A game by BRAINOS for PC and Android, originally released in 2020.
BIOMASS is a short metroidvania with a unique take on equipment and remaining lives. The game was made as part of a game jam where the theme was "The more you use an action, the worse it will perform." As a result, the player’s weapon, armor, and even the device that created him will wear out with each use. The game takes place aboard a space station that has been overrun by the eponymous biomass, which has apparently escaped the laboratory where it was being studied.
The game begins with a clone being grown in a lab, after which it emerges from the cloning chamber and slumps onto the floor. A message displays reading “Cloning sequence complete. Bioprinter status: 93%” (the percentages vary somewhat for each reprinting), which hints at the fallibility of the device, adding some immediate tension to the experience. There are two doors in the room, but the upper door is stuck, and so you proceed to the right.

You are unarmed and can only sustain a single hit of damage without being killed, and you have a 2x variable jump. As you explore, you discover computer terminals that give you an idea of what has happened, with accounts describing the continuing spread of the biomass that has steadily consumed all life aboard the station. You also encounter a couple of humanoids, but they do not appear friendly, as they approach slowly with their arms outstretched.

Soon you discover a room with a space suit, and standing in front of it allows you to climb inside. The suit allows you to sustain three hits of damage, and it has a weapon that can fire three shots as quickly as you can pull the trigger. Ammo recharges quickly when the weapon is not in use. Heading back the direction you came, you can blast the humanoids, but each shot you take weakens your weapon somewhat, as indicated on the pause menu and whenever you clear a room. Eventually, you’ll be down to two shots, and then to one, which reduces your ability to quickly deal damage to enemies.

Similarly, taking damage reduces the effectivity of your armor, eventually allowing you to sustain fewer hits before dying. Armor also begins with three units, eventually being reduced to two and then to one as you sustain damage. Fortunately, killed enemies sometimes drop pickups that can restore a bit of your weapon, armor, or biomass (which impacts your ability to print out another clone).

Clearing rooms is important, because once every enemy in a room has been defeated, they will not respawn. If you are killed, another clone will be generated back at the starting point, and your space suit will be left outside the room where you were killed. As such, you’ll need to travel back to the suit’s location and put it on. Retracing your steps can be a bit laborious, especially since it can happen multiple times during a single playthrough, but it is thematically appropriate and serves to remind you that you’re basically just a 3D printed flesh stick.

The station is not terribly large, and a metroidvania map helps to guide you in the right direction. With rooms cleared of enemies, you can run back to your previous position and pick up where you left off. Standard enemies will respawn in the room where you were killed, but bosses will retain their previous level of health when you return, so you don’t have to start these encounters from scratch. This is doubly important because you’ll likely be using your gun quite a lot in these battles, so starting them from scratch would put you at a severe disadvantage.

There are a handful of enemy types, some of which are quite aggressive, while other just soak up damage, but even that is dangerous since every shot fired will weaken your weapon. Wandering humanoids are very slow and take three hits to kill, and there are small bug-like enemies that only take one hit to kill but they move very quickly, and a couple of them can kill you in just a few seconds.

The most dangerous foes are eye stalks that open when you get close to them, after which they charge up and fire three rapid-fire shots straight at you. If your gun is fully powered, you can blast them with three hits of your own to kill them quickly; otherwise, you’ll need to find cover before they fire. Finally, there are the actual biomasses that constantly spread outward, and you must blast their vine-like growths in order to cut them back, eventually allowing you to shoot their cores and destroy them.

There are four boss encounters in the game (with the third being a repeat of the first). The first boss isn’t terribly aggressive, but its movement patterns are based on your position relative to it, so you need to be careful not to let it swing down and smash into you. Sometimes when you shoot this boss, it will drop one of the aggressive bug-like creatures, which needs to be dealt with quickly before it move in on your position. On the upside, these creatures sometimes drop weapon pickups, so killing them may allow you restore your gun.

The second boss is far more aggressive. It is able to run around, jump up onto platforms, and let off fast shots with its weapon. It can pursue you to any corner of the room, and it’s hard to hit without taking damage yourself. Fortunately, there are lots of restoratives to be found in the room after the encounter, along with a keycard that is needed to unlock a secure area. There’s actually a bit of story involved with this second boss, although it can only be gleaned by exploring further and reading computer terminals. As risky as exploration is, doing so not only fills in that extra bit of narrative, it also gives you access to another space suit that is more heavily armored and has a double jump.

The odds are stacked against you from the start, with ever-weakening weapons and armor, as well as a bio-printer that can only be used a certain number of times before it ceases to function. As a result, it may take you multiple attempts to complete the game, but becoming familiar with the space station and mastering the game’s mechanics only serve to increase your likelihood of surviving the final challenge that has you descending into an area of the station completely overrun by the biomass. Oh, and if and when you do eventually defeat the final boss, the game offers a unique take on the genre's traditional ending sequence.

Aesthetically, the game uses a very low color palette, consisting of shades of blue for the station and shades of pink for its various life forms. The visuals and audio are reminiscent of games in the 8-bit era. The game’s story is told primarily through text on computer terminals, but the focus of the experience is centered around the fact that everything is degrading over time, and without urgent action, all may be lost. As such, the player is battling not only the growing biomass but also the bleakness of his situation as he scrambles to take action with only a small hope for success. In this way, it’s less like popular metroidvania titles where the hero is constantly growing stronger, and more like science fiction films where people find themselves stranded and must make creative use of ever-dwindling resources.

BIOMASS was developed by Jacob Pavone under his BRAINOS label, based in Tucson, Arizona. The game was made over the course of 72 hours for the Cult of Jabrils Stay@Home Jam where the theme was "The more you use an action, the worse it will perform", and the game took first place in this competition. Jacob previously developed Saving Princess and Space Cortex.