You know what would make gardening more interesting? Doing it while naked and under constant alien attack. Cosmochoria popped up on Greenlight the other week and since then I’ve gotten to play the preview build. As it turns out, it’s every bit as pleasant and shooty as you’d hope.
Cosmochoria is a combination of two gaming moods- the pleasant and relaxed sensation of reviving planets by planting seeds and watching them grow, and arcade-style shooting at swarms of enemies as flying saucers drop little aliens on your head while throwing laser death your way. One moment you’re peacefully tending to a seed, the next you drop what you’re doing to defend against alien incursion and a drifting asteroid or two, and then it’s back to planting. Sometimes you can plant two or three seeds in a row, sometimes one seed takes several waves of enemies to nurture. It’s an attempt at balancing two completely differing play styles, making each a reward for the other, and even in this ultra-early stage of development they’re coming together nicely.
At the start you’re just a naked little guy in a bubble-helmet with a single seed, standing on a planet in a randomized galaxy. Plant the seed and wait, and a bush, tree, cactus, or some other plant will grow and provide more seeds. As more plants become fully grown the grey, desolate rock of a planet gains color, its heart beating with renewed vitality, until enough plants are covering its surface . Planets come in three sizes and take differing amounts of seeds to be revived, ranging from about four for the small planets to eight for the big ones, so it doesn’t take all that long to complete the revival and jetpack off to the next world. Assuming the aliens aren’t being particularly aggressive, of course.
Each planet is a circle and as you move around its circumference the level rotates while you stay mostly vertical. Enemies on the other side of the planet won’t see you so will leave you alone, but if there’s a line of sight then they’re going to start firing as they fly into view. Once above the planet’s surface they start dropping little alien guys to harass you while continuing the assault, and although a single hit doesn’t do much damage it still accumulates after a while. A fully-revived planet will give a small amount of healing, and adding more plants increases the amount of health available, but eventually you’re going to get swarmed. The more planets you seed the more enemies appear at once, which is great for earning gems but not so hot for survival until you’ve leveled up a few abilities.
Each dead enemy leaves behind a gem to collect, and between one game and the next you can spend them for permanent power-ups. Health, firepower, jetpack fuel (which gets used quick and regenerates slow), a star map, faster planting (which is the second power-up I’d recommend buying after the first gun upgrade), and several more are all available in the current build, with others being planned as development progresses. The first dragon boss that appears after the fifth planet’s been seeded is a good challenge when you’ve got low health and zero-level gun, while the level 16 giant flying saucer that spawns tons of regular saucers is a better challenge for a powered-up naked space guy. It’s also worth noting that boss fights have a nicely epic feel to them, with the camera pulling way back as the alarm music sounds and fireballs start raining through space.
Still, there’s no denying that Cosmochoria is still in early development. It’s got glitches and bugs, gameplay balance and enemy behavior is being tweaked, there’s only a few enemies so far, no gamepad support, etc. There’s a planned Kickstarter in April, which will allow for a ton of enhancements if successful or a fall release and occasional upgrade when time becomes available if not. It really ought to be successful, though, because there aren’t anywhere near enough 2D free-roaming arcade shooters about gardening in a galactic playground in the world.