In Cosmophony, you die. A lot. If there’s one thing to know about the game before going in, it’s that. The developers know this, too, and the entire game is based around you dying with regularity. The experience is made up of five 2-to-3 minute levels that gain length purely through your failure. Fortunately, it’s challenging in just the right way, and offers ways to get better, so in the end Cosmophony winds up being a must-play for any who yearn for the days when a game would utterly and completely kick your butt.
So what is Cosmophony? Basically, the universe ended because a celestial being failed to keep the harmony and you must do what she could not. It doesn\’t make much sense and it’s pretty inconsequential anyways; the brief story never winds up being enough to be engaging in its own right, and ultimately just feels as if it is there so you have a reason to be dodging blocks. Even so, it does lend a strangely ethereal quality to the game, enhancing the uniqueness of the experience noticeably.
But back to the dodging blocks thing: that’s basically all you\’ll be doing the entire game. The controls and concept are easy to get the hang of. You are some sort of pattern speeding down what is basically a tunnel. By pressing ZL and ZR or using the left stick on the Gamepad, you can make the pattern go left or right. As you speed down the tunnel, blocks will get in your way. You must move out of the way of the blocks before you run into them. There are also \”enemies\” occasionally, which take the form of triangles. You can shoot these by pressing X, Y, B, or A. And that’s it. That’s the entirety of Cosmophony: going down a tunnel, moving out of the way of blocks and occasionally shooting triangles.
And wow, is it fun. After a brief tutorial level teaching you the basics, you are thrust into the game proper. Immediately, you can tell that this game does not hold back in the difficulty department. It requires pitch-perfect input from the player, and later levels have extended rapid-fire segments where you must complete one ridiculously challenging segment after the other with no breaks. Thankfully, the game is fair, as well – you can see what’s coming next with enough time to get out of the way, so almost every time you fail it’s your fault. Even so, you have to beat an entire two minute level without dying, and considering the fast pace and brutal difficulty, that is no small feat.
To help with this is practice mode. In practice mode, checkpoints are added, so you don\’t need to complete the entire thing in one go. You can play through it to experience the challenges that await and hone your skills. You can even teleport between checkpoints once you reach them, so if there’s a specific spot you are struggling on a lot you can practice on it a lot. However, these don\’t unlock the next level, so if you want to experience the next stage you\’ll have to do it in the regular mode without dying.
For each of the levels, you can get four stars total: one for beating the level in practice mode, one for killing all the enemies in practice mode (which often involves putting yourself in unnecessary danger), one for beating the level regularly, and one for killing all the enemies in regular mode.
The game is presented sleekly. It seems pretty simple at first – all the interactive objects are basically just colored, untextured blocks. The backgrounds and cutscenes are what really makes it look nice, though. Animated gorgeously and using striking colors, the game looks positively gorgeous. With the backgrounds changing to the music, it all comes together for something very impressive. It’s clear the technical lack of length allowed them to polish what is there far more than normal for a four dollar game. The music, too, is great. Electronic, fast paced, and plays to the level design: it’s awesome. Nothing I\’d listen to outside of the experience as a whole, but it’s great in-game.
On a technical level, the game has very few flaws. The concept of the game is very simple, and hard to mess up. With strong audiovisual elements to back it up, there’s not much actually wrong with the game. I mean, I suppose it only has ten minutes of content if you beat the levels on your first try, but considering some levels will take you literally hours to beat, length is hardly an issue. Yet, I do keep falling back on one specific problem with the game that it almost feels wrong to have: the game is too hard.
Obviously, that’s the point of the game. To be a seemingly insurmountable challenge. And again, it’s never frustrating, because of how it’s always your fault when you die. But so much of the game requires such pitch-perfect control for excessive periods, where it’s practically impossible to keep up. Sometimes I would complete the insane challenges one after another for thirty seconds straight before my brain just stopped being capable of continuing with the ridiculous intensity. Level 4 and on are so ridiculous it’s not even funny; the amount of precision required is absurd.
So in the end, Cosmophony is ridiculously hard. That’s about as good a summary as it’s possible to give. It is so, so ridiculously hard. Nearly impossible at times, in fact. But it’s never frustrating, because it is always your fault when you die – the game just asks a lot from you. If you like spending hours mastering an insanely hard challenge to feel that sense of skill progression and accomplishment, and if you like pretty visuals, a cool atmosphere, and great music to go with it, Cosmophony is for you. If you don\’t like spending three hours on one two-minute level, you may want to go somewhere else.
All that said, if you decide to pick the game up I have one thing to say to you: good luck. You\’ll need it.