Mosaic, the third game from Norwegian developers Krillbite Studio, at first glance reminds of games like Inside, or similar low-poly, muted-tone puzzle-platformers. The style is similar: grays and browns intercut with glimpses of brighter colors in a run-down, developing city populated by faceless citizens in suits walking along the streets to and from their jobs. Shown for the first time to the public at GDC 2018, I got to play through a demo at Double Fine’s Day Of The Devs event and chat with a developer from Krillbite Studio.
The short demo puts players in the shoes of an unnamed protagonist, on his way to work in a dull corporate dystopia. The gloom is broken a number of times by distractions, a cat scampering off through a hole in the fence, or a prolonged and surreal daydream sequence involving a glowing butterfly. The themes are heavy-handed but familiar, focused on the realities of living in a modern technological landscape.
But while the game has the visual style of a game like Inside, the gameplay is decidedly more narrative than puzzle-driven, focused on telling a story of adventure through dystopia more than challenging the player through puzzle design. The camera plays between an overhead view and a side-on perspective as you amble through the streets, occasionally getting notifications from your in-game phone along the way, which can be navigated with the directional pad and face buttons as you continue to walk along with the joystick.
Developer Torstein Vien told me that the game’s oppressive atmosphere was partially inspired by members of their 10 person team moving from more rural areas of Norway to the more populous capital of Oslo. Mosaic is the studio’s third title, after 2014’s Among The Sleep, and Vien told me that production on Mosaic began about three years ago, shortly after the release of the previous game.
Throughout the demo, the player can always access your in-game phone, which will periodically send messages cheerily reminding you that you’re late for work, or sponsored news stories glowing with praise for various megacorporations. Playing the game while in San Francisco, where ads for Lyft are as ubiquitous as shuttered storefronts, the satirical bent of Mosaic feels spot-on.
Vien stressed that the game is meant to convey the feeling of being a cog in a capitalist machine, and working in a system that oppresses you just as much as it claims to help you. Mosaic is built in Unity, using a custom lighting engine that lends the game it’s specific visual feel. It’s dark, and gloomy, but not harsh. The soundscape is sparse and evocative, filled with the soft sounds of a city engulfed in movement. There is little music, unless in moments of unreality.
The game delights in the surrealism of daydreaming. The main character is shown, even in the short demo, to have an active imagination, and it’s something that keeps him going throughout the workday. Vien explained that the game is planned to show a diverse range of experiences throughout the city, and that players should expect to play multiple different characters throughout the full experience. Fitting, for a game called Mosaic.
Mosaic is expected to launch in late 2018, for PC, Mac, Linux, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.