Welcome to our regular gameplay impressions and video post where we record our first 10-30 minutes with a new game, and provide some general impressions on that early playthrough. Today’s game: FRACT OSC from developer Phosfiend Systems.
Right from the start, it’s evident that FRACT OSC embraces its place nestled between exploration and music games. The only instructions presented to the player are a series of simple input commands on the pause screen. Outside of that, the player is left to their own devices while exploring the game’s neon-tinged environments. It’s a lonely experience to be sure, with the player alone in the landscape but it’s also a meditative one thanks to its reliance on musical and visual cues to guide progression.
Looking at the environments themselves, it’s evident that a great amount of care went into crafting FRACT OSC. For anyone who has ever wanted to jump into the digital world of Tron, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more apt translation outside of the series itself. While some aspects of the environment can seem a little simplistic and bland due to their polygonal nature, it’s the set-pieces that really impress from massive spires to pulsating mazes of pipes.
With so many twitchy first-person titles on the market, FRACT OSC is not an experience that will resonate with all players. Like Dear Esther, Proteus and to a smaller degree Gone Home before it, the gameplay presented here is slow and methodical. While there is a run button, much of the player’s time will be spent traversing the environment, attempting to puzzle out the next direction to explore in. Progression may not be as tangible as that of an MMO like The Elder Scrolls Online, but there’s something awe-inspiring about approaching a previously-unexplored ridge and looking down on a vast landscape of glowing polygonal figures growing out of nothingness.
Whereas in most exploration games the puzzles usually take a back-seat to the meditative experience, FRACT OSC‘s abstract, sound-based world presents the player with puzzles that require precise use of multiple senses in order to complete them. They’re hardly as frequent as those in Professor Layton titles (check out our review of the most recent game), but when they do rear their glowing heads, they can quickly devolve into bonafide head-scratchers.
As the player progresses through the game, they also unlock the use of different tools within the game’s hub world, aptly named the Studio. Here, complete control is given to the player as they control different unlocked digital synthesizers in-game and watch as the world around them shifts along with the created music or soundscape. It truly is a beautiful sight to behold. No previous knowledge of music production is required to be able to jump into the Studio and start making great-sounding sci-fi beats.
Looking at it as a whole, FRACT OSC is a difficult game to qualify. While it may be the latest addition to the growing exploration genre, its focus on music creation sets it apart and opens up a depth that reaches much further than that of the initial audience. It may be a relatively slow-paced experience, but it is also one of the most creative uses of sound and visuals in gaming in recent years.
FRACT OSC is available now for PC on Steam for $14.99.
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