Saturday, June 23, 2012

Osmos HD (Android)

Rating: 4 out of 5
Pros: Refreshingly different type of game with nice audio and visuals
Cons: A little hard to be accurate with the controlls on smaller screens

Osmos HD is a fun little physics-based game developed by Hemisphere Games for Android devices as well as iOS, Windows, Mac and Linux. It's both simplistic and minimalistic, and it provides a welcome change of pace from the standard assortment of puzzle games and twitchy action titles. In fact, Osmos HD is ridiculously hard to play during the later levels if you try to be too fast because of the way the game mechanics work. It's really not like any game I can remember playing before, and that only increases it's appeal since it's refreshingly different.
You start off with a sort of tutorial that explains how the game works and introduces you to new game features every level or so. They call this Odyssey mode, and after you complete it you unlock the Arcade mode as well. There are 27 levels in Odyssey mode and 72 in Arcade mode, and in Arcade mode you can also play at different difficulty levels. You can even speed up or slow down time with a convenient and easy to use slider at the bottom of the screen, and this allows you to add to the challenge or help you out in a tough spot.
The game takes place on a two-dimensional plane representing space, and it features really smooth and accurate physics. The universe is made up of different sized motes, which are little round organisms, and you control one of them. Through most of the game your goal is to take your character, a mote, and grow it to become the biggest mote in the level. To accomplish this you must absorb smaller motes to increase your mass, but in order to move around you must expel some of your own mass to move in the opposite direction. If you bump into a larger mote it will start to absorb your mass, and if you bump into a smaller one you will start to absorb its mass.
Most of the motes are just kind of idle and slowly drift around, but as you progress you will run into motes with various abilities. Some of them have decent artificial intelligence and will move around trying to absorb smaller motes and become the biggest, just as you will be trying to do. Other motes will attract any smaller motes around them, and yet others will repel other motes around them. You'll even have motes that project a huge mass so that other motes orbit around them, and the physics really shine here.
In addition to the "become the biggest" levels which make up a lot of the game, there are some variations to add a bit of diversity and increase the fun factor of the game. In some levels you'll be orbiting in the gravitational pull of a massive mote, and you'll have to ride the orbit around and absorb some satellite motes without getting sucked into the massive one. In other levels you'll be chasing a fast mote around trying to absorb it as it speeds away from you and gets bigger.
The game eliminates any guesswork when you're looking at another mote that's nearly the same size as you, because motes that are bigger have bit of a red glow around the edges. The moment you become bigger, the red changes to blue so that you know you can safely absorb them. The graphics themselves are beautiful as well, and while they're all really simple they are really sleek and vivid. Animations are smooth and creamy, the physics are accurate and the whole game reeks of gloss and polish. The music in the game is just as good as the graphics, with some wonderful ambient tracks of mellow electronica that really mesh well with the visuals. You won't be muting this one folks.
The controls are pretty smooth, you just tap on the screen beside your mote to eject matter in that direction and propel yourself the opposite way. The game makes great use of pinch-to-zoom to zoom in and out of the game world smoothly and effortlessly, so you can get a wide overview of the level or zoom in to admire the silky visuals. It does auto-zoom a bit depending on the size of your mote, and occasionally this bugs me but it's overall a terrific design that works really well. My only other complaint with the controls is the fact that on a small screen it's difficult to be really accurate sometimes, but it's by no means a deal breaker and I've been playing this game quite a bit on my Motorola DROID 4 lately. I can only imagine how great it would be on a tablet instead.

Osmos is compatible with most Android devices that run Android 2.2 or higher and have multi-touch support. While it works on a lot of devices, it uses high-resolution graphics for a better experience on devices with a resolution greater than 320x480. If you're unsure about the game or if it will work on your device, take a look at the list of supported devices on the company's website and/or check out the free Osmos Demo first before you buy the paid version.

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