Sunday, May 11, 2014


Developer: Phosfiend Systems
Publisher: Phosfiend Systems
Adventure - PC
1 Save Slot
1 player

Perhaps the one hobby I enjoy more than gaming is music. I love listening to music, performing music, and have a deep respect for the creation of music.  (I'd create myself if I were more talented. Maybe one day.) Combine gaming with music and you've got a recipe for hitting all my right notes.

FRACT OSC is a first-person puzzle exploration adventure game. It drops you off in a desolate, other-worldly place with strange architectures and mechanical innards. You don't know why you're there. You're not given much instruction either, other than a single hint that you have an interaction mode. While utilized, movement is a little more constrained, but you will be able to see and manipulate the objects that you need. Once you pick up on the game's language, things start to click.

At its core, FRACT OSC is all about discovery. You'll explore this strange place, hit dead-ends (some temporary), develop a mental mapping of the layout, and learn how to traverse. Similarly, you'll encounter puzzles with no directions. But as soon as you start experimenting with what you can manipulate, how you can manipulate them, and observe what happens to your surroundings both visually and aurally, you'll start to understand the world's language. Nothing is a gimme in FRACT OSC, but if you pay attention, all the clues are there. Plus the puzzles are generally relatively simple until the very end game.

What cements everything together is a brooding synthesizer musical backdrop. Initially the world is a silent place. But as you come across the puzzles, faint synth music plays. As you get closer and closer to a solution, more musical layers are added, crescendoing into an explosion of neon lights and musical resolution upon completion of the puzzle. That's one of the finer details of the game, in which it gives you immediate feedback and reward once you figured out the puzzle. The world becomes permanently brighter, and livelier. Often the world changes a little bit, offering up new passages or opening of doors that were previously closed off. By the end of the game, there is a vibrance - a flourishing in the world. You did not leave it untouched.

It should be mentioned that in addition to a exploration puzzle adventure game, FRACT OSC has an in-game music studio sequencer. Pieces of the music studio are unlocked as you complete puzzles from the game portion, which also produces one additional layer of satisfaction from solving them. The end product is not nearly as thorough or friendly as dedicated sequencing software (professional or even the KORG or KORG-likes for the Nintendo DS), but this could be someone's introduction to the world of electronica-creation, and I'm all for that. FRACT OSC makes it so you can save your settings and songs, as well as import/export. I've already seen a bunch of Youtube user-creations using the studio, so it's a pretty versatile tool.

I would be the first to say that FRACT OSC is not for everyone. Some might find the lack of hand-holding too obtuse, although I think the game provides plenty of feedback to figure things out. And whereas I thought the puzzles were varied just enough to keep me entertained, others may find that the 3 major types of puzzles too limiting. But for those who enjoy the feeling of exploration and discovery, Phosfiend Systems has completely nailed it. This was an unforgettable trip.

No comments: