surprising variety of gameplay mechanics. An early level that throws a simulated black hole into the playfield blew my mind with how much it changed the experience. And, in another level where a self-aware mote competes with you to see who gobble whom up first, a surprising level of AI was evinced in the enemy mote. It bore down on me when it was bigger than my lifeform and scurried away when I was about to pounce on it. It felt almost alive.
So, there it is: “Osmos.” It’ll transform your iPad into a portal to a clever, quirky game universe. Find it on the iTunes Store.