Fractal: a Visually Stunning Puzzler

Puzzle games are everywhere, and it can be hard to find something new that you love and can connect with. Fortunately Fractal: Make Blooms Not War burst onto the scene and gave us an engaging puzzler with a new spin on matching and board-clearing games. An attractive interface and inventive gameplay make this one not to be missed.

What sets Fractal apart from other matching games like Bejeweled, though? We’ll answer that, look at what makes Fractal such a special game, and go over a few tips for getting started.

Making Blooms and Pushing Tiles

Campaign Mode is probably the best place to start in Fractal. You’ll get a bit of a tutorial in the first few levels, it will ease you into the harder stuff, and as power-ups are added, you’ll get at least a bit of an explanation of each. The earlier levels also give you a chance to practice your technique; you’ll want to figure out how to clear the board with as few pushes, or tile placements, as possible. Puzzle and Arcade Modes rely on the player already having some tile pushing skills and can be pretty brutal if you haven’t worked out how to make the right moves.

The first level in the campaign is also a tutorial.

The first level in the campaign is also a tutorial.

Each turn is referred to as a push, and a push is when you place a tile on the board. You can see how many pushes you have left in each level by checking the lower right corner. Each level will have a limited, sometimes very limited, number of pushes, so you’ll want to keep an eye on how many you have left.

In the early levels, the tiles will be monochromatic, but as you move on, Fractal will add more colors. The game is played by creating hexagons, or blooms, of a single color; create a bloom, it’s cleared from the board, and it goes into your count for that level. More colors mean more difficulty, but keeping an eye on your pushes in the lower right will also clue you in on what color tile is up next.

Strategy and Puzzles

The lower left lets you know how many tiles you’ve cleared so far in a level and how many you have left to go. The goal of Fractal is to clear as many tiles as you can by creating blooms in as few moves, or pushes, as possible. You’ll get some recognition if you have several pushes leftover at the end of the level or managed to create a final bloom that pushed you way over your goal, but most of the time you’ll be focused on just clearing all the necessary tiles without running out of pushes.

Running out of pushes when you were only one tile away from your goal is heartbreaking, especially on the levels with high targets and low push counts. In those levels, Fractal goes beyond just a puzzle, and becomes a game of real strategy. You have a set number of resources (pushes) and a specific goal to meet (tiles to clear). Allocate your pushes effectively and you’ll hit your target; miscalculate and you’ll end up with a board full of tiles and a game over screen.

Use the power-ups effectively, and Fractal lets you know you did a good job.

Use the power-ups effectively, and Fractal lets you know you did a good job.

To help you along your way, Fractal starts feeding in power-ups, such as exploding tiles, tiles that change color, or even tiles that will tack on pushes to your often dwindling push meter. There are levels that are impossible to complete without the power-ups, so it’s a good idea to get comfortable using them.

Beyond the Campaign

The Campaign Mode was incredibly short, unfortunately, something of a drawback on any game. I got seriously stuck on a couple of levels and still managed to complete it in a little over four hours. There are players who will complete it in under three. Finishing the campaign, though a fulfilling accomplishment, just seemed to come too soon.

Fortunately there are two other modes, Arcade and Puzzle, to keep you pushing. There are 60 boards in the Puzzle Mode, about twice what you find in Campaign Mode, and while it’s not the same linear progression, you do have to complete earlier puzzles to unlock later ones.

Fractal's arcade mode

Fractal’s arcade mode

There are three difficulties in Arcade Mode, the easiest level having the fewest colors and most explosive power-ups, and the harder levels providing more of a challenge. The Arcade Mode allows you infinite pushes, but you’re playing against the clock. Clear the tiles before time runs out, or you’ll fail. Complete the goal, and you move forward to the next puzzle.

Puzzle Mode and Arcade Mode are where you can go when you’ve perfected your skills in the campaign but aren’t done playing. You could foreseeably play Arcade Mode forever, and the puzzles in Puzzle Mode are challenging enough to keep you pushing for hours. Beyond that, however, the other modes are also great places to go when you’re still immersed in Campaign Mode, but you’re frustrated and can’t move ahead. Walk it off with a few puzzles and come back to the campaign later.

The puzzle mode in Fractal

The puzzle mode in Fractal

Conclusion

This is easily one of the most visually satisfying puzzle games I’ve ever played. The animation accompanying the creation and destruction of blooms is beautiful, and it’s obvious a lot of care went into making this work just right. The developers didn’t neglect the area around the board, either; it’s filled with drawings and scribbled hints that play off of the otherwise clean interface.

Even the completion screens look good!

Even the completion screens look good!

This is a fun and challenging game, and it looks really good, too. I would easily recommend Fractal to anyone looking for a truly engaging puzzler. The gameplay is inventive and not 100% intuitive, which makes it all the more satisfying when everything clicks into place. Fractal isn’t an easy game, and while you can breeze through early levels, some later levels are going to require serious thought before each push. The campaign is unfortunately short, but Fractal makes up for it with additional puzzles and ways to play.

If you like puzzlers and are keen to try something new, Fractal is definitely worth a shot. If you’re not a huge fan of puzzle games, I’d still say you should give it try, though. Because Fractal is just that good. When a game can be challenging, frustrating, relaxing, and blissful all at the same time, it’s really not to be missed.


Summary

A beautiful and addicting puzzle game

10
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