What an enigma Kosmokrats is. Attention was aimed at the quality vocal talents of Sir Bill Nighy (he’s not a knight… yet), with a loose theme of communism perhaps? only set in space and with a lot of potatoes.
Though Mr Nighy narrates elements of the story with such characteristic elegance, it often feels out of place due to the nature of the underdog in this story of duty and, if the word is suitable, oppression.
Your job is a potato peeler onboard a Russian space station in the 1960s, orbiting Earth. A position comes up to be in control of the drones that help build the space stations, and your name is put forward to fulfil the role.
Kosmokrats PC Review
First impressions were good. Despite the bleak colour palette where beige could be considered lavish, you see your character peeling potatoes in the first-person view, narrated by Mr Hollywood. A soldier comes to inform you of your new position, and you’re escorted to the drone terminal.
This build-up was great and set the tone. The soldiers and commanders throughout continually put you down – even when you’re awarded perfect ratings in missions, confirming that this is hardly living the dream.
You’re given the option of a tutorial on one of the terminals, and this is encouraged – not because it’s challenging to learn but to provide you with your bearings on what to expect this in this puzzle game. I think that wasn’t completely clear initially as there was an inkling this was a management title with adventure properties.
While management plays a vital part, such as maintaining your food intake and handling penalties you almost invariably receive, notwithstanding your performance, Kosmokrats is a physics-based puzzle game. It’s bloody hard too.
In Space, Potatoes Are Sacred
You know how the adage goes about potatoes in space. Well, that’s not entirely true, but potatoes are paramount in Kosmokrats – they are the source of your comrades’ dietary requirements, and you may end up sabotaging your supplies through gameplay.
So, what is your role in gaming terms? Sitting at the console, you directly control the drones – an orb-like machine that can be controlled with the keyboard or controller (I used the latter). You then have to move the building modules and line them up with their respective colours.
For example, there’ll be a handful of shapes (the structures), and you either ram them or drag them with a pseudo tractor beam to line up with the matching parts on the core part of your space station. Once all components are connected, you get a status screen to advise how you did.
As if moving the orb wasn’t challenging enough, you’ll have to do within the time limit, ensuring you don’t kill any of the cosmonauts hovering about, or damaging the solar panels or potato storage. Should you damage the latter, you’ll see spuds scatter in space. I shed many tears.
Deciphering what the game was going to be was the first step as the build-up is excellent, as is the narrative weave. Without divulging too much, as you’re building your station, recruits are sent into space, and you have to push their modules into the station.
In this early mission, there was an unbelievable amount of tension. As mentioned, I played with a controller and as the level progressed, so too did the rumble intensity. It didn’t help that I had donned a gas mask beforehand and could hear my character hyperventilating. A gas mask in the game, obviously.
Your workstation isn’t limited just to the missions as you can also play a game on a games console, view your medals for when you complete significant feats in-game, wear the gas mask I mentioned, read a newspaper that reflects the story arc and have a peek outside the window.
The aesthetic choice is excellent but let’s be direct here: Kosmokrats is a straightforward puzzle game. In between important missions you’ll see cutscenes – nothing extravagant but to cement the bleak atmosphere further. When it comes to character modelling, the people in the game reminded me of Terrence and Philip from South Park. Perhaps that lightens the mood a little?
For The Greater Good
I was quite torn with my appraisal on this game from Pixel Delusion and Modern Wolf at first. As before, the opening set high hopes, but because I wasn’t sure what to expect, the simplicity of moving drones about to position structures in space felt a bit… dull.
On the contrary, the vibe this game gives off is brilliant, and despite the hostility from your comrades, the story is very human and enjoyable. The narration did feel like a cherry on top, but the fundamental gameplay eventually sold it to me with its addictive nature.
Though simple in design, Kosmokrats can be quite ruthless. There are five difficulty settings:
- Hardcore Mode
- Realistic Physics Mode
Bear in mind that Normal feels like Hard. The controls remain the same, but the risks are higher, time is less forgiving as is the delicacy of components. I played on Normal and could honestly say I wouldn’t dabble with anything above as it was challenging enough.
Aside from having your productivity affected by hunger, you can have other debuffs, so to speak, affect your experience. As horrible as the conditions may sound, you are paid a wage so you can decorate your little abode and buy new games, but cock up on a mission, and you’ll be docked your wages for several weeks.
Kosmokrats is a genuinely stressful game but in the positive sense of creating urgency to complete missions efficiently. Ignore the alarm bells of bleak, hostile and comrades; this puzzle game is an enjoyable one, all the more so for the excellent 'what it' story.
- Genuinely addictive once you get into it.
- Brilliant alternative universe story.
- A well-crafted ambience.
- Physics can be slightly unpredictable, thus frustrating.
- Fundamental gameplay may be mundane for some.
- The narration, while excellent, felt a bit out of place.