Imagine a world where you go through the same motions every day. You wake up, stare at your phone for a bit, wash up, take a deep sigh and head to work. Rinse and repeat, day in and day out. The monotony and repetition slowly eating away at your soul. Upon reading that, I noticed that it sounds eerily similar to my normal day to day, but hey! At least in Mosaic you get to experience this dread playing out in some beautiful surreal environments!
Originally released back in November for the Apple Arcade, Krillbite Studio ports their newest game Mosaic over to the Xbox One. Here you play your average Joe, going through the motions in a drab world where nearly everyone is devoid of identity. The game takes place over the course of five days, and chronicles the strange things that you experience on your way to work as you slowly unravel the capitalistic society around you. Just like all of the citizens of this world, the game can be split up into three easily defined and separated types of gameplay.
Most of this game is played simply by walking from point A to point B. There isn’t much complexity in this world at face value, and unlike other walking sim games out there you don’t get the chance to interact with the world. And thematically that makes sense. The world is devoid of any character aside from brutalist architecture, plus that isn’t the job of people in this world. You simply exist to feed the system, and I mean that both figuratively and literally. However, every day as you walk to work, you start noticing things that don’t fit in this world, and you begin to experience surreal events, whether that means briefly embodying a yellow butterfly woefully out of place in this monochromatic world, or walking across the city rooftops as the buildings move around you. All of these events come after having an actual connection with this world – something no other character has the chance to do. Each day you are slowly waking up from the daze that society has put you under. Throughout both the surreal and real, the soundtrack tows a fine line between haunting in some moments and relaxing the next. But the music is never overstated. It’s never bashing you over the head trying to get you to feel a certain way, rather working to accentuate the experience around it.
After playing through these surreal set pieces, you make it to work. Late, of course, and constantly reminded of your impending termination, but you make it. And this is where you are literally feeding the machine. You are greeted each day with a minigame all about managing resource nodes and building a bridge to feed the system, all while it demands “MORE”. The levels are often simple enough and never get too complicated. The system throws some abilities at you, such as the power to teleport your resources up the chain, or store them away to build up your stock. But I never felt challenged while playing these sections, and I almost wish that they lasted longer. They are one of the only real breaks from walking around your city, and I actually found them to be rather entertaining. But once you satisfy the system, Mosaic cuts to the next day where you get to start this cycle all over again.
Between walking to work and working your life away, like in the real world, you get to play with your phone. There initially isn’t much to do here aside from read the news which is nothing but adverts disguised as articles. You do however get the chance to play one of my favorite aspects of Mosaic as a whole – BlipBlop. If you’ve ever played a cookie clicker you will instantly recognize what this minigame is, but for those not familiar all you do is mash that A button to rack up points. You can then trade in those points to buy bonuses that let you rack up points quicker. That’s it, that’s the whole game. But, oddly, it is incredibly satisfying. Despite having only three possible upgrades, I found myself sitting there for minutes at a time mesmerized by BlipBlop. It may be the fact that you are constantly rewarded, both in-game in the form of great sound effects, or with actual achievements. Regardless, I found that I spent far too much time playing it. You can argue that that is the point, since the game world goes out of your way to show how this game has taken over the world and become a huge aspect of peoples’ lives, with the company creating money and its own stock exchange. And here I am falling into the trap that everyone around the main character has fallen into.
Throughout my roughly three hours with Mosaic, I found myself constantly awe-stricken. The world is beautiful in its design and, though sparingly used, colors are bold and breathtaking. The sound design between BlipBlop’s constant dings of success and the haunting music that’s played as you simply go to work is superb. Krillbite Studio has done an amazing job at crafting an experience. The frame hitches and frame rate slowdown that I experienced, while happening fairly frequently, never managed to ruin my experience.
If you’ve lived long enough, chances are you have experienced what the main character of Mosaic on Xbox One is going through. It’s the absolute dread of having to go to work, living a boring life where you are going through the motions each and every day. But we all have the ability to make changes in our life to get to a better place. And that’s what this game is all about, truly waking up and seeing the world for what it is; full of color, life and connection. In this world you can make a change that impacts everyone, even if you are on your phone while making it.