Monday, September 29, 2014

Indie Impressions - Cosmochoria


Now Available on Steam Early Access

Developed by Nate Schmold


Cosmochoria tells the off-the-wall story of a lone astronaut, equipped curiously with nothing but his trusty laser pistol and space helmet. No, seriously, that's all, this dude is completely naked. Not much is known about our naked astro-protagonist other than his mission to bring color and life to a dying galaxy randomly sprinkled with lifeless planets. You'll jetpack around in classic arcade fashion pew-pew-pewing all that stand in your way as you rocket between the rocky spheres in an effort to rescue these planets from bleakness.

Your early career as a cosmic space horticulturist will be painstakingly difficult and a bit of a slow start. The game starts you off with the core essentials and not much else, including a basic jetpack for floating between planets, a puny peashooter and just enough seed to get you started with your first plant of each run. The planets start off barren and empty but as you fertilize them with your psychedelic plants become more and more cosmic and groovy.

With each anomaly you plant a new wave of enemies approaches and you're faced with defending yourself while managing to plant more in the process. The further you get and the more you plant, the more intense and difficult the enemy waves get forcing you to skip and jump over shots and fight back the small alien creatures dropped by UFOs.

Luckily, filling a planet with enough funky space plants to fill the empty heart at the core means you've accomplished reviving it, and the planet gives back its lifeforce to your missing health as some strange act of gratitude. This lengthens your lifespan giving you a chance to collect the dropped gems from enemies used for buying new equipment or items between plays.

The equipment you accumulate through your many playthroughs are what take Cosmochoria from being just a fun arcade romp to a fully addictive and almost roguelike experience with persistent elements that expand on the length of each trip. You'll find permanent upgrades for everything from maximum health, speed of your character, to the amount of starting seeds you bring with you at the beginning and all will help push you on your journey to discovering the secrets of Cosmochorias world.

The world is chock full of secrets to discover, and given the randomized nature of the game will appear at the least expected of times and runs. These secrets are obviously.. a bit secret so I don't want to spoil them but can come in the form of anything from strange and mysterious turds to ancient space eggs. Their usage is generally as cryptic as the item itself, and usually involves finding another oddball character in the galaxy to bring the item to.

The rewards you gain from these strange, cryptic, and secret side quests randomly sprinkled across this colorful cosmos are extremely worth the trip and usually give you permanent upgrades that will carry over and speed up your future endeavors into this trippy realm.

Cosmochoria makes me feel like a kid on Saturday morning again, the oddly nostalgic twinklings of the opening song evoke a melancholy feeling in me that is both very happy and at the same time a bit sad. The memories of childhoods filled with imagination and creativity seem so close to us in our minds, but are also far in the past and unreachable in our adult lives.

Maybe this is the point behind Cosmochoria? To remind us that even though we're adults, the world isn't so bleak, that we can still escape to worlds inside our minds the same way we did as children and forget the troubles of reality and really expand our imagination even during the mind-numbing process of growing older. This is a game without a demographic, for anyone and everyone to enjoy, it's a showcase of the kind of creativity and imagination games can and should have, and the only requirement is that you have a serious passion for fun.

Cosmochoria is an incredibly fun and addictive journey into a fantastically colorful world of cosmic entities.Filling each planet and watching them transform is addictive to me in the same way watching your ball in Katamari Damacy fill with the trinkets and relics of the world you roll up around you was. It's very accessible in its arcade-like execution and controls, but retains the high skill ceiling of a roguelike that keeps you pressing on to find what you need to increase your survivability in future plays.

It's the kind of game you can pick up and play for a few minutes, or get lost in and obsess over upgrades and collectibles for hours on end. Not only is it just plain damn fun, but it features a stylish world with a unique cast of characters and monsters that I won't ever forget in the same way I never forget the cartoons or picture books that shaped my childhood. Yes, Cosmochoria is that kind of an experience.

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