For centuries (or what must seem like it anyway), humans have wondered what would happen if some bold, adventurous developer had the courage to combine free-roaming exploration, puzzles, and music into a single wild game. Finally, the creative souls of Phosfiend Systems have tackled this ponderous question head-on, and the answer is Fract OSC. Somewhere between the open world of puzzles hearkening back to Myst and the sleek, electronic aesthetic of Tron, this intriguing and mesmerizing game places players inside the heart of a massive synthesizer, rife with wide areas and complex brain-bending puzzles to bring music to life.
Starting with a brief introductory area to give simple instructions about how to interact with the complicated and curious world, Fract OSC takes very little time before dropping players into a broad, entirely open world with little direction or concrete objective, opting instead to allow for free roaming to find paths to take and things to do. The sheer scope of it is hard to get a handle on in many ways, and the wildly colored landscape is littered with a vast array of complex and varied puzzle elements that offer a great variety.
As much as I love the free-roaming nature of the game, Fract OSC suffers from lack of direction, especially early on. Once you get rolling, it gets a little easier to sort out the nature of what you’re doing, but it took me half an hour or more of random wandering to begin to get my bearings or to accomplish anything that seemed worth accomplishing. There’s no mention of actual objective or goal; no gentle push in any particular direction, either at the onset or as you progress. While this does leave you open to explore whatever you’d like in any way that you deem fit, it’s ultimately a somewhat difficult hurdle to overcome. Even as you begin to complete puzzles and find new areas, the game does nothing to encourage or tangibly reward any of your efforts – so, it’s on the player to take their own sense of accomplishment, for the most part.
Once you get past the confusing nature of Fract OSC, though, it’s really brilliant in it’s uniqueness. While it may not present any clear objective, it also doesn’t do anything to inhibit your inquisitive desires, and there’s a number of built-in methods for easily moving around the large world. The music created by solving things along the way fits the aesthetic wonderfully, and the more you accomplish, the more tools you unlock for the ‘studio’ that serves as the game’s introductory area, where players can use a complex and highly detailed system to create their own music. I haven’t gotten the hang of putting anything together that sounds very good, but the array of options is good — even for those who haven’t completed everything there is to do. While Fract OSC is probably squarely in the ‘not for everyone’ category, those interested in a unique, music-centric experience with a healthy dose of exploration and obscure puzzles should definitely check out what this one has to offer.
[+Large, openly-explorable world] [+Fantastic supporting soundtrack] [+Huge variety of puzzles to solve] [-Confusing lack of direction] [-Somewhat obtuse gameplay]