by Sean Martin
previewed on PC
It might seem like a strange thing to start a preview with, but it’s one of the things that jumped out at me when playing Krillbite Studio’s Mosaic. Our protagonist wakes up every morning, and heads into the bathroom. There he tidies his hair, brushes his teeth, and as he finishes, has a crippling moment of existential crisis. On one of these mornings a goldfish appears in the sink and starts talking to our protagonist (a sign he is finally cracking at the edges) but the fish feels like a pretty apt visual metaphor for what Mosaic is. Grey yet colourful, fragmented yet whole, a discussion on modern life and the juxtaposing experiences it so often consists of. It is a game which is oppressive yet also wonderfully playful in terms of humour and style.
Somewhat reminiscent of Inside in terms of 3D visual style and with environments which capture the brutal architecture of oppression and bleakness, Mosaic is the story of a regular office worker. Every day you get up, get ready for work and head to your office. There you work to pay the bills, playing a mini-game which is so hilariously non-descript that you’re not really sure what the character does for a living. You’ll experience very relatable moments, whether an awkward elevator ride, a busy commute, or staring into the mirror in the morning wondering what happened to your life (maybe that’s just me?). Mosaic also has a wonderful phone mechanic, allowing you to check your phone at literally anytime, whether in a hallucination, or just walking down the hall.
This everyday experience is an important part of the game, but it mainly acts as a foundation upon which the hallucinations, dream sequences and colourful experiences are juxtaposed. I think we all experience tiny cracks in modern life at times, where we suddenly glimpse a larger truth about ourselves or our universal context, and this is the way Mosaic artfully exposes its overall narrative over time. These experiences and dream sequences are also as playful and imaginative as the negative experiences are oppressive. Whether it’s simply gazing at a sunset, discovering street musicians, or chatting with an imaginary goldfish, it feels like the real life of Mosaic exists in these experiences. It is of course possible to only experience colourful moments, only experience oppressive moments, or to experience a mixture, but what seems clear is that these moments both offer clues as to the true nature of the protagonists’ reality, and have a cumulative effect towards the ending.
I didn’t see Mosaic last year, but this year it was undoubtedly one of my favourites at Gamescom. I love ambient experiences like this, where you wander, explore, and the nature of the world is gradually exposed over time. But I think Mosaic’s true brilliance lies in this — it can be easy to create an oppressive representation of modern life for players, but what is far harder is finding the humour in it. I think that finding humour in the over-the-top cliched imagery that surrounds the oppressiveness of modern life, yet also creating playful moments around it, is what makes it so great. At its heart Mosaic is a jokey critique of modern urban life, yet also a somewhat life-affirming experience in relation to it. Keep an eye out for Mosaic releasing later this year. I know I will.