Mosaic Review — Another Brick in the Wall
Depression, isolation, and burnout is the name of the game in Krillbite Studio’s latest title, Mosaic, but as you start to see things for what they really are, will you be able to escape the grasping hands of control once and for all?
Krillbite Studio, Norwegian developers behind titles such as the first-person horror game Among the Sleep, have entered the video games arena with their third game, Mosaic. Not afraid to deliver a hard-hitting message, Krillbite has crafted an atmospheric point and click world where the player is forced to challenge their thoughts and find a way out of a crushing and soul-destroying situation. When you see how life could be, only then you can start to break free from it.
Mosaic is a single-player, semi-linear narrative game that places you in the shoes of a nameless man. His life is without meaning or joy as he enters the same dull and colorless day as before, and the one before that. Each day he wakes up and engages in the same routine: turns his alarm off, brushes his teeth, and drags himself out to work, passing the mountain of unpaid bills piled on the kitchen table. Set within a painfully ashen city, you are a mere worker for a corporate meat-grinder who believes that constant work and no play is the future; that it makes you a better, stronger person. This notion coupled with the protagonist’s dwindling mental health problems, which include depression and burnout, has become truly unbearable for him – so much so that hope, happiness or any free time just isn’t on the agenda. Automated messages constantly pop-up on your phone to remind you that if you’re late to work or you don’t produce enough in a day, you have a good chance of getting the boot. Basically, there’s no escape so just follow the rules.
For someone who hasn’t played Mosaic, this may sound like a complete nightmare to partake in, and it is, for a reason. Krillbite Studio has intentionally designed a game with hard to swallow topics and make no apologies for it. For anyone who has worked for a company that makes you feel insignificant and where your individuality is smothered, this will hit home. This hypothesis could also be adapted over many other areas like an abusive relationship or a controlling government where suppression and ridicule are predominant.
Visually, Mosaic is a dreary and miserable sight, aiming to be as oppressive as possible with a lot of similarities to Playdead’s puzzle-platformer Inside. When not in the apartment, the player is surrounded by a mass construction of grey, menacing buildings whose aim is to further portray how small you really feel in this world. If that doesn’t do the job, then the sea of faceless people uniformly marching to work will. Don’t expect to interact with these robotic seeming figures as all they know is routine and getting to work on time for their daily grind – they will blatantly ignore you leading to your already rooted feeling of isolation. Mosaic’s gameplay would fit perfectly into the theme of Pink Floyd’s ‘Another Brick in the Wall’ music video, which also deals in controlling and authoritative figures.
From the beginning of your relatively short eight to nine-hour playthrough of Mosaic, your phone can be viewed for things like messages, but also for a painfully simple “fun” game called BlipBlop that has in-app purchases to improve your button-mashing ability. Your act of trying to mindfully evade from your daily struggles only lasts so long as your phone is also an outlet for mass thought control featuring fake news stories, sponsored content, and a “Love App” that works a bit like Tinder. Straight off the bat, the Love App will assume that if you are a man then you are looking for a woman – there are no LGBT rights in this sectarian and rigid hell-hole.
You’ll be relieved to hear that not everything is doom and gloom in Mosaic. As you make your way through the daily rat race, you start to take notice of things you hadn’t before. This may be a beautiful, bright yellow butterfly catching you by surprise or helping a trapped cat get down from a tree or a gate that’s ajar. Whilst peering inside, you observe a completely different, happier world. These actions set off a chain of thoughts that begin the process of self-discovery and healing.
There are no real puzzle elements in Mosaic, more situations that require the player’s view to be approached in a different way. Allowing the player to change how they look at certain barriers provides a useful tool in then guiding you to adopt this method throughout the rest of your gameplay, thus leading you onto the path of freeing yourself mentally from the mindset that once imprisoned you and also learning about the corrupt company you work for.
Krillbite Studio has implemented a truly immersive gameplay experience here that takes players on a painful but enlightening and important story. They have carefully taken the crucial topic of mental health coupled with real-life subjects from areas such as the dire working environment and created something that needed to be told. I will freely admit that at times I had to step away from my PC due to relating so heavily to its topics and later having to watch something uplifting.
Still, this is the beauty of Mosaic; it’s not just another tale made up for storytelling impact. These are feelings and situations I felt empathy with and that are a current problem within our world today. It’s great to see more developers wanting to go down this route when creating games and wanting to make a difference. I’d be surprised that when the end credits roll on Mosaic, you wouldn’t want to change even the smallest details of your own life for the better.