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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know Osmos is a downloadable puzzle game in which players direct a mote (a single-celled organism) around a playing field in an attempt to have it join with smaller motes and become the largest. It has no violence, no narrative, and no characters, but its puzzle action is almost meditative in tone. It promotes logical thinking and rewards patience. It also may get kids thinking about biology and the physical sciences.
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What’s It About?
OSMOS takes cues from the real-world interactions of single-cell organisms to create a game that challenges you to grow a tiny mote into the largest one of its kind. Levels begin with the player in control of an orb-like creature. It can be moved by clicking the space around it to eject mass, propelling it in the opposite direction. Your goal is generally to collide with smaller motes to absorb them and grow larger while avoiding bigger motes with the ability to absorb yours. Since your mote expends some of its mass to alter its speed and direction, it becomes smaller with each click. That means players must move wisely, using the least energy necessary to reach their objectives. As the game progresses, players begin to encounter different organisms that will challenge their skills in various ways, such as motes that bounce away from larger ones and seemingly sentient motes that grow at a pace rivaling that of the player.
Is It Any Good?
There's loads to like about Osmos, starting with its beautiful presentation. The iris-like motes glow with energy and seem to float in a transparent stew of living liquid. Each level is set to its own otherworldly musical track, augmenting the game's microscopic, ethereal mood. There aren't many other games with such a creative combination of audio and visual elements.
The same can be said for Osmos' unusual real-time puzzle action. Mote movement seems simple at first, but this is deceiving. Players need to think carefully each time they have an urge to click and expel mass to move toward another mote, always keeping an eye on which organisms may lie beyond. They have to determine whether they can keep moving in that direction without expending more mass to take in additional motes or if they'll need to change course to avoid larger, predatory cells. It's never overly challenging, but that's part of the charm. This is a game that requires some thought and skill, yet also allows players to relax and enjoy the experience. Stress is rare and short-lived here, and it makes for a nice change of pace in a medium better known for much more intense experiences.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about biology. Are you interested in how life works at a cellular level? Do you think this game accurately reflects the process of osmosis? In what ways have the game makers changed the interactions of single-cell organisms to make the game more fun and provide players with objectives?
Discuss how to think strategically. How did you figure out tactics and then improve upon them while playing? Can you think of ways you do this in the real world?
- Platforms: Mac, Windows
- Subjects: Science: biology, gravity, momentum
- Skills: Thinking & Reasoning: logic, strategy
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online?: Available online
- Publisher: Hemisphere Games
- Release date: August 9, 2009
- Genre: Puzzle
- Topics: Science and Nature
- ESRB rating: E for No descriptors
- Last updated: February 22, 2020
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