A bleak point-and-click about work-life balance. Mosaic’s dull atmosphere is punctuated with unique visuals, the power of music, and some seriously trippy gameplay.
Mosaic is a statement about grind-culture and the stress, helplessness, and disillusionment burnout can cause. Or, it’s a game about blowing off work to do recreational drugs with a bunch of jazz musicians and your pet goldfish.
It really all depends on your outlook.
The Daily Grind
You wake up, you go to work. You stare at your phone on the subway, at a computer screen at your cubicle, and then back to mindlessly scrolling on your phone on your way back home. Maybe a little TV with your dinner, but then it’s straight to bed so you can do it all again tomorrow.
This is your life in Mosaic, a new game by Krillbite Studio, the developers of Among the Sleep. I had a chance to talk with the devs at Gamescom 2019, where they explained how the idea for Mosaic was born when they were crunching to release their previous game.
With that in mind, it’s pretty easy to see what Krillbite were going for. You play a working stiff, drifting through life and the streets of a nameless city. Each morning you wake up and go through your pointless routine, and every night you dream you are drowning. Until one day, something happens.
A mysterious goldfish appears in your bathroom, and from that point on, you start noticing the world isn’t all bleak. There’s beauty, art, and hope out there, and perhaps you don’t have to be miserable.
Break the Routine
Mosaic plays like an indie side-scroller – you constantly push forward as your character slowly lurches through streets, subway stations, and office spaces. But it’s when you dare to push in a different direction that the game starts revealing its secrets.
Hidden within this cold corporate world are little moments of happiness. It could be stopping for a few seconds to take in the sunrise or rescuing an adorable cat stranded up a tree. Each of these moments is punctuated by warm colors, uplifting music, and light (with only the occasional collapsing building).
Occasionally, you’ll come across a street musician, and that’s when things take a turn for the weird. For the most part, Mosaic is intentionally dull, both visually and creatively. You just walk to the right through the gray and blue city. But whenever you encounter street music, the gameplay changes. Suddenly, you have some puzzles to solve, or you’re dodging giant shoes trying to squash you. These moments are always unpredictable and add much-needed substance to the experience – which is precisely the point the devs are trying to make.
But eventually, you come back down to earth and get to the office, where there’s actual work waiting for you.
Your workday is represented via a minigame, where you extract resources and build a tower of data to reach an arbitrary “milestone.”
This minigame usually takes up to 10 minutes to complete, and it isn’t very challenging; unless you try and be as efficient as possible, which is a noble, yet pointless goal.
I will add that this extraction and building minigame corresponds well with Mosaic’s themes and statements. Saying more about it might spoil some aspects of the game, so I’ll let you figure it out for yourself if you choose to play.
Don’t Work Till You Croak
As I mentioned before, Mosaic is more of a statement than a game. It’s about working too hard, and the importance of music, art, and leisure in your life. It’s basically the video game equivalent of “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” but with less ax murder.
Most of the time, the game is subtle enough to weave short moments of beauty and joy with the overall sense of oppression. However, at other times, Mosaic is too “on the nose,” and the cynical among you (myself included) will find themselves occasionally rolling their eyes at the simplistic or naive notions.
Still, Mosaic is an intriguing concept that manages to keep things interesting even when your in-game days seemingly repeat themselves. It resonates and makes you think, which is impressive considering how minimalistic the game is.
Mosaic isn’t for relaxing after a long day at the office. It’s for contemplating your life choices, feeling uncomfortable with the amount of data you’re handing over to faceless corporations, and playing a fuckton of BlipBlop. It’s also a reminder to stop, smell the flowers, and pet kittens whenever you can.
Developer: Krillbite Studio
Publisher: Raw Fury
Release Date: Dec. 05, 2019
Our Mosaic review copy was provided by the publisher.Some of our posts include links to online retail stores. We get a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Don't worry, it doesn't cost you anything extra.