Osmos resembles abstract warfare at a microscopic and - later - galactic scale. You control a glowing orb called a 'mote', propelled by ejecting matter - tap and a small amount of matter is expelled, the mote moving in the opposite direction.
The aim is absorption: ingesting motes smaller than yours. Osmos is beautiful, immersive and engaging, but its unique nature makes it tricky to beat.
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The first minute of Osmos is tougher than the next half hour, because you must flick a mental switch in your mind and understand the propulsion technique. Inertia plays a big role, and players often tap too much, move too quickly, lose control, and cannot easily recover. Instead, tap sparingly, and learn how to start, stop and subtly change direction during the early tutorial levels.
There are no scores nor any time limits, so be patient. Think of Osmos like a game where you've limited ammunition. Don't 'fire' a lot, or you'll run out of ammo and lose. Also, fully immerse yourself for best results: sit comfortably and listen to the music. Those who play without it, not getting into the right mood, tend to be more impatient.
Where possible, play on the iPad, which is more forgiving if you're off by a short distance when tapping.
Let's do the time warp
Early Osmos levels are concerned only with movement and absorption, but time warping is soon introduced. Left/right flicks and drags slow/speed up time, respectively, enabling player-controlled difficulty adjustments. Slowing down time can give you breathing space to think and complete a level at your own pace; as noted, there are no penalties for dallying - Osmos is structured more like a puzzle game, but with an arcade feeling.
However, slowing time can be a double-edged sword. Do so on levels that are slow-moving and you'll find it hard to get a sense of the trajectories of on-screen elements. You may also find the game less intuitive, with the 'engine response' of your mote becoming quite sluggish.
Therefore, find a sweet spot - a level where you're comfortable with the controls and still get a sense of movement from the motes; and don't be afraid to frequently adjust time, including speeding it up when travelling a long distance when there are no nearby threats to your mote's survival.
Mastering the Odyssey
Initially, the only solo mode unlocked in Osmos is Odyssey, a 'guided tour' through arena types. It's recommended you complete this before tackling arena-specific level sets in Arcade.
However, the last few levels in Odyssey are tough, and so the Osmos developers provided an 'out', unlocking Arcade's Ambient, Antimatter and Impasse levels on completing the 'Floating' stage within Odyssey, and the Sentient and Repulsor levels on completing 'The Chase'.
Sometimes, patience, planning, and a firm grasp of Osmos mechanics relating to propulsion and time-warping will see you through levels, but there are specific methods for tackling tougher levels in each arena type…
This is 'vanilla' Osmos. To win, simply master movement skills and be precise. Time-warping can help.
First, slow time, assess the situation, and pick a mote to absorb. Next, return to regular speed and get a feeling for relative velocities. Tap to shift your mote to an interception path, and speed time back up until close. Slow time down again, zoom, make precise adjustments, absorb and repeat.
These levels introduce dark antimatter motes. They grow when absorbing other antimatter motes but contract when absorbing a standard mote.
Approach these arenas like Ambient ones, but be more patient. Often, if you survive and wait around for matter and antimatter to collide, you can win by doing very little. (By contrast, waiting around in an Ambient arena can result in defeat through chain reactions causing other motes to become far bigger than yours.)