Cosmophony review for PS Vita, PS4, PS3

Platform: PS Vita
Also On: PS4, PS3, Wii U, iOS
Publisher: Moving Player
Developer: Moving Player/Bento
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No

A reductive view of Cosmophony would be, roughly, as follows: it’s $5, it has five levels, and therefore, you’re paying about a dollar a level. Yes, each level has a practice run to try out before you move on to the main course, but basically, when you get right down to it, the game’s only got five levels. And from that reductive — and possibly strawman-ish — point of view, you might not think you’re getting much bang for your buck.

You might even continue to think that after the first level of this musical rail shooter. After all, it’s not particularly difficult, and odds are good that it shouldn’t take you too long to beat it. Based on that first impression, you might be left feeling a little ripped off, and maybe a little concerned that Cosmophony is just another mobile port/money grab.

Then you hit the second level, and you quickly realize just how wrong that line of thinking is.

cosmophony 2

Because even though Cosmophony only has five levels, it’s important to recognize that four of them are hard. Like, insanely, absurdly, impossibly, hard. So hard that unless you have ridiculously great reflexes — which, I’ll note, I do not have — it’s going to take you a long, long time to even beat each of those levels, let alone getting to 100% on each level.

A major part of the game’s difficulty stems from the fact that each level has one-hit kills. It may try to soften this with a little bit of handholding in practice runs (“Awww, you died? We’ll take you back to the checkpoint!” I can almost hear the game saying encouragingly), but that’s just to lull you into a false sense of security. If you want to beat a level, you have to beat it thoroughly. No checkpoints, no mistakes: just timing every move perfectly — and, if you’re really masochistic, you can try to shoot all your enemies, too, while you’re at it.

The visuals and soundtrack don’t help matters much, either. Now, both are undeniably pretty cool. Cosmophony features a pulsating drum & bass soundtrack courtesy DJ Salaryman, and I have no doubt that if it weren’t scoring my endlessly repeating deaths, I’d love it. Similarly, the game looks all trippy, with dazzling visuals that are equal parts Rez and Lumines.

cosmophony 1

The thing is, when you put them alongside a game that moves so quickly and that requires such precise timing, they make its already insanely high degree of difficulty that much harder. It’s hard to enjoy these throbbing beats when they’re not quite in time with your moves; you’re constantly wanting to move in sync with what Salaryman is laying down, but that just kills you instantly. Likewise, the visuals look fantastic, but they’re also distracting — and in a game with no margin for error, that’s fatal.

Really, this disconnect between idea and execution is Cosmophony in a nutshell. It has all these really amazing pieces, but when you put them together, they’re just a little bit off. Great gameplay that’s a little too demanding, outstanding visuals that are a little too distracting, thumping dance music that’s a little too catchy: everywhere you look in this game, it’s just a constant reminder that you can, in fact, have too much of a good thing.

Grade: B