MadameBerry’s ‘Fragile Soft Machines’ is a slow, unique experience that asks players to think about their own perceptions, but it won’t appeal to any who strongly prefer traditional gameplay.
Fragile Soft Machines by indie developer MadameBerry is the kind of game that inspires introspection. Described by MadameBerry as an “alternative adventure game,” Fragile Soft Machines has the player experience life as a butterfly with a broken wing. It’s a short and melancholy experience, but not doomed by fatalism or pessimism.
It might not appeal to those who exclusively prefer traditional gaming. However, the light and easily replayable world of Fragile Soft Machines forces you to look at your own choices, prejudices, and experiences, making it a unique and intriguing experience.
MadameBerry’s Fragile Soft Machines Is Minimalistic In Story, But Still Impactful
Fragile Soft Machines is a fairly simple story—as a butterfly hobbled by a torn wing, you choose from several different paths and outlooks to progress through the game. You explore and tend to a garden, moving upward through the level and making choices about where to sprout plants to create a path.
Similar to Elegy for a Dead World, which also requires player input as a primary game mechanic, what you get out of MadameBerry’s game is largely dependent on what you put into it. While you can certainly answer all of the game’s questions with vulgarities and get a little kick out of it, the game just isn’t structured for that approach. The purpose of allowing you to input your own answers is to let you reflect on them, something the game’s slow pace and long moments of silence and movement encourage.
Despite its simplicity, there’s more than one way to play Fragile Soft Machines. There are multiple ways to travel and plenty of opportunities to answer the questions with anything you want. While the endings are largely the same, there are multiple opportunities to stop the game, to let you experience several different versions of the butterfly’s journey. With the ability to input your answers, you can change the butterfly’s outlook, allowing you to interpret the journey differently.
MadameBerry’s Pixel Art Impresses in Fragile Soft Machines
MadameBerry, aside from her work in game development, is also a talented pixel artist. While Fragile Soft Machines is done in a fairly minimalist style, the art is still impressive. The dark tones of the background contrast wonderfully with the light tones of the butterfly, and the subtle attention paid to lighting adds to the melancholic but not necessarily depressing atmosphere.
The plants and animals are low in detail, but it’s all a part of the game’s style. The input and the journey are the most important elements, not the graphics.
Though the music and sound effects are minimal, this adds to their impact. The music suits the tone of the game well and is pleasant to hear, and the minimal sound effects, like the slow pacing, add to the sense of reflection. It’s overall a soothing and fairly meditative game.
With Point and Click Mechanics, Fragile Soft Machine‘s Gameplay Won’t Impress Everyone
Like many alternative games, the gameplay in Fragile Soft Machines takes a backseat to atmosphere. It’s largely a point and click adventure game on a small scale. You can navigate the world and grow plants to climb by clicking the mouse and entering text with your keyboard, but that’s about all there is to do.
Again, MadameBerry’s game is decidedly not the traditional gaming experience. It’s slow and reflective rather than fast-paced and action-packed. It’s a far more contemplative experience than many games, as that slow pace and quietness constitute the whole game rather than just significant parts of it.
But for people who like the alternative approach to gaming, Fragile Soft Machines is an intriguing look at our perceptions of concepts like disability and potential. Its length and minimal involvement do make it a short-lived experience—you’ll have experienced most of what the game has to offer in less than an hour—but it’s an interesting concept executed well, and for only three dollars it’s not a wasted experience.
Fragile Soft Machines is available now from itch.io for $3.00.