By: Derek Yu

On: November 27th, 2009


The concept behind Osmos is quite simple: bigger motes can swallow smaller motes. Most motes just float around, but the player and other intelligent motes can propel themselves by “farting” (my term) out smaller motes, becoming smaller in the process. Farting can also be used to push things away.

The execution of Osmos is extremely well-done. In the hands of another casual developer the motes might have had bug-eyes and squeaky sound effects, but the creators wisely went with a minimal and organic design which is very effective. Despite the simple graphics, there’s a lot of detail to the motes, which react to their environment by pulsing, glowing, and animating in various ways. The coolest effect, in my opinion, is how the motes change color depending on how much bigger or smaller than you they are. It’s really satisfying when you swallow a large mote and watching the whole screen turn from a malevolent red to a peaceful blue. You are now the king!

Osmos is a competitive Petri dish. The mechanics create a lot of interesting dilemmas and the graphics and music make the deceptively serene world come to life. The different game modes pit you against a variety of challenges that are well-suited to the mechanics – some of the levels get quite tough. I really enjoy this game. The chill atmosphere and abstract graphics shouldn’t fool you into thinking that it’s necessarily slow-paced or boring.

The game’s been out for awhile, and right now it’s on sale at Steam for a dirt-cheap $2. You can also support Hemisphere Games by buying it direct from them for the full $10.

TIGdb: Entry for Osmos

  • c5

    I didn’t buy this before because it seemed pretty similar to Orbient (Wiiware). But I couldn’t resist the $2 sale, and I’m impressed.

  • http://www.twitter.com/goodmorningcpt allen

    It’s almost a steal at 2 dollars. This game is difficult as well, but being able to randomize each level not only eases the difficulty but provides incentive to replay the game over again.

    My favorite levels are the orbit levels. They are also the hardest though.

  • Lav

    This feels like the kind of game Tim Langdell would steal…I mean, develop.
    He could call it “Osm-OS: An Operating System From EDGE.”

  • Andrew

    I bought this game last week for $10, but I’m enjoying it enough that I don’t feel bad about missing out on this sale.

  • Dodger

    This is a very chillaxing game. The pace is just right, since you (the player) pretty much set the pace. It’s not frenetic or frustrating but it is challenging at times. If you’ve been sitting on the fence with this one, now is the time to leap off and make the purchase because you’re not gonna get better value for the price at just any given moment. You’re getting a good game for about the same price as a bus token (depending where you live). That’s pretty hard to beat. If you do enjoy the game and get into it for more time than it might take you to take the transit bus to work or school you should definitely try to support the developer by purchasing the full game off of their site. Either way, this sale is a wise investment for any gamer that hasn’t played or who has been interested in but hasn’t decided whether to buy Osmos yet.

  • http://0xdeadc0de.org Eclipse

    got it, wonderful game

  • Dinsdale

    Awesome game. Cute, clever, but chilling/relaxing is not what I would call it. The game can get frustrating as hell at times, especially since some presets simply do not give you enough time to swallow enough motes to survive before something else reaches its peak. I know there’s a solution to that but being able to randomize a level until things get convenient is something I loathe in games in general.
    Other than that, awesome game.

  • Harbinger

    Awesome. A better variation of the (great) Orbient.

  • Dodger

    The reason this game is a chill and relaxing game for me is because there are not set pathways to completing a level really. I can pretty much proceed through the levels without being stuck to a linear pathway. I admit that some levels are challenging, but for me I can walk away from the game before getting frustrated and come back to a level later on and not find it as challenging. I really didn’t get frustrated though… that’s just me, but then I associate frustration with level design that requires absolute perfect timing to avoid hazardous obstacles. This has nothing to do with how much fun I’m having, but those are the types of games that I would not consider chill or relaxing. That’s why I referred to Osmos as a chillaxing sorta game for me, but to each his/her own.

  • Mischief Maker

    You know how AIDS, retardation, and the Holocaust are a movie’s ticket to Oscar-town? I’ve figured out the IGF: make a game featuring amorphous blobs in a physics engine (see also: Gish, World of Goo, etc.)

    That is the only reason I can come up with for the all praise heaped upon this unremarkable game.

  • Lyx

    Dodger, i suspect you understand “chilling” as the opposite of “stressful”. Getting worked up any annoyed about something requiring perfect timing is quite stressing :) And yep, thats how i feel about games too… i dont mind difficulty – but i do mind that a game is stressful to me. Trivial example: chess. This can be a very difficult game – and yet, you aren’t under a hurry or pressure and can make those “difficult” decisions at a relaxing pace.

  • Lyx

    as for osmos…. i really enjoyed the force levels, but felt bored about the other levels which are all about the old boring mechanic “eat, or be eaten”.

  • Dodger

    @Lyx – regarding comment 11,

    Yep, that’s basically what I meant. It’s not a stressful game and I’ve been lucky enough to not be frustrated by it either. There are far too many other games to enjoy AND be frustrated by so Osmos is kind of refreshing in that way. I think World of Goo was more frustrating, but, for me frustrating does not mean a game isn’t fun, it just means it the experience is almost rhythm based. World of Goo didn’t force me to play a certain way or expect me to adhere to a certain conformed path but it did expect me to reach a certain point in each level. While the results were fun, building a tower or chain of goo balls only to have it topple or go flaccid (nice word), could be very frustrating at times and yet I still wouldn’t call the experience stressful. Obviously frustration is not really a positive aspect of a game but if a game is fun the frustration is usually only experienced in limited doses. Many of the stages in WoG were still very laid back and interesting requiring me to be more thoughtful about how and where I connect the goo balls and to use my mouse-to-mouse-pad reflexes. Of course, going for the OCD on every single level would frustrate me to no bloody end. I haven’t made that achievement yet, but once again the game is good enough to make me try. ;) I guess if i was to try and scale how relaxing or how frustrating an experience can be I could say that Osmos is very low on the frustration meter and far from stressful, for me. That’s just my opinion and besides there are others who probably feel the opposite… who knows, maybe there are people who find Ikaruga a tranquil and relaxing experience, something you might play after receiving acupuncture. Me, I love Ikaruga for what it is, but I feel the need to save the acupuncture for AFTER I’ve played a session of it! ;p

  • Ezuku

    Eh, played this one a while ago (the demo iirc?) and it really seemed like nothing special. Touch blobs that are smaller than you as fast as possible. Avoid touching blobs that are bigger than you. If there’s a blog that’s much bigger than you, you’ll probably lose unless you’re lucky.

  • Balls

    This game is really a metaphor – it’s really talking about bullying.
    A bully bullies those smaller than him, and is himself bullied from above.
    What we should learn from this is to stop schoolyard bullying.

  • fartron

    I thought it was a metaphor for how much the developer liked Flow.

  • Annihilator

    I immediately thought of Flow when I heard about this game. I’d say they have similar metaphors.

  • Anon

    Reminds me of “Fishy” by xgenstudios, but better. The demo was fun, and while I’m aware that it’s supposed to be more a physics puzzler than anything else, I couldn’t help but fondly remember Spore’s cell stage, and think that this could have had some really cool stuff done with it. Such is my life – every game I’ve ever played comes back to make me hate anything new.

  • silo

    This too reminds me of Fishy. The production values are low and I would never pay more than the Steam Sale price but I am glad I bought it. The sort of short burst gameplay that will keep it in my Steam library for moments of pick up and play game time.

    The slow down function is too unimportant for words.

  • Rolf

    Shouldn’t you be posting about how World of Goo is 75% off right about now?

  • http://www.twitter.com/goodmorningcpt allen

    Slow down function unimportant? That has saved my ass so many times. I use it all the time in the tougher levels.

    I can’t believe no one (including myself) didn’t mention the sound track of Osmos. It’s really good. They only have a handful of songs, and they eventually get repetitive but they are great songs nonetheless.

  • Flamebait

    Did anyone buy it straight from the author’s website? If so, what DRM does it contain, if any?

  • Flamebait

    The answer is none, as expected.

  • Synnah

    Bought this in the sale, and I’ve been enjoying it rather a lot! Music is fantastic, and the mechanics are explored well. Can be a little tricky at times, though. Oh, and while it doesn’t initially seem like it, slowdown is incredibly useful; specifically when chasing the other intelligent motes.

    But screw all the other comparisions; this is clearly Underwater Katamari.

  • http://www.godatplay.com God at play

    I just want to say that I appreciated a link directly to the developer’s website in case I wanted to support them by purchasing the game directly from them.

  • http://facepalmgames.blogspot.com Facepalm

    This game is a metaphor and allows indies to feel the excitement of being a big publisher in a sea.

    Great game though..

  • Flamebait

    It’s funny that the theme is generally interpreted as aquatic. Consider that the environment is frictionless, gravity is important, and the appearance of the motes. Osmos is celestial.

    I’d guess the title refers both to “cosmos” and “osmosis”.

  • madrain

    I was unimpressed with the demo. There are better games if I want to play eat-the-thing-smaller-than-me, and better games if I want to play hit-a-target-while-navigating-past-round-gravitational-fields. I was hoping the game would be prettier, too.

    The music was pretty good, though.

  • http://doujingamer.blogspot.com/ DoujinGamer

    I enjoy Osmos as a means of occupying myself while I’m relaxing more than looking at it as a game with a capital “G”. Just the way everything sort of flows around in a dark environment with some nice ambient music playing is very soothing. =)

  • Anthony Flack

    There are lots of eat-smaller-things, get-bigger games. That, by itself, isn’t a particularly interesting set of mechanics. The important thing here is that thrusting (everybody else but Derek’s term) makes you smaller.

    It’s so elegant and intuitive that it seems like almost nothing, but without it, the other eaty games are just fractal Pac Man.

  • replicarolex

    good post