January 7, 2012 8:59 PM | Cassandra Khaw
[While the new Indie Royale game bundle that we co-created with Desura is running, we'll be profiling each of the four games featured in it, giving our honest opinion on the pluses and minuses of each title.Today, we take a look at Fractal, Cipher Prime's too-smart-for-its-own-good block puzzler. ]
Want something hardcore? Great. Put down that copy of Left 4 Dead you have there. Play Fractal. Cipher's Prime's lovely block puzzler is Bejeweled for Rubik's' Cube enthusiasts, a casual masocore game for intellectuals. Is this a good thing? That depends. How much do you enjoy beating your head against a wall? Fractal, in spite of how the randomly generated hexagons will make you curse, is a lot of good, clean fun. You just have to be prepared to be deeply, truly and irrevocably frustrated.
The basic premise behind Fractal is a simple one. Your goal here is to compose as many shapes of identical hue as you can in as few moves as possible. What makes it different from its predecessors is how you're supposed to accomplish all of this. Instead of lines, you'll be building hexagons. Instead of an orderly descent from the top of your screen, you will see hexagonal tiles blossoming at random across the game board. Instead of time, you have a certain amount of 'pushes' (you create 'blooms' by nudging shapes across the board) allocated.
It's tougher than it sounds. Fractal is not the sort of game that holds your hand. After the introductory level, you're pretty much on your own. There are no hints, no sly nudges in the right direction. There is no way to clear unfortunate gridlocks, no means to break free from an impossible conundrum. Unless you're particularly talented at this sort of game, you will see more than your fair share of restarts. At times, it can feel as though Fractal is as much about luck as it is about strategy.
This can be both good and bad. On one hand, it keeps you on your toes. On the other, well, it can get annoying. Really annoying. Fractal is one of the few games out there that is unafraid to intimate that you may be, in fact, a lot less intelligent than you initially believed. But if you're willing to deal with that, Fractal has a lot to offer. The pacing of the levels in the Campaign mode feels just right. The Arcade mode, freed from the push restriction, will easily devour hours of your time. I haven't played the Puzzle mode yet but if the rest of the game is any indication of what things will be, it should be pretty good as well.
Last but not least, the music's a joy. With every combo you weave, the soundtrack grows exultant. As you draw closer to the end of your quota of pushes, the score grows listless and dark. It's not integral to the game. You could easily play Fractal without sound. Nonetheless, it definitely enriches the title.
So, yes. Fractal is awesome. Fractal will also hurt your brain. It might even make you feel rather stupid. If you're inclined towards a cerebral exercise, you'll probably enjoy the game. Otherwise, you may want to consider slyly delivering it onto the doorstep of that one friend of yours that is too smart for his own good.
Official website here, and you can buy it as part of Indie Royale's 'New Year Bundle' for the next few days. We also did a profile/review of Super Crossfire too!