Now Playing: FRACT OSC (2014)

Apologies for the low quality screenshots. There was a problem with the videos so I just made some hasty pic replacements so there was at least something to see here, if anyone actually ever looks back this far…

I have no idea what the title of this game means, but I can tell you it is a game about repairing a music synthesizer. The catch is, you have to repair it by going into its program like Jeff Bridges in Tron.

It looks and feels a hell of a lot like Tron too. Or more like a mix of Tron and some weird depiction of virtual reality from the 1990s. This is the kind of game that would be really great with an Oculus Rift or equivalent, so naturally it has no support for such things. Oh well. Anyway…this is a weird music based puzzle game. There are no items or weapons, you just explore one of the 3 different colored zones and repair all the devices simply by solving bizarre 3d music puzzles like so:

In this type of puzzle you have to move the colored blocks around in these grids using your…I don’t know what it’s even called, music vision? You can right click to enter this mode which makes previously invisible virtual controls appear so that you can operate the various devices you’ll find. Anyway, in this one you need to move the blocks into their corresponding colored spaces, but you’ll need to move them into ramp activating spots or into a gap to serve as a bridge and etc. first so that you can reach the higher ones. This is one of the earlier, simpler puzzles and is just a part of a part of a much larger device. Each area has 5 sections, 4 of which are reactor-type devices that are made up of 2 stages: restoring power and then turning on the “reactor”.  Each areas type of power restoring puzzles are different and each one gets more and more complex as you progress. Once a puzzle like the blocks one has restored power then you can travel up to the top of the device and turn it on…after you solve a few quick puzzles of course.

Just have to figure out how to use these little mini synthesizers to get them to play the right tune to start the power up, that’s all! I have had a little experience with similar synth software so these weren’t too hard for me, but I can see how they might seem a bit confusing. It’s not like the game really gives you much to go on. In fact, it doesn’t really tell you anything about how to do or solve anything at all. There is a brief tutorial that takes literally a few seconds to show you how to press buttons and turn knobs in the beginning and then you’re sent on your way. Oddly enough, it didn’t really matter. While not always easy to solve, what they were trying to get you to do always felt natural and playing around with the devices was fun instead of frustrating. That’s pretty impressive, I think. There’s also a nice convenient “tram” system that rushes you off to previously visited areas to cut down on needless walking time, which is nice.

Anyway, that 5th section…for those you need to have reactivated all 4 of the smaller sections and have been paying close attention for 3-4 hidden hints to what certain settings need to be to activate the big final device of the section (ok THAT part was a little frustrating the first time).

You’re still not quite done after finishing all 3 areas either. After that you are taken to one final area which is basically the inside of a giant tower where the entire room/building is just a giant final puzzle made of connected smaller puzzles that you have to solve to work your way to the top and hit that final switch. Finally after that is done the synthesizer is repaired. Funny thing is, once that’s done you can actually go back out and use the fully functional synthesizer to program and record music. It’s kind of a clumsy interface to actually attempt to create serious music with (unless maybe they added VR goggle and glove support, then it would be crazy), but it’s a nice touch still.

So…this was a damn good puzzle game. The environment is not just fully functional, but also fully fun, and everything just looks and feels so delightfully and stylishly Tron/cyberpunk-ish. I don’t know that I would recommend it to quite everyone, as some people just aren’t cut out for solving complicated 3d puzzles, but if you are, you should sure as hell be playing this. I give it 5 mysterious glowing musical dials that perform some kind of weird indescribable function out of 5.


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