Osmos is a game that you are designed to like. Sure, it's designed for you to like it, but you are also designed to like this game. And by designed, I mean intentionally by a vengeful Christian god, not in a stochastic evolutionary sense. This game, with its celestial motes harmonizing around the vacuum, slurping each other up, mirrors the precise neurological feedback loops of brain cells congealing electrical signal spikes. The very chemistry of fun is embedded into these floating dynamics, and it's a floating world. You might as well become huge.
You play a mote, an amoeba-type entity, that gets bigger when it contacts smaller entities and smaller when it contacts bigger entities. You can propel yourself by shooting off a tiny portion of your mass with a single mouse-click. Like the cthonic god of Paul Czege's tabletop RPG, Acts of Evil who turns out to be a single powerful microbe predating billions of smaller microbes in antediluvian seas, you are trying to get huge. It's a primal deal, survival of the fittest (or is it fattest? Just going by the current geopolitical benchmark. I mean, what is Thanksgiving about anyway?). Like corporations merging and aquiring until they turn into a bloated parasite like Activision Blizzard, like accounts ripping each other off over a stock exchange, like posturing teenagers drinking beer and licking each others faces, this is evolution or some grotesque approximation. But unlike the cluster-fuck we call reality, this game has charm, it's pure, it's serene. Zen meets billiards meets libido. It's like splitting a doobie with the unbearable lightness of being.
Aesthetically the game is a knock-out, Eddy's background is in "technical art" which is a catch-all to describe everything from light filters to shaders to procedural animation, and this game has all that stuff. I'm a 2d purist and for this scale of a team, you would probably not get such a fine sense of awe, contiguity and most importantly, shininess if they tried to make a 3d take on the same concept. The music tracks all have a kind of groovy Brian Eno feel, like Spore was going for, and its generic qualities are offset by the absolute appropriateness of the genre to this gameplay. One commenter on TIGSource, (which I believe stands for "Trolls In Games Source", Rinku actually banned the word "pretentious" from being posted in comments there) had noted that like the holocaust or the dramas of homosexuals being Oscar bait, amorphous floating blobs with a physics engine are IGF Award Bait. I reckon that troll had a point, and after all, what are trolls for besides brewing regeneration potions from samples of their nanotech-like skin? However I have to defend it, this game is as cohesive as the congealed lipid/water complexes that populate it, its aesthetic is beautifully understated, it's the music of the spheres reconciled with the rhythms of evolutionary biology.
The gameplay in the demo, linked here, gives you the basic gist, the gentle hook, but the variations in the full version are sublime in their nuance. I know this review is getting way to laudatory, so lets break it down in practical terms. You've got three threads of gameplay: ambient settings where you have to puzzle your way from speck-hood to being the biggest, contest levels where you have to rush to become bigger before the already larger motes dominate the field, and physics oriented levels where you have to snipe orbits and other tomfoolery. Each has a different bent and subdivides into mechanical variations, and whats best, the structure is non-linear, so if you're looking for fiero you'll find it, it you want to chillax with some paidic puzzle-solving at a slow pace, as I do, you can just park yourself on that. The alt-Z key allows you to reconfigure the level in a randomized fashion, so maybe we are talking more evolutionary stochasticism here rather than divine intervention, but the replay you get from that is worth the price of admission. My main criticism, and this is a minor one, is that you have to push alt-r to restart or alt-z to scramble, for an otherwise mouse-based game the mapping of complex keyboard inputs to these purposes is unwieldy.
Whether you're a high powered business mote or a lowly student mote, you will enjoy this game and find it soothing from your daily struggles with all the other motes in your local petri dish. And maybe, just maybe, you'll become more humble from the exercise, because after all, does it really matter if you're 100 or 1000 times bigger than the average mote? You're still just an amoeba in the sea.