By: Matthew Striplen
Tired of easy modern games? Well, look no further than Cosmophony. Half shooter and half rhythm game, Cosmophony challenges gamers with grueling tests of skill and reflexes. Players dodge and shoot their way through complex tunnels as sweet IDM tunes blast in the background.
Despite the game’s simple objective, completing a level is much easier said than done. Each of the five songs, not including tutorial, gets progressively more difficult, introducing new types of challenges to conquer. If you think five songs sounds like a short game, the sheer difficulty ensures you’ll get your money’s worth. Remember old-school NES hard? If you don’t know what being crushed under the weight of overwhelming difficulty feels like, just play Super Mario Bros. 3 for a few minutes.
Each level has a practice mode to accompany the full experience. If you’re used to boring practice modes, get ready for a rude awakening. Although it has the same tune and general layout of the normal mode, practice mode certainly doesn’t hold your hand. The only aspects made easier are the inclusion of checkpoints, smaller distances to travel between dodging and a plain background.
Although the colorful, psychedelic backgrounds of normal mode definitely please the eye, they make discerning obstacles much more difficult. Every song also comes with an accompanying music video with equally trippy visuals, so that’s an added bonus.
Control-wise, Cosmophony isn’t perfect. Although the shooting mechanic feels tight and responsive, movement can feel a little heavy and imprecise. Despite offering both d-pad and analog functionality, the d-pad only offers minimal advantages. There seems to be a minuscule delay between inputs and their results.
As the difficulty ramps up, players will have to travel larger distances quickly, which means either mashing the button or holding it down. Button mashing is imprecise by its very nature, and knowing how long to hold the button can be tricky. That said, the challenging controls could also be viewed as yet another obstacle to overcome.
Success is measured in two categories: enemies destroyed and percentage of level completion. Maxing out each category awards a star, meaning there are a total of four stars per song, practice mode included. To progress to the next stage, gamers must complete the normal mode — hitting each target is unnecessary, though doing is necessary to earn every star.
By far the best part of Cosmophony is how the music directly affects gameplay. Instead of providing overt indications of when to take action, like in Dance Dance Revolution or Guitar Hero, the task of finding the patterns is left up to the player. Often times, the visuals become so chaotic that relying on the music becomes the only viable option for success. This type of reliance on audio is rarely seen in gaming, and it’s quite effective and innovative.
There seems to be some sort of storyline running through Cosmophony, being presented in the form of a brief introduction and few lines of text at the beginning and end of each stage. Although the writing style is absolutely thought provoking, understanding the plot with any certainty can be a little difficult. Ultimately, the plot does not affect gameplay much.
Cosmophony proved to be both a grueling and highly rewarding experience. The incredibly high difficulty caused many a rage quit, but it also made completing a stage at 100 percent feel all the more satisfying. Plus, the expertly executed interplay between the music and the cleverly designed mazes can only be fully appreciated by experiencing it firsthand. The controls, while not immediately accessible, become more manageable once you get used to them. If you are a hardcore game and/or audiophile, Cosmophony is absolutely the game for you.