Microcosm was much-hyped upon release in 1993, but in essence is a very limited ‘rail shooter’ set inside a human body – with pre-rendered video sequences used to depict the third-person viewpoint.
The game was originally developed by Psygnosis for the FM Towns, with some investment from Fujitsu, and was later ported to MS-DOS, the Sega Mega-CD, the 3DO, and the Amiga CD32.
The storyline is a futuristic battle inside the body of a corporate boss of a mega-conglomerate. A rival corporation has sent miniaturised droids into his body to control his mind and you must control a set of miniaturised submarines to counter this.
Microcosm was clearly heavily influenced by the 1966 film Fantastic Voyage (and in turn the 1987 remake Inner Space), and features Silicon Graphics-rendered environments that were meant to look as realistic as possible for the time. In fact: pharmaceutical giant Pfizer reportedly created a promotional version of Microcosm for its own use (although I haven’t seen this, but would like to).
The DOS and FM Towns versions of Microcosm have a soundtrack created by Rick Wakeman, but for licensing reasons the other versions have a replacement soundtrack by Tim Wright.
Ultimately, Microcosm is little more than a medically-themed remake of Space Harrier, with simple shooting sections linked together with the bare minimum of control over the environment (basically: you get to choose which direction to take at junctions, but to be honest I would sometimes try to go left and the game would make me go right, so even that is questionable). The graphics are reasonable – if very dated – but the gameplay is too simple and restrictive to be anything other than a short-term diversion. The music is forgettable electronic dirge typical of the time, and the female speech that says “have a nice day” every thirty seconds is sure to get on your wick after a short while.
Microcosm was relatively poorly-received at the time of release, with most reviewers praising the graphics but panning the limited gameplay. Playing the game now: it becomes boring quickly and there are better rail shooters out there that warrant attention before this. I’d only really recommend Microcosm to those curious to see what all the hype was about, and even then you’ll realise after just a few minute’s play that this was all about marketing BS and not about actual gameplay.
More: Microcosm on Wikipedia