FRACT OSC is a unique game; unique enough even that I’m sure it’s going to drive a few people away. It’s not a game that everyone will like, and that’s probably part of it’s strength. FRACT OSC is a musical exploration game. If you don’t like exploration, and you don’t appreciate the complexities of electronic music, FRACT isn’t going to grab you. However, if you’re a fan of aimless wandering, the occasional hurdle of frustration with a good pay off, and music capable of putting you into a state of electronic trance, then read on.
Actually, read on no matter what. Maybe I can convince a few people to delve into the fluorescent adventure of FRACT who wouldn’t otherwise!
FRACT OSC is an almost entirely audio-visual experience. Now, yes, technically, every video-game is an entirely audio-visual experience, but not in the same way as FRACT OSC. As a musical exploration game, you’d better bet that your ears are in for as much of journey as your virtual feet.Every where you go in the game you’re bombarded by raucous colors and electronic noises. It’s definitely more of an experience, than a game of sorts. However, it undeniably is impressive.
One of the things that impresses me most about FRACT is how alien the entire experience feels. I’ve played plenty of sci fi games in my time as a gamer, and none have even come close to feeling as bizarre and foreign as the landscapes and bright colors of FRACT. Combined with those colors and noises, there’s just a general aesthetic of the bizarre; you are wandering around a lost world that ran on music, and exploring the gigantic electro-machines that fueled this power.
The tri-color of Neon Pink, Blue and Green is a fantastic connecting element throughout the artistic design, and is the one constant throughout the angular environments of this world. Strange technological set pieces are placed beside landscapes that feel incredibly organic, even if they are made up of plygons and shades of green and purple. The fluorescent shades complement this landscape and make the entire area you wander aimlessly through feel complete. It may be a strange aesthetic, by FRACT nails it, and stick to it.
Now, when I say wander aimlessly, I mean it. One of the things I love most abut FRACT is actually the fact that it is missing something: FRACT gives you n no instruction. In a couple of places it suggests which button you should press, but that’s about it. No dialogue, no tooltips, no voice over suggesting you check out the Electro-Ruins and collect 5 Electro-Rat tails. Some might feel frustrated at such a lack of direction, but to be entirely honest, It’s the thing I love most about FRACT.
No Direction = Best Direction.
By dumping you in this alien world with no direction, Phosfiend does two things: They make you feel completley alone and lost, and give you the full potential to succeed. Every puzzle you solve in FRACT feels that much better because you did it yourself (unless you looked it up…shame…shame), and as you slowly get the feel of things in this bizarre musical world, you do really feel like you uncovering and opening up parts of some long lost civilization. It’s done incredibly well, and even if I get frustrated when I inevitably get lost or can’t figure out a puzzle, It’s well worth for the freedom I have to succeed at my own pace and uncover the lessons of the game on my own.
Ultimately though, there’s one thing about the experience of FRACT that I loved more that any other; the game was able to drop me into an incredibly peaceful, almost trance like state. You’re given the opportunity to create your own music in FRACT, which is an amazing feature to include in the game, and ultimately the point to the entire experience, allowing you to leave your own musical mark in the game. However, the ambient music, and some of the tracks that come to light once you complete a puzzle, are so amazing, I’ve just pushed my chair back, closed my eyes and listened for a little while.
FRACT is a wonderful game, both experimental and soothing, and the experience of reviewing it has been made all the more whole due to the fact that I was able to meet the members of Phosfiend Systems at PAXEast 2014 this year. Richard, Quynh and Henk are all incredibly dedicated to the project, and being able to talk to them about the 3 year journey as a whole was an incredibly eye-opening opportunity.
Richard’s original vision of a musical exploration game has come to fruition, and can now be purchased and experienced. Being able to see a indie project like this in its entirety is a completely different experience than picking a dev’s mind about specific features. It’s more about the journey, and less about the individual decisions made about the game.
It’s been quite the journey for us – there have been a lot of ups and downs, and a lot of stress, doubt and uncertainty. So now that we’re so close to release, there’s this immense sense of relief. The game is done, and it’ll be out soon, and we’re really proud of what we’ve made. We’ve tried to do something different, and we hope that people can appreciate that. We’ve also grown so much as individuals, as game devs, and as a team – and I think we’re all really proud of what we’ve learned and accomplished over the past three years. We genuinely hope people enjoy the game, and we’re excited to see what people make in the game. As for us, I think we’re just looking forward to a break. It’s been a long haul, so it’ll be nice to step back and spend more time with our daughter.
-Quynh Nguyen, Phosfiend Systems.
All in all, FRACT OSC is an incredibly interesting game and an incredibly relaxing experience. Its about musical creativity, exploration, and alien worlds. Bathed in fluorescent lights, you’ll explore a bizarre landscape, and etch your own melody on it. I heartily recommend it to you if you are looking for something a little bit different, and even a bit of Zen-like experience at times.