Upon first playing Fractal: Make Blooms Not War’s campaign, I wasn’t convinced. It reminded me of many other puzzle games that have a good concept, but fail to give the gamer the tools to understand and complete objectives. What ends up happening is that each move feels more like a wild stab in the dark than a calculated decision. However, after discovering puzzle mode – the game’s tutorial in all but name – it all started to make sense. This, and arcade mode, improve the concept profoundly, making it an accessible, yet deep, brain teaser. Even if the campaign takes more of a backseat.
Fractal is all about making blooms (not war). A bloom is a hexagonal grid made up of 7 small hexagons or more. You do this by placing more hexagons on the board which insert themselves by shoving adjacent rows along a block. When a bloom is created, it gets eliminated from the board. It’s sort of hard to explain with thoroughness how the game operates so check it out on the gameplay video below for more detail.
The game’s campaign involves meeting a criteria of hexagons to collect with limited number of pushes at your disposal. Getting combos, huge blooms and chain reactions all help in getting that high score to complete 1 of the 30 levels in total. Plus, special hexagons are slowly introduced that may cause an explosion, give you double points or electrify all connecting blocks. But it’s when more colours are introduced onto the field that things get tough. But as mentioned, the campaign alone doesn’t do much to guide you in completing each level and instead it feels like you are being led naively into the concept.
What it really needs is a puzzle mode, and thankfully Fractal provides one. Puzzle mode is easily the best starting point for newcomers to the game as it takes things back to basics and then pushes you forward to the advanced things. Puzzle mode is split into many levels, each one custom designed for their different objectives. For example, you may be asked to ‘clear the board’ starting off with only 1 hexagon. Or your aim might be to cause 3 chain reactions and a double bloom. It’s not really a tutorial and still feels like its own mode, but being gently introduced to the different game mechanics; chain reactions, big blooms and other strategies makes you better prepared for the campaign.
Fractal’s Arcade Mode takes things in a whole new direction. Here, you can choose to have 1 or 2 colours on the grid, and then it’s up to you to detonate as many hexagons in a time limit. There are many power-ups to boost your score, and you can collect special hexagons that extend your time. If you manage to collect enough blocks before the timer hits zero, you’ll be whisked to the next stage which get slowly harder. This mode requires no real skill and is for those moments where you just feel like wanting to rack up huge bloom combos and chain reactions. It’s a refreshing break from the rest of the game.
Fractal looks and sounds great as well. Its visual style is simple but appealing and the music fits well with this simplistic theme. It’s definitely up to standard with today’s offerings.
Shuold you buy and download Fractal?
Fractal seems like a very well thought-out puzzle game that has a lot to offer. The Puzzle Mode is by far the best way to play Fractal. it allows for some careful strategic thinking, and really does get those brain cells working without making things too incomprehensible. The arcade mode injects some welcome adrenaline into the formula and takes a more reactionary approach. Both modes serve different purposes which is great. It’s unfortunate that the campaign itself gets lost. I certainly didn’t find myself coming back to it as often as the other offerings which is due to the repetitive gameplay and an objective that never changes.
On the whole, Fractal is a really fun puzzle game that doesn’t just come up with an idea and sit there. It has developed its concept to create a diverse and interesting experience that won’t get old quickly.