The most relaxing game in the whole (c)osmos.
Indy titles usually fall into two pretty clear categories; those with mediocre cookie-cutter gameplay and little imagination, and those sparkling diamonds packed with more entertainment than the average circus.
Osmos is definitely seated firmly in the latter, but on top of amusing gameplay it also manages to endear itself through a very unique visual style backed with a simple premise and cool mechanics.
Developer Hemisphere Games isn't the largest team we've seen, especially compared to the heavyweights of EA and Ubisoft, but in some cases a smaller team can make sure the game is focused on nothing but gameplay.
Basically very similar to the first stage of Spore, Osmos places you into the blobby blue shoes of an amoeba suspended in a petri dish, whose entire purpose is to absorb other blobs (called 'motes') and grow.
However there's a drawback to moving around inside the dish, as any movement sacrifices mass (meaning you shrink) at the gain of momentum (itself slowly lost while adrift in the goo).
Unfortunately for the blobby blue ball it also means that amoebas larger than you will devour you without a moment's hesitation, slurping down your hard-earned mass and feeding themselves - they'll even eat the mass you eject to move yourself around!
A simple mouse click in the direction you want the blob to move is all that's needed, with time reduction and acceleration options becoming available down the track on top of zoom controls. While at times it feels like it should be on a joystick instead, once used to it the system was great.
The game is presented as a series of levels, 47 in total, in which there are some simple and at times incredibly complex tasks. Some start you at the bottom of the food chain and simply tell you to reach the top, while others task you with absorbing Biophobes (that move away from you), avoid antimatter (that uses it's mass to cancel out yours) and compete with Nemacysts for the right to live.
These levels can be replayed as many times as you'd like, each level randomising at the start to give a different layout of motes and extending the potential length of the game for as long as you want.
Throughout it all there's a pleasant chillaxing soundtrack playing, soothing and relaxing while your blob zooms through the dish, matching the laid-back visual style perfectly. At times it can be hypnotically addicting, and it's quite easy to zone out while playing.
Ranging from a simple pleasure cruise to a edge-of-the-seat skill-based game, this is definitely worth the low US$9.99 pricetag - you'd expect to pay this much just for the soundtrack - and if my experience has proven anything it's that you'll keep coming back to it time and time again.
As for me, I'm jumping back into that dish for a very relaxed Friday afternoon.