Exo One recently got added to Game Pass and I've heard several prominent podcasts discuss it which caught me off guard since I had never heard of this game until this week. The funny thing about Exo One is that it's name is very ambiguous and if you've never seen a single screenshot or video of gameplay then it's kind of difficult to picture. In Exo One you take control of a space probe meant to home in on a distant signal being sent to us from outer space. This probe built from alien design docs is essentially a metal sphere that rolls around with the whims of gravity. The alien planets you explore with the singular goal of finding a "launcher" that propels you to another "level" are usually comprised of peaks and valleys that your little ball rolls up and down on. Exo One's primary trick is that at any time you can make your probe much heavier, causing it to accelerate towards the ground, and subsequently with this gained momentum launch out of a valley not unlike a big ramp, sending it hurtling across these alien worlds. The final trick in your repertoire to fully tie this game of momentum together is the ability to squish your ball into a flat disc that can glide in the air. Each "stage" or planet has a singular destination to reach and it's up to you how fast or how slow you get there. There are no penalties or timers ticking down, just you, the alien hum of a faraway world, and a beam of light in the distance. Initially the game offers wide open vistas that let you get into the groove of rolling, launching and gliding in harmony with your terrain. Later stages begin to offer passive resistance in the way the terrain is structured or environmental forces that try to knock you off course. Exo One never feels hostile and is a largely meditative, zen-like experience not unlike a game like Journey. My complete run through the campaign was prominently clocked at 2hrs and 4 minutes on the main menu, strongly suggesting multiple playthroughs to improve your results. I've heard it described as an interactive screen saver and while I do think it's more than that, the comparison is not without merit as the gameplay is quite minimalistic. Not only is this a beautiful looking game, it is also a real joy to play once you get the hang of the push and pull mechanics. As you learn to chain moves better and go faster and faster there is an immense sense of satisfaction as you break the sound barrier and see your little metal ball emit sonic booms in it's wake. The sense of speed is palpable and it's exhilarating to see the world zip past you.
This is another one of those "hey I wouldn't buy this, but I'll gladly check it out on Game Pass" sort of deals.