Cosmochoria Review: the Tale of a Naked Intergalactic Space Farmer
Part arcade game, part platformer, with a bit of resource management thrown in on the side, Cosmochoria may be the one colorful little indie title that actually allows you to enjoy the vast, empty loneliness of space.
Continual progression will allow you to learn some of the secrets of this distant galaxy.
Or you could pick a planet and stay on it for a while, cultivating your wild-colored flora and keeping the flashy alien hoard at bay.
Funded primarily through Kickstarter (closing with nearly 3x its original $10,000 goal earlier this year), the Early Access alpha edition of this tiny naked cosmonaut adventure is entering Steam Greenlight today on September 29th and retails for $9.99.
While light on story, Nate Schmold's tiny Canada-based studio, 30/30, has created a game that is fairly bursting at the seams with mesmerizing creativity.
As a tiny cosmonaut clad in an unparalleled state of spacesuit, your job is to:
- Rebuild the galaxy by jetpacking through the endless abyss
- Plant seeds all over the surface of each planet
- Save them from the incessant onslaught of evil aliens
- Babysit a magic talking, if cryptic, 8 ball (it was cute!)
- Ferret out the galaxy's hidden stories and secrets
- Save enough money for upgrades and possibly some pants (someday)
How you do this is left entirely up to you. While there is very little story evident in the earlier parts of play, continual progression will allow you to learn some of the secret stories of this distant galaxy.
Or you could pick a planet and stay on it for a while, cultivating your wild-colored flora and keeping the flashy alien hoard at bay. As you keep going however, these aliens will keep coming and they will get smarter, more varied, and much, much bigger.
Upgrade your cosmonaut to stay alive for longer (these upgrades stack and don't go away if you die) by picking up the sparkly crystals enemies drop and spending them on the jump screen before you start your new game.
The art of creating a useful, functional tutorial that doesn't overload the user with too much information requires a fine and delicate touch. Too little and you basically tell your player "go on, guess which button I want you to press - I dare you." Too much and you run the risk of putting them to sleep (I'm looking at you, Evochron Mercenary).
Cosmochoria skates along that razor edge. The game is simple and easy to understand, and so are the controls... once you learn them. While the control tips are generally intuitive and blend in seamlessly with actual gameplay, there were a few commands that did not.
It is perhaps not a testament to my own intelligence to admit that it took me more than half an hour to realize that the right mouse button was your jetpack and that there was an option to leave the first planet you find yourself on.
As a player, I jump into a new game first, ask questions later... so after frenziedly planting my planet full of happy-colored plants, I sat there defending my now somewhat dormant planet from the occasional alien ship that wandered within shooting range waiting for something to happen. And then I waited. And waited. And waited.
Only once I killed off that game and went back to the main menu to check out the controls did I learn the rest of the controls. However, I did note while watching Let's Plays for this game that other people did not share this problem and got a tutorial prompt for using the jetpack so this may just be a bug.
Once the basics are clear, it is exceptionally easy to pick up. Kids who can pick up the basics of the WASD configuration will find this a fun carefree time-waster with colors reminiscent of Mario and the arcadey style of Donkey Kong. For adults, this is a psychedelic romp into nostalgia - and a relaxing way to challenge yourself.
Note that some patience will be required to get very far in this game. As a player you will often find yourself out of jetpack fuel which recharges at an exceptionally slow rate - thanks to inertia, you'll keep drifting along in the same direction you were originally intending to... but slowly. Without maps, you float until you catch sight of a new planet to begin your planting adventures anew.
Herein lies the source of my frustration with Cosmochoria, and patterns well after my frustration with games like Sid Meier's Civilization series - short periods of frantic action, and then interminable periods of waiting for something to happen.
For similar reasons, I do wish that there was the possibility of saving your game for later. While your inventory of crystals doesn't disappear with each runthrough, all the work you've poured into planting your planets disappears with each new playthrough.
It is impossible to play this game and move forward without giving a nod to the music. Produced by electronic musicians Ilkae from Montreal and Zebra from Arizona, the music manages to encompass the cheerful, upbeat adventurer in almost every track (very reminiscent to me of playing through Kirby 64).
At the same time, you never forget that you are in space. So while you are cheerily upbeat, you never forget that you are very small and very much alone.
Since Cosmochoria is still in early release, there are a number of features that are still upcoming... however this is one of the most polished and fleshed-out early releases that I have ever seen come out of the Steam Greenlight system to date - and it gives me hope that yes, the hive mind of the internet can get things right when it comes to voting.
I think the $10 price tag is fair for this little game, and to celebrate its release, it is currently available on the Steam Store for 10% off at $8.99 USD. You can find the Steam store page here!
Still not convinced?
Try the older alpha demo (which was made available during the initial Kickstarter period) to get a feel for yourself!