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Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Modern Wolf
Developer: Pixel Delusion
Release Date: Nov. 5, 2020

About Lauren "Feffy" Hall

I am a freelance writer based in Canada, where it's too cold to go outside; therefore, we play a lot of video games. I'm an expert zombie slayer (the virtual kind), amateur archer (for actual zombie slaying and general apocalypse purposes - it could happen), and a work-in-progress wife and mother (IRL). My claim to fame: I completed the original MYST without looking up cheats. It took several years. What other accomplishments does one need in life?


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PC Review - 'Kosmokrats'

by Lauren "Feffy" Hall on Feb. 8, 2021 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

Kosmokrats is the People's zero-gravity puzzle adventure game where you plot your drone to assemble spaceships for the Space Force and journey to the stars.

Begin with a Russian space station; add a retro techy vibe; throw in some gravity-free Tetris; toss in a few colorful, flappy-mouthed cartoon characters with expertly styled mustaches; and finally, turn your run-of-the-mill potato peeler into a drone pilot by using a simple, Pong-esque tutorial. Bam! You've got yourself an entertaining puzzle game.

Kosmokrats, a puzzle game by the small yet mighty indie developer, Pixel Delusion, doesn't make a whole lot of sense, and that's OK. In fact, don't even try to make sense of a space potato peeler-turned-Space Force drone pilot, or the fact that there are apparently a lot of potatoes in space, or that there was probably someone better equipped to become a drone pilot than the mediocre potato peeler on board the stereotypically Russian space station or that the computer system they use is reminiscent of my old PC back in my teens, complete with the screechy dial-up tones and Windows-style interface circa 1992. Don't try to make sense of it because the wacky, nonsensical whimsy of this game is what gives it its overall charm.

Let's get to it, potato peeler! (That's you, by the way, and I think it's supposed to be derogatory, but who cares? You've been promoted for some reason, and that's a far cry better than peeling potatoes.)

When you are fortunately pulled into this new career as drone pilot, you are given a short tutorial on the very, very dated computer system (insert screechy dial-up sounds here). It's gray and dreary and pixelated, and at first, I thought, "Oh no! This can't be the whole game!" It's not; don't fret.

When you dive into the game, it's quite beautiful. With the dying planet as your backdrop surrounded by dark, star-studded space, your drone floats blissfully about as you gently (in theory) nudge or pull blocks toward each other to complete the puzzles, which are a lot like a 3D Tetris game. Most blocks have color-coded air locks that correspond with another block, indicating that they should fuse together, thus making it tougher to perfectly complete the puzzle.

Your job is to maneuver your little drone around these blocks, avoid the little astronauts (or, "cosmonauts" - adorable) and build the color-coded stations per your orders. In practice, flying that little orb gracefully around space is a lot harder than it looks.

First, there's a timer. You must complete the puzzle before you, your blocks, and any remaining kosmonauts get sucked into the planet's orbit and burn up in the atmosphere. Beyond that, the puzzles get more complex with each mission, causing you (or at least, me) to rush and clumsily put blocks all over the place, thus failing the mission.

On that note, I have one criticism Kosmokrats so far: There isn't a redo option. In most puzzle games like this one, you have an option to quit and restart, and with good reason. Sometimes, you just mess up. Sometimes, you freak out and need a redo. Not being able to do so is a bit of a "feel-bad" situation, since you are punished and are not given another chance to complete the puzzle.

Just a bit of advice: Part of what caused me to knock my blocks all over the solar system instead of gently nudging them along as intended was that I was playing with a keyboard. The game does advise at the outset that it is best played with a joystick, and this is so true. If you have a controller handy, please, do yourself a solid and use it. Your flappy-headed comrades will thank you. If you don't have a controller, you can get by, but be prepared to feel like you have about 50 thumbs.

The game's goal is simple, but there's a story with high comedic value that players should follow. First, the obviously satirical soviet Russian theme pokes fun not at Russians, but at the gajillions of movies and shows that have so blatantly labelled Russians as the big, bad, evil guys who want to take over all the things, and it was such a genius approach. You are a lowly potato peeler for Space Force, and you and your comrades do it all to protect the new world from those dirty capitalists! It was chuckle-worthy, and it added depth and lighthearted fun to an otherwise simple puzzle title.

As a devoted Space Force member, you are invested in this whole colonization business, and your job is to assist the station and its allies in this endeavor by doing what you're told. At your disposal, you have an apathetic and mildly insulting supervisor, a drone, and a drone station. Your station is simple but functional. You can turn the camera and look out the window, where you can admire your completed stations as they float peacefully in space. This is oddly satisfying, especially when I look to my other side and see my nearly empty wall of medals, which are essentially achievements. I didn't have many and apparently, I suck.

Directly in front of you is your mission screen, a newspaper (mildly entertaining but not important to the gameplay), and a video game console to play, which is the tutorial. I'm not sure why you would need to play this tutorial again, but it's there if you choose. There is also a status screen for your drone system upgrades and penalties.

The missions are straightforward, but they get more complex as you go. If you fail the missions, you play with penalties, such as a diminished food supply (again, so many potatoes) or reduced time to complete missions. Conversely, when you are successful, you gain time or energy, which is useful for your drone. What is unique about this typically mundane risk/reward system is that you often choose your reward or penalty. The supervisor is quick to mention that you face the consequences of your choices, and it's difficult to know what to choose when you don't know what's coming. It was fun being in control of the direction that my game went.

When you make certain choices in-game, there is an RPG element, since your story changes depending on certain choices. How different the storylines are is unbeknownst to me, as I only completed one playthrough, but it seemed to be forgiving in the outcomes. The prospect of replaying the entire game is tempting, since there are apparently multiple endings.

Kosmokrats is a simple game, and the simplicity works for an hour or so, and then you'll need a break from the monotony of moving blocks. Personally, I found this to be more than fine because I prefer games that I can hop on and off of without too much investment, but if you're looking to immerse yourself into a story-rich puzzle adventure for several hours, this potato- and vodka-driven chuckle-fest is probably not it. It is a simple, entertaining and effective puzzle game, and thankfully, it doesn't try to be more.

Enjoy Kosmokrats in short bursts and avoid frustrating yourself into burning up in orbit, and you'll be fine. The puzzles are fun for a while, and the silly Russian accents and exemplary voice acting is cute. Quit before you get frustrated and start to rush and fail. That's your cue! Come back later, potato peeler pilot. If you do come back, there are higher difficulties to unlock, should you become a drone pilot pro. Until then, das vedanya, peeler, and may you gently nudge together your Space Force pieces with finesse and not punt them all over the solar system.

Score: 8.5/10

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