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Mosaic

Game review by
Chad Sapieha, Common Sense Media
Mosaic Game Poster Image
Dark narrative adventure tackles isolation, depression.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

The dark, atmospheric story carries themes of isolation, depression, and conformity. Rebellion against these things is discouraged in the game's society/world, but encouraged for players through various activities.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The player's character nobly struggles for personal meaning and to achieve a sense of individuality in a sea of conventionality. He gradually refuses to be the person -- a cog in a machine -- that the world is attempting to mold him into.

Ease of Play

The controls are very simple and you can't really lose any of the activities or scenarios, but figuring out what to do next in certain situations can be a bit tricky.

Violence

The hero gets squashed flat by a shoe and repeatedly trampled, ground into bits of glowing energy by a digital machine, and compacted into a cube with legs and a head. Fortunately, he never suffers permanent injuries, nor is any blood or gore shown.

Sex

A dating app attempts to pair the player's character with potential romantic matches.

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Mosaic is a downloadable narrative adventure game for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Apple Arcade, and Windows PCs. The game explores themes of isolation and conformity. Players take on the role of an office worker who feels trapped in routine. He gradually begins to rebel against his mundane life through a series of surreal events that help him recapture his individuality. It contains little iffy content beyond the hero getting squashed by a giant shoe in one scene and briefly looking for love on a dating app. But it has a dark and at times depressing atmosphere, and it explores topics that adults are likely to find more relatable than kids, such as the repetitive nature of work and feeling like a cog in a giant machine.

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What's it about?

MOSAIC drops players into the life of a faceless office worker. He wakes up in the morning, brushes his teeth, and checks the mail before embarking on a lengthy commute to work, where he redirects various resources on a hexagonal grid in the pursuit of achieving unspecified milestones. For fun, he stares at his phone, where he reads text messages, checks the news, looks at overdue bills, and plays a repetitive game called BlipBlop that simply involves tapping the screen to earn more credits. But eventually, his routine's interrupted by unexpected and surreal events, such as a talking fish whose bold orange scales stand in contrast to the black and white of the world. While certain activities feel vaguely game-like, there's not really any way to fail or lose. Players simply move the hero through the world from place to place, taking in things as they happen, while slowly moving towards the game's conclusion. The point of Mosaic is to interactively experience its story and ideas, not to win.

Is it any good?

Narrative adventures tend to exist between the worlds of games and films, and this one is no different. Mosaic isn't meant to challenge your skill as a player of games, but rather to challenge how you think. It uses a series of metaphors for and distorted imitations of everyday activities to make the player look at modern working life from a new perspective. It shows us how the things people do every day, whether it's gazing at a screen or doing a job-related task, are all part of a carefully structured personal routine, and how each of our routines line up with one another to serve as cogs in a massive social and corporate machine. As days bleed into each another, our hero begins to have surreal, symbolic experiences -- drowning in water, riding a conveyor belt to be ground up by the company, being shrunk to the size of a mouse and trying to avoid being trampled by a stampede of feet. But mixed in among them are moments of hope and creativity, typically marked by colorful objects, such as a golden sun or warm-grained guitar. These are the strands of individuality that act as a lifeline out of a sea of conformity and expectation.

Whether any of this is of interest will depend on the person playing. Players yet to experience a job may not be able to sympathize or empathize with the protagonist's plight or his feeling of being just another spoke in a giant wheel. And those who play games more for their elements of challenge and skill than their stories will likely be left frustrated that there are no abilities to master, no loot to collect, no statistics to grow. But there will be a niche audience for whom Mosaic resonates. And these people might well take solace in the experience, if only because it lets everyone feeling isolated and trapped by routine know that they aren't actually alone.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about empathy. Mosaic gives players the experience of a monotonous working life, but did you feel as though you could relate to the hero? Have you ever felt how he feels?

  • When might it be a good idea to go against what people/society expect of you? Does the idea of rebelling excite or frighten you?

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