We brave the colds of space in our review of Kometen.
Comets are born every day in our universe. And some of them? Some of them wag their tongues like dogs. Thusly begins the adventure of Kometen, an experimental game about a young, dog-tongued comet looking to explore the farthest reaches of the universe. Sporting an amazing hand-drawn art style the likes of which we’ve never seen before, Kometen blends gravitational physics with exploration to create a unique game, albeit with some clear influences.
Players will control a young comet, which they’ll get to name, as he explores from planet to planet. Tapping on a planet will cause the comet to orbit it, creating enough centrifugal force to exit the orbit at a greater speed than it entered (so long as you time it right). You’ll navigate from small planet to small planet this way in search of some much larger planets. There are 15 large planets in all, which you can find and mark waypoints for on a map.
There are great distances you’ll need to travel between each large planet, but you can greatly cut down on travel time by eating enough space debris to earn a super boost. Once you’ve earned it, just swipe your finger like you would to exit any planet’s orbit and go streaking across the sky at a thousand light years an hour.
The physics behind orbiting has a great feel to it. You’ll really need to time things right to make the best of every planet hop. It reminded us of games like Orbital and Osmos in a lot of ways, yet remained a bit arcadier in style because rather than being the games sole purpose, it was merely a means to an end – specifically, travel. If anything, it almost had a Star Trigon feel too it, except with zero pressure.
Visually the game is outstanding. Featuring original watercolors by Niklas Akerblad, everything in the game feels like a hippie-era space dream come to life. The entire production feels like some crazy/brilliant album cover that time forgot. These paintings come to life through some solid animation as well. Your one-eyed comet’s tongue will wag in the breeze, his mouth opening and closing to eagerly chomp up anything edible in it’s path.
Like developer Svedang’s previous effort Blueberry Garden, Kometen feels less like a video game and more like an interactive piece of art. All of the elements of a video game are there – gameplay, objectives, discovery – but these components seem to serve the artistic endeavour rather than the other way around. Sure you orbit planets, eat cosmic junk, and travel at a thousand times the speed of light – but you’re not really sure why. Kometen is an experience for the sake of experience.
Discovering large and colourful planets is a placebo objective at best. It feels forced, as if someone came along at the last minute and said “you forgot to include a sense of purpose.” It’s a shame too, because with a little more forethought Kometen could have gone from interesting art experiment to fleshed out game in no time. Eating could have somehow aged your comet, or discovering new planets could have caused him to evolve. Kometen had tremendous potential to become a trippy, space-faring pet simulator, but somehow neglected to go deep enough to make this happen.
Due to its limited gameplay and lack of true objectives, Kometen is a curiosity at best. Its art style is amongst the most striking and original we’ve seen in an iPhone game, but the developer failed to find the gameplay that matched. We had a good time with the basic mechanics, but they were simply too basic to ever be engaging. If you’re looking for a psychedelic space trip to mellow out with, Kometen will fit the bill nicely. If you’re looking for a game that offers any sort of challenge or reward, you’ll probably want to find something else.