If you’ve ever taken a class in astronomy, stared up at the stars on a clear night, or spent more than five seconds watching Cosmos, you at some point must have pondered the vastness of the universe. It’s a fairly daunting feeling when you really dig into it, and can easily remind you just how infinitesimally small we all really are (me being of short stature has nothing to do with this, guys). We are but one speck of dust among billions of others, floating in a vast, unending darkness. If any of my more agoraphobic readers just started hyperventilating, grab a paper bag and calm the hell down because I’m going to divulge unto you a tip straight from Nate Schmold’s Cosmochoria: When the universe seems scary, get naked and spread seeds.
I know I’m no Sigmund Freud (I can’t afford 20 cigars a day), but it doesn’t take the founder of psychoanalysis to understand that when a game’s main mission is literally described as planting your seed on every planet you find and filling it with your love juice while being completely naked (I am so far from kidding), you’re bound to run into some pretty blatant innuendos. But while the sheer cheekiness of this retro-adventure-shooter is well worth at least a few hours of play, the rest of the game does more than its fair share to keep you coming back for more, and if you’d kindly put your pants back on, I’ll tell you why.
The overall story (and I use this word lightly) starts you off butt-naked on a tiny, barren planet. A few onscreen pointers tell you (probably with forced straight faces) to start planting your seeds all over the planet in order to create a viable, happy environment, while at the same time reminding you to fight off the quintessentially stereotypical aliens who busily try to murder you. It’s a little shady, and although Schmold swears there’s some type of story to follow, I found very little plot after hours of galactic gardening. From what I could tell, the deeper message here is that spreading love and seeds throughout the galaxy is both important and impossible to do while fully clothed.
All in all (in all and all), this is the furthest thing from an issue. The fact that you can jettison yourself into space and lazily drift from planet to planet more than makes up for any kind of story. In fact, the jetpack and planet physics are probably one of the greatest things about this game. Each rock you come across has its own gravity field, and flinging yourself through space with what looks like a fire extinguisher, while barely missing planets and flying into a dead zone (the cause of my first death), is extremely rewarding. The game does a great job simulating movement in space, and there will certainly be times when your jetpack runs out of fuel and a twinge of fear builds in your gut as you free-float through the dark emptiness of the galaxy.
Even with the bare-bones controls and simple combat options, the gameplay itself is fairly dynamic, which keeps the wandering mind from getting bored and shutting down. Along with a different set of procedurally generated planets to explore each time you play, Cosmochoria also allows you to choose how you spend your time. Sure, spreading seeds is your “goal”, but if you’d rather build laser towers and create a kickass homebase, so be it, or if you’d prefer peacefully traversing from one planet to the next in search of mystery, that’s cool too. The lack of pressure to actually accomplish something makes for a laid back environment, and you’re only ever bored if you choose to be.
Now if you’re anything like me (which is impossible, my mom said I was special), your first matter of business will be to find something and shoot it in its stupid face, which is a capital decision. I didn’t have to search very far and it didn’t take long for me to realize that my foes are all too happy to find me. As far as enemy variants go (not counting bosses), I discovered maybe seven or eight different hostiles. Unfortunately this small number is pretty limiting, and it’s only fair for me to comment on the repetitiveness that comes with shooting the same baddie for the umpteenth time in a row. However, in an attempt to ameliorate this shortcoming, the game floods your screen with multiple enemies at any given time and provides a varying assortment of weaponry with which to fight. For example, after a brief moment of skepticism I was soon convinced that swinging laser swords at UFOs is both extremely inefficient and incredibly fun.
Combat and space travel aside, Cosmochoria is a visual gem. Though I understand space to be quite dark (they don’t call them bright holes), the little galaxy you’re stuck in has to potential to be filled with color. The flora you plant, the xenos you encounter, and even your own flesh (since it is, after all, quite visible) does a great job painting a vibrant picture for the player to enjoy. If I had to describe it, which I currently am, I’d say above all that the graphics are pleasantly simple. The animations follow a very similar path, as does the music, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Cosmochoria is meant to feel like a throwback to the simple games of old, and the visual and audio factors assist in doing just that.
The game itself continuously evolves the more you play (and die). Currency in the form of alien butt crystals (I can’t make this up) carries over from one life to the next, and the games well-balanced store provides you with useful perks, upgrades, and necessary starter material for each new round of space-streaking. The aforementioned random generation of planets, along with the occasional boss fight, also adds to the continued playability that you wouldn’t expect from this game at a cursory glance.
Cosmochoria is a cute and lewd indulgence that I could definitely spend more time exploring. Innuendos aside, the free float of space and dynamic play will keep you coming back, and the feel-good vibe of the environment you create is oddly uplifting. Though a bit repetitive at times, Cosmochoria does its best to let you do just about whatever you want in the cold vacuum of space, while at the same time reminding you of a time when games were simpler. If you do anything today, please let it be marking the release date on your calendar, as this isn’t a game you want to let pass by. Hell, do as I do and really immerse yourself in it, dress down like your cosmonaut and await its imminent release (insert obligatory, “that’s what she said” here)!