At long last, the demo for Cipher Prime’s hex-based puzzler Fractal is finally upon us! The Flash-based “teaser” provides a sample of the game’s Campaign mode, giving you access to the first 8 levels and introducing a couple of mechanics like two-color stages and the electrify power-up. And, in case you’ve forgotten since last year’s trailer, the game freaking beautiful.
Fractal is played by sliding hexes around by way of “pushes”. Each time you push in a space, it creates a hexagon in each adjacent space where one already exists, shoving each line of hexagons one space over. It’s infinitely more intuitive than it sounds, and only takes a short while to get comfortable with. In short: Cipher Prime was telling the truth when they promised that Fractal would be much more of a traditional puzzle game than Auditorium was. Luckily, it seems to be a highly unique and fun one.
My big “okay this is awesome” moment came on level 7. I had just one push left, but only needed one more clear to beat the level. After spending a couple minutes looking over the stage thinking I was doomed to fail, I found the one place I could click to make a bloom. Not only did I beat the level, the game gave me a 10X LAST PUSH CLEAR bonus. This is exactly the type of fun, reactive gameplay detail that, as David Thompson of Denki explained to us, makes good games feel “alive”. And that’s exactly how Fractal feels – you’re constantly inundated with a nice mix of superficial special effects and valuable information, and it comes together feeling highly polished and fun.
Unfortunately, all that beauty comes at the price of a pretty serious performance hit, especially in the demo’s later levels. When playing this mandatory-fullscreen Flash demo, your choices are to either play it at high quality and experience some pretty serious lag or play it at medium/low quality and have the game run smoothly but blurredly. When the full game is released later this month, though, it’ll be a fully downloadable title, so here’s hoping the performance issues will vanish with that version.
Go play the Fractal teaser here: http://www.playfractal.com
(It’s worth noting that now through May 20th, the game can be preordered for $9.99, which is 33% off the normal price of $14.99. If that’s what you’re into, you can preorder Fractal right here.)