FRACT OSC is a blend of a couple of things; it utilizes the lone exploration gameplay of proteus, but has been upresed with the neon color palette and abstract structures of tron. The thought of a "musical exploration" game is quite interesting; the concept of making music and having the environment react accordingly is a uniquely engaging idea. But for a game about music, you spend large portions of time in between puzzles in complete silence. There may be a random synth sound effect that reverberates from an odd environmental element, but even that is seldom and arbitrary. Just figuring out what to do, or even where to go can be one of the hardest things in the game.
The objective is set within the first few minutes of the tutorial, but first you may stumble across a room with a bunch of locked screens/tiles. These are practically useless until you are near the end of the game. Seriously, there is not much you can do with this room until you have completed most of the puzzles. The only other thing to do here is follow a path down to a lone doorway. o O the other side is where the tutorial begins, which gives you the basic concept of how to manipulate things with your alternate, interactive-vision mode.
Once you proceed from the tutorial and see the title screen, you get dumped off in a foreign, polygonal landscape. The only basis for progression is what you have just seen, light up all the towers. As easy as that sounds, sometimes just finding the path or entrance to a puzzle can be difficult. It was not until late game that i realized there were even pseudo-paths, with very hard to see differences in coloration on the ground. There are pylons that usually dot a passage, but they do not always appear on pathways and are also sometimes used as decorations.
Exploration can be fun, but the environment does not lend itself to that very well. Falling off ledges and dying, or simply getting stuck happens, and they passively acknowledge this issue in the menu with a respawn button. Also, you cannot jump, which is something you think about needing a lot since the terrain can be pretty hard to navigate at times. Even some of the simplest walkways have small hitches in them, reminiscent of a poorly constructed map by a beginner in hHlo's forge. Simply walking the straight path to the final green puzzle room is bumpy as you walk over each panel that is poorly connected to the next.
Now that you are finally at a puzzle, it is divided up into two segments which requires you to complete the first part in order to access the second half. The first setting is more of a typical puzzle, where you might have to manipulate platforms to reveal a path, or lining up pieces much like the classic game, pipe mania. The latter half is the musical element where your inputs cause parts of the environment to change and react to you. The tragedy here lies in the missed opportunity for your own musical style to actual work in the puzzle, for there is basically only one combo of notes that will work.
I call these parts puzzles because it is less about making music as it is about recreating the specific notes that are required to unlock or complete the challenge. A puzzle has only one solution, whereas music is up to a users interpretation and personality. There is next to no creativity allowed, just simply filling in the blanks with the only combination that is designed to work. The game sorely missed the chance to allow an individual's interactions make changes to the game and leave their mark.
Your best chance to take in the scenery is while riding along some of the fast travel rails, which float you around the world showing off it's neon colored monoliths and large architectural curiosities. It also grants you the ability to come back to a puzzle later and not fight the topography of confusing areas you may need to come back to. There are decent challenges in some of the house music filled rooms, with each one getting a bit harder than the previous. In case you were wondering, the number of sides to each shape denotes the difficulty level of the puzzle. a simple dash, consisting of one side is your intro to this color's tests, while a diamond steps it up to a level three brain teaser. Also when in the fast travel booth, symbols that are white represent completed challenges, while grey ones are not yet completed. The game never explains these things to you, and is up to you to simply observe.
Speaking of observing, let's hope you have been looking for the secret glyphs around the world, for you will need these as you approach the final challenge. You have already wandered around the dormant terrain, not sure what it is you are supposed to do or where to go. Now you get to do it again as you try to figure out what you need to complete the final puzzle of a color scheme. Try to keep an eye out for symbols hidden in plain view displayed on reoccurring architecture as you go through a color set. You can only observe these if you are using your investigative vision, which you were probably not doing in some of these areas. Now you have to memorize these patterns and take them back to the final panel to recreate them. To save you the utter frustration of this task, here is a compilation of screenshots consisting of all the glyphs.
The aggravation only continues as you proceed to the final challenge, which inundates your screen with layer upon layer of movable objects, which become quite difficult to even adjust the pieces you need to. The goal here is similar in that you need to light some stripes leading to the top of the shifting labyrinth; but getting to the activation panels for these is a convoluted process. Without spoiling the ending, you should have all the synthesizer options available now, with their equally confusing descriptors. You can dial in gravity, orbit, or adjust the mass of a sound. You can also mix, save and export your newly created songs, which is the main point of this game. Yes, you are doing all of this to unlock a synth sound board.
FRACT OSC comes so close to being this amazing thing, it is conceptually brilliant. Unfortunately poor execution holds it back from achieving greatness, from difficult traversal, spans of complete silence, and the lack of freedom for the player to make music, not recite it.
- + great concept and very close to something amazing
- - lacks creativity and personality, with all it's chips pushed into style
- - poorly designed world. exploarion is difficult and not fun with the unmanagable terrain
- - subpar controls. it has a floaty feeling, and no jumping makes it hard to enjoy exploration
hours played: 10