What would Tetris be like without gravity? Kosmokrats has the answer.
Cheekily, this store page for this zero-g puzzler Kosmokrats talks about assembling “a mighty space fleet to colonize the stars”, suggesting you’re in for an RTS-style experience. Sure, the tongue-in-cheek story has you aiding a Communist exodus from a ruined Earth, and the potato-centric gags will raise a chuckle. But Homeworld this isn’t; Kosmokrats is Space Tetris, pure and simple.
And for a little while, that’s enough. Tasked with assembling space stations, exploration vessels and potato storage bins, you use your floating drone to push and, power permitting, pull components into place. It’s not enough to just shove the pieces together; you have to correctly link up coloured airlocks, ensuring you don’t inadvertently make the puzzle unsolvable. You’re briefly shown an ‘ideal’ configuration, and you’ll get a bonus for hitting certain objectives, but as long as the pieces are all connected, you can proceed to the next level.
Initially, it’s a joy to being able to nudge the pieces around, instead of suffering because you didn’t put the L-shaped block down in time. The encouragement (and sometimes criticism) you get from your supervisor spices things up, giving you a real incentive to get it right first time. You’re against the clock, but you’ll still grin like an idiot when you spot how the coloured portals are “supposed” to connect. Or you can make it your mission to build the U.S.S.R Dickship. It’s up to you.
The humour does a lot of the heavy lifting, and Kosmokrats’ cold-war trappings (complete with a superb soundtrack) further bolster its appeal. Being able to upgrade your drone (depending on your performance) is a neat touch, as is reading the officially sanctioned newspaper or playing a 70s era arcade game. But impressive as this veneer is, it can’t hide the baked-in frustration, and as you continue to play, Kosmokrats’ fun factor starts to wane.
Dipping in and out of Kosmokrats makes it a much more palatable experience, but the more pieces you have to push together, the more you’ll find yourself craving plain-old Tetris. The problem is, with the lack of gravity comes a distinct lack of control. Kosmokrats’ time limit pushes you to throw caution to the wind, but even when you’re giving the pieces a light nudge, you’ll struggle to get them into place. Matters are further complicated by the destructable pieces that sometimes jut out from the station chunks. Then the game complains because you took too long or, worse case scenario, the station you were constructing burns up.
So, next time you decide to go all out and, before you know it, you’re mowing down cosmonauts and watching pieces spin off at high velocity. That’s even before you try to put pieces in their “official” places. You can attempt to find a happy medium, but it never quite works out and you’re often left grinding your teeth, cursing space, your supervisor and anyone else who will listen. You might be saving the last remnants of humanity, but that noble goal doesn’t automatically make Kosmokrats fun.
Kosmokrats is, like the raw potatoes your protagonist devours, best enjoyed in small bites. The daft, post-apocalyptic storyline is a real draw, and successfully completing a station, serving the Glorious, Radioactive Motherland is rewarding in its own right. But Kosmokrats is only ever a few steps away from infuriating, and if you’re to get the best out of this puzzler, you’ll need a lot of patience.