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Fractal: Make Blooms Not War

Score: 68%
ESRB: 4+
Publisher: IndiePub
Developer: Cipher Prime
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Board Games/ Puzzle/ Strategy

Graphics & Sound:

Fractal: Make Blooms Not War is all about looking and sounding good. Like many new puzzle games that present a very stylized, polished face, you'll be impressed before you even start playing. Fractal is more than a pretty face, but not by much. What never gets old are the brilliant colors, increasing from a simple palette to a bouquet of hex-tiles that do, in fact, bloom as the title suggests. Matched tiles create color explosions, with new tiles appearing in batches across the board. The soundtrack and sound effects built into Fractal make it a game that sounds great with good headphones (or earbuds) even if they aren't tunes you'll be humming after you play the game. There's a clearly defined "board" you play on, but the interface is otherwise uncluttered. Beyond the board, there are a lot of nice, subtle touches that show the developers were heavily invested in making Fractal look cool, right down to the typography.


Trying to come up with a comparable game for Fractal is difficult. It's a tile game where you try to create hexagons, which dissolve and grant you points, but you match them by pushing tiles around the board. Playing the main Campaign Mode, points are what keep you moving forward. Each level in this mode comes with a goal you must meet by crafting the most elaborate matches possible. You have a limited number of moves in which to reach the score, and failing to reach your goal will send you back to a waypoint for another try. These levels where progress is saved are too far apart, but more on that later. The Arcade Mode is more like the typical endless mode in a puzzle game, where you can hone your skill for hex matches without the same pressure. Arcade is a great way to improve your speed and learn to control the board. The final play option is Puzzle, where you'll have to resolve a board with specific criteria, similar to the constraints on you in Campaign. In each case, you'll find your score on a ranked leaderboard, including how well you performed in the Arcade, against a variety of styles you can select prior to starting a new level.


Fractal is nearly impossible beyond a point. It's not that it is impossible, because we're fairly certain a dedicated player with time on her hands could figure out exactly the right configuration of matches to go beyond the early stages in Campaign Mode. The fact that this level of difficulty sets in before you've even seen the first 10 levels is what turned us off. Especially considering how you can only save progress every fifth level, it becomes unmanageable to replay not just one level, but several. The constraints on the number of moves should be modified to line up more with a level of difficulty that each player can choose, or be loosened across the board. If I want to customize my experience in Arcade to make things more difficult, that's the place. Campaign should really be accessible to almost all players, in our opinion. As it stands, Fractal is barely accessible outside of the Arcade Mode, and perhaps some of the early Puzzle Mode boards. The good news would be that even if you consider yourself a puzzle-game veteran, you'll likely find some challenge here. Fractal is poorly balanced, but this could easily be tweaked in some future release.

Game Mechanics:

One indicator that the developers are listening and receptive was the change made in Fractal during the time we reviewed it. The game crashed after our first download, making it impossible to go beyond a certain level. The usual fixes of restarting the iPad did nothing to offset the problem, and then a new update arrived for the game that seemed to fix all the stability issues. We're hoping to see future improvements in speed and easier play modes, but Fractal is already a fairly polished product. The style of play involves tapping and holding at specific points on the board where you immediately see arrows showing what impact you'll have on the hexes already placed there. The board is a fixed size, so pushing tends to move some hexes off entirely . You can exploit this technique to clear wrong colors, and you can also push from the outside to cluster hexes on the opposite side. Each time you push, you'll see the color that will be pushed in, to appear at the point of your tap/hold. Matching on boards with multiple colors is hard enough, but planning ahead to think about where you'll be able to group like-colored hexes is extremely challenging. The mechanism for moving pieces around works exactly as advertised, but takes some getting used to for those of us trained to think about matching blocks/squares in groups of three or four.

The novelty of Fractal is undeniable, but we wish the game's difficulty was as well planned and executed as its pretty front end. A hearty challenge is always welcome, but pitting us against long odds tends to drive our enthusiasm down for sticking with a game. Fractal has many good qualities that make it a natural for puzzle veterans, so long as they are prepared. Those of you looking for a nice, casual puzzle game are barking up the wrong tree with Fractal, which may be a market the game's developers may want to spend more time courting.

-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

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