Crash, bang back to the beginning
Control the heart of a fallen goddess, the game’s description tells us. The story is a nice touch with a weird creepy feel to it, but Cosmophony doesn’t really need a story or a backdrop. It’s all about the race. It’s all about the tough, granite-hard, kick you in the unmentionables gameplay.
Cosmophony is a geometric rhythm-based musical shooter/racer. Guide your craft to the end of the race shooting anything that gets in your way and without smacking headlong into an obstacle. A truly great soundtrack will accompany you while swerve left and right along of a long straight tunnel and past some pesky obstacles that require absolute avoidance. It is nice sometimes to play a game that is very simple in its execution. In Cosmophony you can use the left pad or stick to move left and right and the X button to shoot. That’s it, and there’s something kinda nice about that. No accelerate, no break, no boost, no handbrake turn. There’s nothing to distract you from the gameplay, and thank goodness for that, because you will need every speck of focus, attention and concentration for the road ahead.
As you guide your craft left and right, dodging blocks and shooting enemies, it will seem at first to be a comfortable ride. You’ll start off languidly enough, but within seconds you’ll feel like a peanut that’s been spat down a plughole. Guiding left and right becomes a panicked yank left and yank right with almost no time to react. If you glance at the TV or scratch your arse, it will be game over and no matter how far you are along the track, you’ll be sent right back to the beginning. Rather than being all about reflexes, Cosmophony seems to be more about memory. You need to know when to go left or right because the reaction time is so impossibly short. You need to know every millimetre of the track, and that’s where Practice Mode comes in.
Each of the five levels has a Practice Mode and the Normal Mode. Practice Mode is a greyscale, simplified version of Normal mode. There are less distractions and, more importantly, there be checkpoints. Crucially, you can skip back and forth through the checkpoints, which is essential to learn the trickier parts of the track. The only way to beat this game (unless you’re the Flash) is to practice, practice, practice until the entire track is embedded in your cerebral and muscle memory. When you’re confident, you can move onto the Normal Mode and race the same track straight through minus those lovely checkpoints and plus plenty of flashy distractions.
Of course, as this is a rhythm game, there will be music to accompany your racing triumphs and disasters, and what fantastic music it is. It’s the sort of soundtrack that encourages you to keep playing and it’s nicely satisfying when you pass through points and shoot your enemies to the beat of the music. Unfortunately this music can also be distracting. While the rhythm is supposed to assist gameplay, it somewhat misses a beat in that department. Many a crash will be the result of trying to shoot to the rhythm and mistiming. Not shooting to the beat felt wrong, however, and switching off such a great soundtrack was a crime against nature and gaming. Concentrate on the music by all means, but focus more on the actual obstacles in front of you.
The developer themselves admit this is a game to challenge hardened gamers, those who are looking for something truly tough to rip into. Now, compared to someone with ninja awareness, I have the reflexes of a jetlagged tortoise. Saying that, I’m not a completely unskilled jetlagged tortoise. I’ve Raced the Sun, conquered the Rainbow Road and zoomed my heart out on PS1’s Wipeout. I’ve raced around many a track over the years and I’m good but I’m not great. I’m simply average. I represent the norm and this game is just about beyond me. I want to have fun with my games. I don’t want to tear out my rapidly greying hair and leave teeth marks in my Vita.
While I love the concept of Cosmophony, the difficulty is set too hard for the average Joe. While my name isn’t Joe, I am average and proudly so. This game wasn’t made for casual gaming and even the smallest achievement requires great effort and frustration. Cosmophony is for hardened racers who are looking for the almost impossible challenge. Had this game sported an easier setting it would appeal to a much wider audience. Unfortunately the ‘Normal’ setting is a lie and ‘Bastard Hard’ is all we get. Shame that the average gamer will struggle to enjoy what could have been a great little game.
S J Hollis Rating 5/10