Misery, Inc.

HIGH The minigames and monochrome aesthetic.

LOW Game-breaking bugs and wonky controls. 

WTF A disappointing, weak climax.

Mosaic is an atmospheric, narrative-driven walking simulator about the grinding monotony of adult life. The protagonist wakes up every morning, scrolls through meaningless notifications, checks his mailbox, and goes to work. Sometimes he brushes his teeth or combs his hair, but who cares anyway? It’s the same thing every day. There’s never anything good to eat in the fridge, nor enough money to pay the bills. The player is stuck in this closed loop of existence — pretty much like real life, right? The days start to blend together and time loses meaning.

Mosaic tries to tackle heavy themes such as depression, loneliness, corporate overlords that only care about feeding the capitalist machine, dwindling relationships, and our obsession with technology. Although I was fascinated with the themes and aesthetics, I kind of ended up hating it.

For me, it felt like four hours of miserable drudgery without a point to the message. Sure, Mosaic does a great job of painting a gray world where everything is awful and the only way to survive is by breaking down the machine, but this is clear from the first few minutes. Everything past this for the next two or three hours was unnecessary pain.

Of course, maybe the developers wanted players to feel pain and suffering the whole time. Perhaps Mosaic is actually communicating on a level that I can’t comprehend. But either way, it feels less like a game and more like an experience, which unfortunately hints towards its lack of depth.  

When Mosaic allowed it, I could go off the beaten track and encounter beautiful things like a window that let the sun’s gentle rays shine through, a cat stuck in a tree, or a butterfly navigating the unforgiving city. During these moments of respite, the protagonist escapes into deeply saturated realities that contrast with the city’s monochromatic scheme. Occasionally, he’s also pulled away from his everyday nightmare by street performers who transfix and encourage him to finally wake up.

Apart from these moments and the boring point-and-click walking simulator that makes up the character’s daily grind, Mosaic also offers two minigames, the best one being an idle clicker app that players can engage in at any time. The point is to frantically tap the screen to obtain blips and spend these blips on upgrades that will help gain more blips.

This was, unironically, one of my favorite things about Mosaic. I think the developers use it to draw a compelling parallel between the clicker and our usage of phones as many of us scroll through social media pointlessly, not really paying attention, and not really happy — we’re just filling the dullest stages of our day.

Unfortunately, Mosaic tries so hard to shove its message down the player’s throat that it defies logic, even to the point that it ruined my immersion. For example, there’s an app within the character’s phone game that shows his banking — total balance and payments due. I had enough to pay my bills, but when I clicked “pay”, it said insufficient funds. (I even pulled out the calculator to check.)

There’s also a dating app where the character can match with potential partners. Even though I tried to match with everyone, not a single person in 1,300+ matches swiped left on me. As undesirable as my character is, I was sure at least one person would show interest and provide some scripted dialogue, yet I was alone through the entire journey.

These details and others are so heavy-handed that they border on caricature. To top it all off there are some minor technical concerns –the controls are confusing as the perspective changes in some areas, so I ended up bumping into things either because an obstacle wasn’t visible or because the viewpoint shifted and I had to suddenly adjust my control of the character. Moving is also paaaaaaainfully slow, and I encountered a game-breaking invisible wall that wouldn’t let my character progress.  

I expected something more from Mosaic when I finished it — some sort of revelation or point to it all, but only credits followed. It’s ironic that a game trying to educate the player on individuality and ‘breaking the cycle’ has no significant message or meaningful character development. Instead, Mosaic relies too much on presentation and drags the player through its narrative, forcing them towards a perfunctory conclusion that was obvious from the first five minutes of gameplay.

Rating: 4 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by Krillbite Studio and published by Raw Fury. It is currently available on Playstation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC, and iOS. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PC, using a keyboard and mouse. Approximately 4 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: This game has been rated T by the ESRB for Violence and Blood. The game doesn’t feature any explicit violence, blood, gore, or sexual references. That being said, I believe that the game is intended for more mature audiences, and to fully understand its messages, I think the player should be at least 18 years old.  

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind options available in the options. I wouldn’t recommend this game to colorblind people, as the most meaningful parts of the story are heavily reliant on color and would be virtually indistinguishable against the monochromatic background. 

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: I played the game without sound and found it fully accessible. The game has no dialogue, only on-screen messages. The text cannot be re-sized. 

Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable.

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