You’ll note that I was salivating at the prospects of Mosaic coming out on the Switch this month, following on from the news piece I wrote.
Despite reaching out to the Raw Fury, regrettably, I was unable to get a review copy in advance – sometimes popularity is a thing, therefore I got it myself and felt the need to put a review together. I think that’s what the kids on the street are referring to as a disclaimer; I bought this with my school dinner money and did not receive any brown envelopes stuffed with cash.
Out of the box, Mosaic has delivered, and it is exactly what I had hoped for, and perhaps more. I don’t want to make this site a collation of essays that I produced for the land of academia. Been there, done that. I’d rather jot things down simple, casual and my sometimes contradictory manner. That’s the second disclaimer: I don’t have the capacity to take the tone up a notch. Mosaic is marvellous, that’s what you need to know.
The Mobile: The Tool For (dis)Connecting People.
Referring to graphics is always a given, no matter what the title or system it’s for, but I have to go there first. Almost instantly the visuals were incredibly exciting. In practically every scene, the atmosphere was set with some of the best lighting and art direction I’ve seen in an indie title. If you like varying displays of grey, you’re in for a treat. Mosaic reminded me of Inside in so many ways, and I have to say, that game also blew me away. There is complexity in the simplicity of the character designs.
The game begins with you laying on your bed, the alarm on your mobile blaring. There are no on-screen directions on what to do and for a brief moment, I felt I was watching a cutscene of sorts until it was clearly evident I needed to do something. A click slap of the left stick and I was out of bed (coincidently, you can apply the slap to your own game face too), switching off the alarm. A rarity in itself, as I’m the kind of person to ‘snooze’ for 45 minutes, much to the distaste of my wife.
The mobile phone plays an important part in the story as it’s essentially your only real connection with the world. Enter lifts and people literally look away from you, commuters will blatantly ignore you when you attempt when aiming to get past. You’re another piece of the machinery and you have a job to do: turn up. It’s brilliant in concept – simple and elegantly captured with the faceless expressions of NPCs, their body language and how you reflect that. With the world seemingly ignoring you, your mobile provides some form of comfort to survive the monotony as you will receive text messages and have access to a handful of apps including a pretty addictive game and a dating app.
I wasn’t entirely sure of the role of the game – thinking it might unlock some form of achievement or play an important part in the story, but it didn’t. At least on the Nintendo Switch which relies on in-game achievements rather than blagging trophies. The game, BlipBlop, requires that you press the button on-screen titled ‘blip’ repeatedly – a simple clicker game, if you will. You do this with the A button and as you build up momentum, you can purchase upgrades such as multipliers. At the time of writing (precisely midnight), I got to about level 60ish with a top score of about 200,000. I’ve since looked up on The Mosaic Corporation site and it appears that the game is endless. Doh.
Mosaic: An Art Installation On Loop
Each day is on loop, like Groundhog Day only much more bleak and a lot less dialogue. Every time you wake up to start a new day you receive a message to indicate if you’re late again, you’ll lose your job, yet you still end up dragging it out, knowing full well of the potential consequences. Quite a depressing existence really as you wake up, prepare for work, do the soulless commute, do just enough to perform your role at work and then come home. All so very normal, however.
But, there are a few moments of inspiration and there appears to be ‘something else’ to life – that hanging piece of wallpaper that you want to give a tug to reveal something more profound underneath. When you gain a goldfish companion, it offers the same trajectory of time as seen in Donnie Darko, that’s when you realise that there’s more to life, and you do have free will. Ah, the morals we learn. Take that, He-Man.
These additional scenes are mildly abstract but make sense and are usually illustrated with colour and vibrancy and sometimes dreamlike situations making you question what part is real, which is not or is it all a dream? Then all of a sudden, it cuts back to the drudgery of his life. Everything feels like a dreadful dystopia – even the dating app says that you will find a partner only of the opposite sex. I must reiterate that this exploration and finding oneself in a constant cloud of isolation and monotony is intriguing and I thoroughly enjoyed everything about it. Well, almost everything.
Rinse And Repeat
On the agenda each day is your job and from the dull train ride to the same old ascension up the escalators, you’re faced with what I deem office hell; not politics of ‘he said, she said’, or photocopying ones sack on the copy machine, but sitting in front of a screen reviewing KPIs, meaningless data and doing the job that feels like Homer Simpson’s typing bird – you know, the one that replaced his job when he works from home. Ask you mate Google, next time you’re in the pub. I was immensely grateful when there weren’t scenes of meeting about meetings. The thought makes me nauseous alone.
In the mini-game at your desk, you have to direct some nodes to fulfil the milestones set by your employer. You’re required to drag these simple shapes into a linear movement to reach your goal. I’m don’t want to over complicate something simple like I’m wont to do, but that’s sort of what it is and reminds me of the adrenaline rush one gets from using a spreadsheet. It’s not bad, but in a game that I find stunning throughout, this was the nail that stuck out most and dragged just a tiny bit more than I had hoped. That said, the game is relatively brief, so I suppose it’s good to be in the action for as long as possible, right?
Mosaic is an intelligent game and while the lack of interactive elements may put off some, I was there for the experience and thought-provoking material. Not all things can be defined in black and white and that extra level of ambiguity is the catalyst that fires the story from my perspective. It was only the computer sections that gave an indication of what the controls are – everything else you need to work out yourself. It’s not hard though, to be fair. It’s more about the experience.
As I tend to repeat myself, I like meaningful narratives that I can take away with me outside of the game – much like a decent film. While a dick and fart joke go the distance with me, I adore ambiguity, not so that it’s absolute lunacy, but enough where I can fill in the blanks with what I feel fits. Even if nobody else feels that way, it’s good not to have a right and wrong response as the be-all and end-all. In summary, I’d say that the narrative is a fraction more mainstream than a typical David Lynch film, let balancing the lucid elements well.