Games for the weekend: Osmos


Games for the Weekend is a weekly feature aimed at helping you avoid doing something constructive with your downtime. Each Friday we’ll be recommending a game for Mac, iPhone or iPad that we think is awesome. Here is one cool enough to keep you busy during this long weekend.

OsmosOsmos ($2.99 iPhone, $4.99 iPad, $9.99 Mac) is a physics-based puzzle game that obeys Isaac Newton’s laws of motion as well as Henri Dutrochet’s osmosis. As you strive to become the biggest blob on each level, you learn what it takes to absorb or be absorbed.

You start out as a perfectly round blob called a mote, filled with a blue mass of plasma. To move, you tap outside of your round mote, which will expel blue mass in the direction you tap. Your mote will start to move in the opposite direction of the expelled mass.  Once expelled, the mass is no longer under your control.  Due to the conservation of momentum, the relatively small amount of expelled mass moves quickly across the playing field, while your mote begins moving slowly. To change direction you need to expel more mass. The smaller your mote gets, the easier it is to move.  However, smaller motes are also more likely to be absorbed by larger enemy motes filled with red mass.


At the start of each new level, any mote on the playing field that is smaller than you will be filled with a blue mass.  This indicates that it is safe to collide with as you will end up absorbing the smaller mote’s mass. All of those larger than you will be filled with red mass, indicating that a collision will result in your mass being absorbed by the enemy. You can avoid and even stop being absorbed by expelling mass and moving your mote out of harms way. Keep in mind that the more mass you expel, the smaller you get, the faster you will move, and as a result there will be fewer friendly motes and more enemies.


The game seemingly rewards patience, but not indolence. Being too cautious while the other enemy motes are on the move can create hopeless situations where there are no smaller motes to absorb. Enemy motes will continue to bump into one another as well as smaller blue motes, the larger absorbing the mass of the smaller.  Being too aggressive can lead to unwanted collisions with larger motes, causing you to expel more and more mass just to stay alive. Fortunately the game does provide the ability to control time. Swipe the screen from left to right to speed things up, and swipe back from right to left to slow things back down again. This genius ability allows one to move strategically and expel just enough mass to execute on a well thought out strategy, without slowing the game to a boring and intolerable pace.


While the goal of each level is about the same, there are variants that keep things interesting. Some levels start motionless, and the playing field is packed with so many motes that you cannot move without colliding with another. Other levels begin with all of the motes orbiting around a central attractor, each moving at different speeds. And these attractors that resemble the solar center of a galaxy are not the only additional obstacles you need to worry about. There are also ovarium and antimatter objects that see both red and blue motes as mass to be absorbed. Ovarium objects in particular are guided by intelligence, and will single out their prey and expel their own mass to move themselves across the playing field.


There are two main game modes, Odyssey and Arcade. In Odyssey mode you are faced with 27 different levels. The earlier levels start out a little slow, whereas the later levels require more planning. Some levels in Odyssey mode, which start over the with the same initial setup, play out more like a labyrinth game as you need to navigate through densely populated playing fields. Arcade mode allows you to play any at your choice of difficulty.  And in Arcade mode, each game does not begin the exact same way as it does on each level in Odyssey mode.

There is also a new multiplayer mode where you play against an enemy human mote.  As one can expect, the pace of the multiplayer mode is much faster with a lot less planning out of each and every bit of mass expelled.  One of the awesome features of multiplayer mode is that you can set up a handicap when playing against a less-skilled opponent.  Once your handicap is set, the mass you expel will have a lesser effect on your mote’s momentum.  The game even provides a way to send a purchased copy to a friend as a gift.  If the exacting adherence to physics does not impress you then the stunning graphics and subdued original soundtrack of the game will in this long weekend’s top pick.

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