There’s this split moment right after you wake up where you aren’t completely awake, but you’re not totally asleep. Mosaic, an indie game by Krillbite Studio, wants to take you there. In fact, it strongly suspects you’re probably living that moment right now.
Mosaic is a single player, semi-linear narrative game published by Raw Fury. In this game, you play the role of “guy waking up”, “guy brushing his teeth”, and “guy going to work”. Sometimes you’re also “guy in line”, and “guy on his phone”. You are a cog in a capitalistic machine, and you spend this game doing a lot of cog-like stuff.
It’s maybe not the freshest narrative. Endless movies, songs, books, and now video games often ask the question, “Life is funny, huh?” for nothing short of a century now. "What is society doing to us? Click here to find out!"
But the strength of interactive media, unlike movies or the written word, lies in one key variable: choice. It’s smartly the thing Krillbite Studio has hooked onto for the best parts of their game. In our hands-on with Mosaic, we guided this hapless protagonist through massive, striking setpieces that often tower over or surround you, sometimes overhead and sometimes from the side. Each area is slathered in grey-scale in an attempt to make the player feel insignificant.
That is, until they aren’t.
What happens when you go left outside of your apartment, instead of right? We didn’t, so we don’t know. But what about not following the stream of middle-class workers on their commute to work? We did try that, and not long after, the world around us began to give way to deep, warm colours – the first colours present in the game – and we were oddly faced with a cat stuck in a tree. Here your character suddenly is able to catch, and your objective switches from slowly plodding forward to delivering this cat into a hole in the pathway, beyond the fence, towards the warm glow of the massive sunrise. Shockingly, all your button presses begin demolishing the cityscape behind you, one by one, the rumble of the controller accentuating your unlikely destruction of the shackles of society.
Then suddenly, it’s all gone: the control scheme, the colour palette, everything. And off into the linear narration you go.
It’s in these optional, daydream-like moments that Mosaic is gaining its reputation. The developers cited games like Inside as clear inspirations, but also things like the classic Terry Gilliam movie Brazil, to which this game feels like a direct companion piece for, albeit 34 years removed.
And on the topic of companion pieces, available right now on the Google Play and iOS App Store is BlipBlop, a free-to-play, real-life app for your phone that your character in Mosaic also has on their phone. The objective of Blip Blop is to “blip” the screen by pushing a button so you can gain “blops”, aka points. That’s literally it. It's a bit of not even remotely subtle social commentary that tests your ability to separate stimulus-response from lived experience, and if you think it’s too on the nose, the developers were quick to tell us that they’ve observed players get out of bed in-game and play BlipBlop for the entirety of the demo.
If you’re at all interested in games that offer beautiful art direction with a cerebral experience, Mosaic is definitely one to look out for when it launches later this year. And if you end up playing it on your Switch on the way to work, don’t say they didn't warn you.