Most of us play video games to escape from our mundane lives. It’s a lot more fun shooting aliens in the face than going to work and performing the same menial tasks. You wouldn’t think anyone would deliberately develop a game that captures the sense of drudgery workers feel, but that’s what Krillbite Studio has done with its latest title: Mosaic. While the premise is certainly interesting, playing as an office worker is about as fun as it sounds. That isn’t to say that Mosaic isn’t a worthwhile experience. It just may feel a little too close to what you’re trying to get away from in the real world.
Mosaic takes place in a futuristic dystopia bereft of color and personality. Citizens clad in black shuffle through the streets on their way to work. They are alive but not truly living. Their empty existence centers around providing “resources” to the all-powerful machine that runs society. Though this civilization appears peaceful and functional, it’s easy to see how it can quickly crush the life out of anyone who resides in it. After all, citizens are merely parts of the machine.
You play as one such nameless cog. Each in-game day starts with the unnamed protagonist waking up in his small apartment. He turns off his phone’s alarm, checks his messages and the news, then heads into the bathroom to fix his hair, adjust his tie, and brush his teeth. After that, he gets into his building’s elevator alongside other workers who do their best to avoid him. The character commutes to work via train, goes to his office, works at his computer, only to do it all over again the next day and the day after that. If this all sounds horribly mundane, that’s because it is.
As the workweek progresses, we see the player character attempt to pull away from the daily grind. Colorful musicians met along the work route provide the character with a modicum of excitement. Meeting these individuals usually results in being (metaphorically) transported above the sky where the sun’s brilliance shines over an ocean of clouds. There’s also a red goldfish that follows you around and leads you to places that show what lies beneath the seemingly perfect veneer of the world. A number of elaborate sequences (which I won’t spoil here) also show the character’s dissatisfaction with his lot in life and his attempts to break away from it.
There are two mini-games within Mosaic. The primary one is the character’s job, which is essentially a type of strategy game. The goal is to build upward toward a “milestone” by placing resource-producing factories along the base of a hexagonal grid. A number of obstructions — such as solid hexagonal blocks or colorful amorphous blobs — stand between you and the goal. This game is fairly straightforward. As long as you have enough factories to produce a sufficient number of resources you’ll meet the milestone.
The second mini-game is a phone app called BlipBlop. What’s interesting about it is that all you have to do is click on the A (or X) button. It’s exactly like real-world “clicker” titles, only without graphics. Funny enough, this repetitious game is actually addictive. I’ll refrain from revealing my current score, but it is higher than I care to admit. There’s also a dating app you can mess around with; though you never get to meet or interact with any of the prospective lovers you select.
Mosaic isn’t the most graphically impressive game out there but it’s still pleasing to the eye. The monochromatic world oozes atmosphere and makes you feel the same sense of malaise its citizens do. Colors appear sporadically; lending them a true sense of awe and wonder when they pop up. A number of what I can only describe as “psychedelic” sequences stray from the game’s usual graphical mold; helping to break up the monotony. The game gets the most out of its simplistic art style.
Finishing Mosaic’s four-hour campaign didn’t leave me with a sense of accomplishment. Much like the player character, I didn’t feel much of anything. If that was deliberate, then kudos to Krillbite for further driving home the main theme. It’s hard to make a final call on this one. While I appreciate what this has to say about the drudgery of modern society, it might be too bare bones for most players. Still, it is a pretty unique experience — at least as far as video games go.