Musical Theory: The Video Game! – Fract OSC
Musical exploration is a genre that promises vibrancy and stimulation but in the hands of Fract OSC we are treated to little more than a washed out Tron-like world and a dull midi drone.
Fract OSC is an exploration game where you explore a strange musical world. In order to not be painted with the same brush as Dear Esther, Fract also has puzzle elements that you will need to master in order to navigate its often confusing world.
The environments in Fract OSC are heavily inspired by Tron and as such, they are full of colourful lights and platforms. This may sound like a stimulating world but it all blurs together until its difficult to focus on the picture. Its a shame though, as the world is unique and attractive when it is possible to focus on it all. Interestingly, each of the areas is based off of the different parts of a synthesizer – Lead, Bass and Pad. This means each bit has different mechanics and aspects which make them unique.
Exploring Fract OSC is often a chore as the movement is slow and you lack the ability to jump. Couple that with the complete absence of direction or goals and you get slow, frustrating wandering. As we said before, the world can often blur together and often the only sound is a dull midi drone. It’s very easy to zone out and fall, resulting in a painfully slow trek back to where you were.
As you explore and fix many of the areas, the world begins to awaken and music flows again. The soundtrack evolves as you explore and manipulate the world. Each area has its own music but once you leave, you’re returned to the same quiet landscape you started in. After you clear the first area the silence becomes even more crushing. It is probably meant to be, but it made us not want to continue, which is simply unacceptable in an exploration game.
Puzzle elements in Fract take the form of 3D point and clicking as you drag platforms, operate peculiar dials and machinery. It’s an interesting mechanic that really feels like you have control over the world. When you enter the interaction mode, the screen takes on an old analogue effect, similar to a CRT monitor. It’s a nice little touch but it feels off when compared to the digital world. Our only gripe with the functionality of the mechanics are that it’s easy to hit the wrong thing as interactive elements are shown by their skeleton and often overlap.
Most of these mechanics seem to serve the music creation system that the game frames. The puzzle mechanics and exploration show you how sounds interact and how to interact with the world. It is a really interesting way to teach people how to make music and the way it displays this is entrancing. For only £10.99 it is a nice piece of software that allows you to make great sounding electronic music and export and share with other people.
Fract OSC has an interesting premise but ultimately it just feels too slow and with the lack of direction, it becomes too tedious to explore. If it weren’t for the sheer uniqueness of the environments, the evolving soundtrack and the music creation software, then we would say to give it a miss. As it stands, Fract OSC is great for creating music but the core game that surrounds it is too forgettable to recommend.
Fract OSC is now available on Steam.