Developer: Dean “Peppy” Herbert
Publisher: Dean “Peppy” Herbert
Music: Variety
Platforms: Microsoft, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS
Released: September 16, 2007, November 21, 2020 (Stable Release)
Genre: Rhythm game

What is osu? What does osu look like? How do you play osu? What makes osu so compelling?

Put simply, osu is a game about circles. And hitting those circles to the rhythm of the music. Circles appear, you click those circles, and more circles appear. At the end, you are scored based on how well you hit the circles.

Simple, right?

Simple doesn’t mean easy though. When you load up the game, you are hit by intense, hectic music that makes you want to move. You can select a map to play, called beatmaps by players, and away you go! You’ll see dozens of circles appear, and you have to click them at just the right moment to get those 300 points. But not all circles are the same! Most of them you will just click, but others require you to run the ball along a track. Another mechanic is to spin a wheel very, very quickly.

That’s just standard osu of course. There are other game modes, where you hit a drum to the beat, or catch fruit, to the beat, or play a small piano, also to the beat.

It’s rather straightforward, but the challenge comes with having to do these things to the beat. It’s intense, and even starting with the ‘easy’ beatmaps, you can find yourself overwhelmed by how many circles appear. Miss too many of them, and the beatmap comes to a disappointing stop.

So, you’ll have to try again. Learn the rhythm of the music and the beatmap. Listening to the music isn’t even wholly necessary, with visual cues indicating when exactly to hit the circles. But you will learn the rhythm, find the beat, and roll with it.

Before you know it, you’ll settle into a groove.

Now, a lot of the beatmaps are extremely challenging, and there is a huge jump between the easy beatmaps, and the normal beatmaps. There were so many circles! But this is where mods come in handy. You have the ability to play the beatmap at half speed, with larger circles, or to simply make it impossible to fail. All these are useful for learning a new  beatmap. Or to simply have a more chill time! These mods will affect your score modifier however, so if you have dreams of becoming the top osu player, well, you’ll only get so far. But, likewise, if you do master a beatmap, you can add mods to make it more difficult. And these will increase your score modifier.

Now, obviously music is a huge aspect to this game, and it does not disappoint. There is a wide variety of music from various genres, and it’s really hard not to just jam with a lot of them. In addition, there are artists who will compose tracks specifically for osu, or lend their sweet tunes to the game. And it is possible to actually create your own custom beatmaps for songs! There is a community surrounding this game, full of people who really enjoy osu, and want to see their favourite songs in it. And honestly, I have hunted down songs in the game so I could listen to it later.

I really enjoy osu, and I enjoy the process of learning a beatmap, practising, and watching my own personal score improve. I don’t love seeing it compared against the leaderboard, but I’ve never had any serious dreams of becoming the best at this game. I love how flexible the controls can be. You can play with just a mouse, with a mouse and keyboard, with a controller, or with a tablet. Fair warning though, if you play with a mouse, give yourself lots of space to move.

I love that there is a community full of serious and casual players, and that the game is constantly getting updated, and that the community continues to introduce new content. I also love that it is 100% a free to play game.

I do wish the menu interface was a little easier to use, and that importing beatmaps was a bit simpler (hint, doubleclick them when you download them), but these are things I believe will continue to improve with time. But there’s already so many ways to adjust my gaming experience. With such an active fanbase and community, and a team that keeps the game alive, osu is here to stay. Unlike all these circles I’m clicking.