Saturday, January 19, 2013

Tutorial: How to win at Osmos: beat the physics-based puzzle game

Tutorial: How to win at Osmos: beat the physics-based puzzle game

Osmos resembles abstract warfare at a microscopic and - later - galactic scale. You control a glowing orb called a 'mote', propelled by ejecting matter - tap and a small amount of matter is expelled, the mote moving in the opposite direction.

The aim is absorption: ingesting motes smaller than yours. Osmos is beautiful, immersive and engaging, but its unique nature makes it tricky to beat.

This How To Win provides you with the skills to survive and dominate each type of Osmos arena, along with besting your friends in the new multiplayer mode.

Getting started

The first minute of Osmos is tougher than the next half hour, because you must flick a mental switch in your mind and understand the propulsion technique. Inertia plays a big role, and players often tap too much, move too quickly, lose control , and cannot easily recover. Instead, tap sparingly, and learn how to start, stop and subtly change direction during the early tutorial levels.

getting started

There are no scores nor any time limits, so be patient. Think of Osmos like a game where you've limited ammunition. Don't 'fire' a lot, or you'll run out of ammo and lose. Also, fully immerse yourself for best results: sit comfortably and listen to the music. Those who play without it, not getting into the right mood, tend to be more impatient.

Where possible, play on the iPad, which is more forgiving if you're off by a short distance when tapping.

Let's do the time warp

Early Osmos levels are concerned only with movement and absorption, but time warping is soon introduced. Left/right flicks and drags slow/speed up time, re spectively, enabling player-controlled difficulty adjustments. Slowing down time can give you breathing space to think and complete a level at your own pace; as noted, there are no penalties for dallying - Osmos is structured more like a puzzle game, but with an arcade feeling.

However, slowing time can be a double-edged sword. Do so on levels that are slow-moving and you'll find it hard to get a sense of the trajectories of on-screen elements. You may also find the game less intuitive, with the 'engine response' of your mote becoming quite sluggish.

Therefore, find a sweet spot - a level where you're comfortable with the controls and still get a sense of movement from the motes; and don't be afraid to frequently adjust time, including speeding it up when travelling a long distance when there are no nearby threats to your mote's survival.

Mastering the Odyssey

Initially, the only solo mode unlocked in Osmos is Odyssey, a 'guided tour' through ar ena types. It's recommended you complete this before tackling arena-specific level sets in Arcade.

However, the last few levels in Odyssey are tough, and so the Osmos developers provided an 'out', unlocking Arcade's Ambient, Antimatter and Impasse levels on completing the 'Floating' stage within Odyssey, and the Sentient and Repulsor levels on completing 'The Chase'.

Sometimes, patience, planning, and a firm grasp of Osmos mechanics relating to propulsion and time-warping will see you through levels, but there are specific methods for tackling tougher levels in each arena type…



This is 'vanilla' Osmos. To win, simply master movement skills and be precise. Time-warping can help.

First, slow time, assess the situation, and pick a mote to absorb. Next, return to regu lar speed and get a feeling for relative velocities. Tap to shift your mote to an interception path, and speed time back up until close. Slow time down again, zoom, make precise adjustments, absorb and repeat.



These levels introduce dark antimatter motes. They grow when absorbing other antimatter motes but contract when absorbing a standard mote.

Approach these arenas like Ambient ones, but be more patient. Often, if you survive and wait around for matter and antimatter to collide, you can win by doing very little. (By contrast, waiting around in an Ambient arena can result in defeat through chain reactions causing other motes to become far bigger than yours.)



These arenas typically start out static and tightly packed. The main tip is 'push and swoop'. If you can't absorb anything around you, use ejected matter to push a mote into a larger one. Wait until it starts being absorbed. As it becomes smaller than your mote, jump in and steal the rest of the snack.

Don't be afraid of Impasse arenas with antimatter - chain reactions are less problematic there, buying you space to move and ensuring motes don't grow out of control.



The number-one tip here is to slow down time. Repulsors repel motes around them, but attract each other. Therefore, you have to plan your route around them, snapping up smaller motes, and then, when demanded, absorbing the Repulsors as w ell. If your mote manages to grow to gargantuan size, speed up time and wait until the Repulsors merge into one giant before consuming it.



These arenas have motes with intelligence. Those in early levels aren't too bright, but AI motes soon become vicious. However, they operate at a particular game speed and have certain thresholds for acceleration, and so slow down time to give you space to think and provide you with more relative dexterity. Also, AI motes only see individual targets. They won't spot clusters of edible motes more beneficial than a nearby lone one.



These levels introduce Attractors, m aking motes move in curved paths and creating arenas akin to solar systems. The difficulty is that people are used to things moving in straight lines, and curved paths are harder to predict.

A common error is tapping too much, thereby speeding up and leaving the solar system, or slowing down and colliding with the sun-like Attractor. Be patient, and look for opportunities where a tap or two will move you into an intersecting curved trajectory with another mote, and then repeat. Remember you can speed up time if gradually catching a target mote over several orbits.

Also master the Hohmann transfer, an orbital mechanics technique, which provides the most efficient way to increase your orbit: speed up a little by tapping directly ahead on your orbit, and then do so again at the far point.


Epicycle   s

Essentially 'Solar plus', Epicycles arenas have central Attractors akin to suns, planet-like orbiting outer Attractors, and motes orbiting them. Rather than moving in an ellipse, you travel in a 'corkscrew' pattern, orbiting the nearest planet.

Success depends on thinking in terms of repeating orbits around your planet and in respect to the sun. Behaviour around planets works roughly like a small Solar level, and you should consume other motes there first, before travelling elsewhere.

Moving between planets is the tricky bit - speed up at extreme points (closest to or farthest from the sun) and watch how the orbit prediction path displays how you'll move out of orbit.

Once free of a planet, keep correcting your course to collide with another, and then correct again to attain a stable orbit. In later levels, you must absorb outer Attractors and the central one, which is truly difficult - best for those readers who've taken a course in spacecraft dynamics!

Warped Chaos

Warper Chaos

In these arenas, there are Attractors but no orbits. Attractors suck up everything around, and the pace can be fast. You must rapidly plan how to work your way up the food chain. In a sense, it's like an Ambient level, but with Attractors.

Timewarping can help, and you should plan to grab simple motes first, to curtail Attractor growth. Also note Attractors repel each other, and so once all simple motes are gone, Warped Chaos becomes a slow curved-path billiards game of sorts, where you can plan paths to smaller Attractors (including 'bank shots' off the walls), before finally tackling the largest.

Multiplayer motes


New in the latest version of Osmos, multiplayer enables you to connect locally or online and battle other players for mote supremacy. The object is most often to absorb your opponent's mote, and this plays out like a Sentient level with humans gunning for each other rather than battling AI motes.

But other arenas provide variety, such as Solar and Epicycles. These demand you absorb the Attractor to win - a kind of 'capture the flag' on a galactic level. There's no time-warping in multiplayer and people react differently from AI motes. It pays to be patient and wait for opportunities.

Early on in the game, grab as many motes as you can, and then wait for a good set of trajectories for intercepting your foe. There's no point in lunging at your opponent, because your mote will expel loads of mass, potentially be dodged, and will then be eaten.

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