Fract-OSC-Small-Cover-Art.png

Platform

Mac
Windows

Release Date

Europe
April 23, 2014
Australia
April 23, 2014
North America
April 23, 2014

Publisher

Phosfiend Systems

Developer

Phosfiend Systems

Ratings

FRACT OSC is a first-person puzzle game set in a mysterious, neon-lit, music-making open-world. A lazy description would be Proteus meets Myst, with the aesthetics of TRON. After finishing the tutorial you are dropped into the centre of the world of FRACT, a world dominated by aggressive brutalist structures and lit by beams of coloured light, glowing pink crystals and strange green geometric shapes that hum as you get closer. The whole world is a giant sleeping electronic music box, and your untold objective is to figure out how to make it sing again.

I really admire FRACT’s reluctance to explicitly tell you what to do or where to go. You figure out the rules of the world of FRACT through trial and error. When traversing the landscape, you can walk, run or fall down onto platforms below. Sometimes walking up ramps can feel simply wrong, similarly to riding your horse up a mountain in Skyrim; it is unclear whether this is intentional or just buggy. I also had the game crash to desktop one or two times during my 15 hour playthrough but, I lost no progress. The one guide that you have is a Batman-like “detective mode” that you can activate at any time, revealing clues to some of the large-scale puzzles in the game and allowing you to interact with the musical switches and sliders. FRACT also takes advantage of the first-person perspective in a way that more games need to. When you are interacting with the map, audio controls or fast-travelling through the world; it is all done in first-person and everything feels like it is in a 3D space. When you open the map, you have to move your camera to see the whole thing or step back for a better perspective – it is a small touch that I appreciated.

The music-based puzzles are the meat and potatoes of this game and, for the most part, are pretty challenging and rewarding to complete. One of the game’s flaws is its limited range of puzzle types. I think it would be a better game if it had a few more types of problems to solve. For example all but one structure in the “pink area” features a cube puzzle, where you have to move a cube into highlighted spots on a grid and a puzzle where you have to fill up a meter by inputting the correct combination of musical notes. This formula also applies to the green and blue areas in the game, and it starts to feel a bit monotonous by the third round. Thankfully due to FRACT’s open-world design; if you are getting tired of the puzzles in the pink area, you can switch it up and start working through the puzzles in the green or blue area. There will be times when you will be frustrated, walking around in circles trying to find the one clue that will propel you forward into the next area. Those temporary bouts of frustration are worth it for the moment when the entire building erupts in light and song.

FRACT OSC is an amazing game to look at and listen to. One of the game’s greatest achievements is how it combines the two to create different moods in different areas. When you first enter an area with the puzzle untouched it feels sinister, it will be dimly lit, moving elements of the area will rotate slowly and parts of the structure will emit a low electronic growl. Upon completing the puzzle the mood of the area will completely change, everything speeds up, all of the lights are turned on and the room will be filled with uplifting synths or aggressive tones. The way the landscape lights up and moves to the music is fantastic, a large chunk of my 15 hours spent on this game was spent just sitting back and admiring the view. Good video game soundtracks add to the atmosphere of areas and make memorable moments, and FRACTs is no exception. FRACT OSC’s soundtrack feels organic, everything around you is moving to the beat and I found myself sitting back and nodding along to the music on multiple occasions.

As you complete puzzles in the game you unlock additional modules for the “Studio” component of FRACT OSC. You can jump into the studio whenever you want, and start composing your own songs and export them as a .WAV or directly to YouTube. I have tried a few DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations) and have always struggled to learn their complex controls, the creation system in FRACT OSC is the first system that I have been able to produce something that I think sounds kind of cool (which I have included above). It is extremely easy to use and has a lot of different pre-sets and modifiers that you can mess around with. My only complaint is that I wish there were tooltips for the various tools that told you what each modifier is actually doing to the sound. Again, you can learn the answer to that question through trial and error, like the rest of the game.

Final Verdict

FRACT OSC is not a game that you can just cruise through, at times it’s a struggle. The moments of realisation upon completing the puzzles, coupled with the fantastic visual and sound design makes FRACT OSC one of my favourite games of the year. If you enjoy a challenge, and can tolerate electronic music, FRACT is a game that you should not miss. A great single player experience and a free easy to use music creation tool makes FRACT OSC easy to recommend.

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