Fractal: Make Blooms Not War is a straightforward puzzle game in which you group like-colored hexagons together in order to clear each level. A high degree of complexity makes it challenging, however, and a fun chaining system adds an addictive thrill. Evocative music boosts the excitement, resulting in a stimulating puzzler that’s rewarding despite a few faults.
Fractal’s objectives may be simple, but mastering the game’s mechanics should prove tough. You’re given a board full of colored hexes that you manipulate on a grid. You move a block by clicking on the empty space near it, which spawns a new block that pushes the line forward. Forming large hexagons out of seven like-colored blocks triggers a bloom, which dissipates in a fancy flash of light that awards you points. Your goal is to meet the stage’s point requirement before you run out of pushes. This may sound easy, but the game soon bolsters the difficulty by tossing new variables at you, such as adding a wider variety of colors or walls that block your maneuvers.To combat these impediments, Fractal offers a variety of power-ups that add layers of depth to the hex-exterminating fun. A strike from a lightning block clears all same-colored hexes in a pinch, racking up a plethora of points or saving you from imminent doom, depending on when you activate it. Another item extends your limited push meter, giving you a chance to drive your score ever higher. These abilities and restrictions keep you on your toes, and the game introduces color-changing blocks and severe push limits as you progress.
Although Fractal’s stages quickly ratchet up the difficulty, a fun chaining system mitigates the challenge by boosting your score. You chain by triggering multiple blooms simultaneously, which garners even more points if you include power-ups in the blooms. It takes some skill to carefully plan out a chain, and performing a cluster–triggering a bloom that shares blocks with another bloom–adds significant points to your total. Chaining also enhances the excitement by flashing a bevy of light particles and words of approval, like “smoking” or “dastardly,” across the screen. These displays match Fractal’s minimalist look, pairing well with its vivid hexagons and pretty pastel backdrops that feature geometric graffiti. The background music adds a final modern touch by responding to your actions. It slows to subtle drum beats and cymbals when you’re having trouble, but bursts into violins when you’re chaining, which intensifies the moment.
The campaign mode is the game’s main highlight, though additional modes offer new tasks and strategies. An exhilarating arcade mode allows you unlimited pushes but severely restricts the clock, forcing you to trigger blooms from blocks containing time slots. This intense survival mode implements three difficulty options to remain just as tough as the campaign mode, so it requires strategy as well as speed. If you need to slow down, however, the puzzle mode offers tactical brainteasers for those who prefer more relaxed play. This mode challenges you to complete an objective, such as “trigger five blooms,” within a set number of pushes. Completing the puzzle mode is no easy task. Most of its objectives require a thorough understanding of the game’s nuances, and they often implement other factors, like strange grid shapes, to keep you thinking. This mode also operates as a handy tutorial, helping you master advanced blooming techniques.
Fractal’s challenging gameplay is alluring, but some of that difficulty comes from the sheer luck of the draw, rather than than a true test of skill. There are only 30 stages in the Campaign mode, but the rapidly advancing difficulty prevents you from breezing through them. It’s very difficult to predict chains past two or three blooms, which makes it even harder to foresee how their results affect the board. This means that while mastering Fractal takes a good deal of skill, your best scores will likely stem from guesswork, which can get frustrating in later levels. Fortunately, the game’s addictive nature makes up for it by pushing you to give a stage “just one more try.”
Fractal: Make Blooms Not War is a refreshing puzzler. Its cool aesthetic and subtle complexities intrigue you, while the thrill of chaining massive blooms in a dazzling array of light keeps you coming back for more. The result is a satisfying puzzler despite its occasional emphasis on luck. Though the campaign mode is somewhat short, Fractal grips you from start to finish.