Fract isn’t your typical music game. Instead of your usual rhythm based button mashing, Fract puts you inside an abstract world and tasks you with fixing the landscape and restoring the music to the world. The game is based highly on the idea of exploration. Unlike most modern first person games, there is very little hand holding. You’re dropped into the world with only the environment to guide you. Puzzles are at the core of the experience as well. Though visual instructions show you how to interact with the world at first, you’re soon left on your own to face the large, open world.
The openness of this game is both a feature and a flaw. On one hand, the world you’re set to explore is beautiful and vibrantly colored. The landscapes and hills are waves of polygons, each colored and textured to match the theme of the music of that particular part of the world. There are clearly places you can’t go – edges that you’ll fall off, low walls that you can’t jump – but the world is still insanely open. Colors and lights in the environment generally lead you in the right direction. Players can complete the musical renovations in any order and can generally have freedom when deciding where to go. This is really great and generally works very well for the game, but too much freedom can eventually devolve into pure lack of direction.
Fract wasn’t a game I personally would put hours into, but I can see the appeal. In my experience with the game, I was faced with the world and its puzzles. I never got lost, but there were times where I had no idea what I needed to do to progress. A few puzzles had me stumped, but after exploring a bit and coming back to them, I finally came up with a solution. The puzzles are cleverly designed and are varied in the steps required to complete them, but depending on the player they can come across as difficult. I will say that, purely because of the difficulty and lack of an ‘easy mode’ in this game, I felt incredibly accomplished when I finally did figure out the solution to one of those puzzles.
My demo ended with me walking around in circles. The final puzzle I faced required me to move platforms in a certain way that would grant me access to a hollowed out cave above the ground. I figured that one out no problem, but got stuck in the cave. I couldn’t find an exit for the life of me. I left, looked around, came back, and still nothing. After what felt like a solid 10 minutes of being stumped by an empty cave, I called it a day. The developer later informed me that there was a way out of there: a small hole in one of the walls.
In theory, I loved Fract. The puzzles were refreshingly difficult, the sense of reward high, and the overall musical concept of the game is wonderful. In practice however, Fract isn’t the game for me. The openness of the whole thing may be a critical part of the experience, but at times I felt that the lack of direction was more of a design flaw than a challenge. Fract releases to PC through Steam, GOG, and the Humble Store on April 22. I’d at least say the game is worth checking out. It may not be my cup of tea, but it still stands out as a unique experience in a beautiful world.