FRACT OSC Review (PC)
As I’m sitting typing this, an article pops up in my Twitter feed: “Making Fract as a family”. It’s a touching, thoughtful piece that comments on how the development of a game can encompass people’s personal lives and some of the unique challenges that the dev team faced when making the game. It also makes the rest of this a bit more difficult to write, because I just didn’t like Fract OSC.
Fract OSC is an exploration/puzzle game set inside an abstract neon world that emulates various parts of different types of synthesisers, with the environment musically reacting to and shifting around you. It’s very nice but at the same time seems rather… charmless. For the most part you’ll be walking (or falling, I did a lot of falling) across the low poly landscapes, with one wrong turn basically leading you to nowhere. For example, near the first pink puzzle there’s a cave, which eventually leads into the green area. I ended up accidentally finding to it on my 7th look around there I was lost, but not in that cool “oooh there’s so much in this world I’mma go explore!” lost like say, Far Cry 3, but in a frustrating “I have no idea where anything is” way. Mercifully the way point/fast travel system helps with this one you discover each node, and is actually quite nice to use as it propels you to each station.
The puzzles themselves are quite nicely done, with the pink ones being based around moving cube in a 3d space that has some nice twists, blue being akin to the old water pipe games and green involving the rotation of platforms to get to your goal. They’re fairly well executed, and one you get to grips with them you shouldn’t have too much trouble. At the end of each you have to complete a sort of music sequencer based puzzle that involves charging up power sources. It’s not exactly obvious what you’re meant to do, but as with the base puzzles they’re fairly simple one you’ve got the hang of them. They also unlock the most interesting parts of the game: the studio.
I’ll confess, most of what I had seen about the game up to this point had been related to the music making or sound elements of the game, so I was naturally disappointed when it turned out that those weren’t really as fully featured as I’d like in the core part of it. The studio was more what I was looking for. Taking shape as a 3 part step sequencer, it allows you to create different musical patterns for each synth, and you can gradually unlock various parameters that you can manipulate in real time too. It’s an excellent entry point to sequencing, and composing in general, and allows you to export songs you write too as an added bonus. It’s arguably more fun than the main “game”.
Which is the issue with Fract OSC. There’s a lot of cool and interesting things there, but it never moves beyond a tech demo. I can appreciate the work that has gone into it, especially on the audio side, but the experience on the whole felt a bit barren and empty. The studio is worth the price of entry if you’re interested in it and can be unlocked from the start if you don’t want to go through the game. If you like games like Proteus or Myst then you’ll get a lot more out of Fract OSC than a really cool musical toy.
3 oscillators out of 5