This commentary originally aired March 22, 2018.
Puzzle video games have come a long way since Tetris. The genre has particularly flourished on smartphones, and one of my favorites that I’ve been playing for years is called Osmos.
In Osmos, you play as a single-celled organism, a mote, on a field of other motes, some of which are bigger than you, and some are smaller. The goal of each stage is to become the biggest mote. You can move around by expelling little bits of your own mass to push yourself in the opposite direction. If you collide with a mote smaller than yours, you will absorb it and add it to your own mass. If, however, you collide with a larger mote, it will absorb you, ending the game.
In early stages, all of the other motes are stationary and easy to reach. But as you progress through the game, you may start on fields that have many larger, fast-moving motes, or in the middle of many large motes that you must nudge out of the way.
Some other stages have special motes called “attractors” on the field, which have a gravitational pull, so that motes orbit around them. These stages can quickly get very complicated, with multiple competing attractors and “asteroid fields” of motes to navigate through. The game will help by projecting your course, but with attractors potentially orbiting other attractors or bouncing around the field, conditions can change quickly and you’ll have to rely more on the “feel” of the physics involved to prevail.
Osmos was originally released in 2009, and has won several awards, including Apple’s “iPad Game of the Year” in 2010. That year, IGN named Osmos’s soundtrack, which consists of new age ambient music, the best of the year.
The game is inexpensive on all smartphone platforms, as well as Mac and PC, and has a free demo available.