Mosaic is a game about the grinding, joyless routine of all work and no play. It is about isolation in a society that’s more comfortable staring at a screen than acknowledging the existence of another person.

But it’s also a game about finding beauty in everyday moments, in music and the world around you. It’s a depressing game, but also oddly hopeful.

The developers at Krillbite Studio came up with the concept for the game while crunching to release their previous title Among the Sleep. They were stuck in a loop of work-sleep-work, the same loop I experienced at the beginning of the game’s Gamescom demo.

The demo starts with Inge Nilsen, an Assistant Resource Technician at Mosaic Corporation, waking up from a dream. In the dream, he is floating or perhaps drowning, stuck in nothingness and surrounded by twisting electric lights. In the real world, things are pretty much the same.

The first few minutes I played through help set the mood perfectly. I got out of bed, already dressed in yesterday’s clothes, and proceeded to read my messages, play a bit of BlipBlop on my phone, and get ready for work.

Mosaic Gamescom 2019 demo

Even this simple morning routine oozes with a feeling of oppression. Inge’s apartment is a gloomy place, with a fridge with nothing but frozen dinners, and overdue bills strawn on the kitchen table. On my way out, I try to form some connection with my neighbors, but they awkwardly look away and down at their phones. There’s no color and barely any music.

Work is a sort of weird minigame where you build a network of nodes to reach your daily milestones. It’s a lot more fun than some of the office jobs I had in the past, but it’s not very challenging. The whole culminates in a crescendo of light and electric humming that leads to nothing. There’s no sense of accomplishment, no payoff – just another day in the office.

Everything repeats the next day. The devs tell me that the first few in-game days play roughly the same to emphasize the state your character is in. I decide to jump ahead a little bit, to see what else Mosaic has to offer.

I spend the next few minutes playing as a bright yellow butterfly Inge spots at the side of the road. I fly freely, avoiding car tires and large machines threatening to crush me. You can see Inge following in the background, transfixed by the butterfly’s grace and beauty. Just when I think I’m out of danger, an industrial fan turns on, sucking the poor insect in and shredding it to pieces.

This is just one example of the odd little moments you can come across that both give off an odd sense of hope and serve to highlight how bleak the rest of the game is. In another instance, I came across a musician whose soothing music triggers a hallucination of a big, talking goldfish. It’s not long before Igne finds himself stuck to the bottom of a giant shoe like a piece of discarded gum.

But Mosaic isn’t just about a depressed office worker. It’s also about mystery; I think. Throughout the demo, I kept stumbling upon mysterious servers spread around the city. Whenever I activated one, I got brief notifications that used language and terms very similar to what Inge was doing at Mosaic Corporation. According to the devs, these servers have a purpose, and the more you find, the more of the mystery you’ll reveal.

There are also puzzles to solve, though I did not encounter many. Some involve a change of perspective, like the one you see towards the end of the gameplay video above.

Mosaic kind of reminds me of Playdead’s Inside, if the kid grew up and got a job. It exudes the same atmosphere of oppression and hopelessness, though it appears to be more focused on puzzles, symbolism, and narrative than Inside was.

For me, that’s perfect, and you can be sure I’ll revisit the game more in-depth once it is out on PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Switch later in 2019.

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