Puzzle games that are challenging and entertaining can sometimes be hard to come by. The trend of silent story games being platformer, puzzle based has certainly taken over the genre and poured influence into multiple developers working on titles today. 4L Games didn’t focus on the platforming aspect at all when they made FRACTER, but rather kept it purely focused on a puzzle game. Using light as the main aspect for the puzzles base and giving an interesting set up to why we are going through the different areas, you can tell they have a purpose hidden under the gameplay.
Controls for the game are simple and easy to work with. You have the basic movement options, including a toggle run and toggle sneak. I never did use the sneak option myself, but I did see where it could be used. That’s it for the controls because there is no jumping, climbing, or anything other than regular movement.
The main thing in the game is a light orb that sticks with you. This is how you can see anything, anywhere in the game and sometimes leaves you to light up a large area of a puzzle. Once you finish any puzzle or jump on a different pathway, the orb will return to you to light up your direct pathway. The orb being with you is the best time to find hidden pathways however as the overall light up area is positioned in a way to only show you the direct puzzle you are working on.
Interacting with the puzzle items though requires the mouse. While there were parts of the puzzles where you had to push something along a track, which is done by going to the side you want to push from and walking into the object, most puzzle tasks can be handled with the mouse. This includes lifting, turning, spinning, and everything in between.
The puzzles themselves start off easy, progressively get harder, then eventually start blending to incorporate multiple styles at once, and the final level being a giant heap of what you have learned thrown at you in a giant series of puzzles. It is typically get the light source to point in the right direction and end up hitting the switch that will open the continuing path way. Sure, it sounds simple, but once they bring in enemies, mirror turns, spinning platforms, and giant pathways to work with, the challenge will become obvious.
Now, the enemies they have are kind of zombie-like. They just aimlessly walk around an area of a puzzle waiting for any sign of life to catch their attention. If they do spot you, they do this creepy spider crawl towards you and get really fast. They can be outrun, but it isn’t easy, so your best bet is to make them run into a light of any kind because that is what kills them.
Along with enemies, there are collectible or savable entities as well. They are like glowing, light versions of your character and each level shows you how many can be found in the level before you enter it. These can be simply found by taking a hidden pathway or can end up being behind a puzzle of its own. It was interesting to also find them in spots where you had to do the puzzle, that is meant to be done for you to continue, in a way different than the end goal wants so that you can open a pathway that would otherwise be unreachable.
Simplistic perfectly summarizes both of these aspects of the game. Not to say this in a bad way, but they keep the visual to a black and white art style with some gray scale in there for shades. It is purely based on light, so there are times you are left in pure darkness or hidden pathways are only shown while you have your light orb with you.
The sound effects and music is as expansive as the visuals of the game, where they are only around to emphasize a moment or give life to things going on around you.
Seeing how it is a puzzle game, there isn’t much of a reason to go back through the game. The puzzles will be solved the same way as the first time. Other than being a completionist and wanting to find all of the light entities, there is no reason to go back through the game.
What It Could Have Done Better
There were a couple glitches I came across that I did end up sending to the developers. These can be fixed, but as it stands I had to restart the game twice due to a couple soft locks I came across.
Why doesn’t the pause menu have a “Start from Checkpoint” option? If you get stuck or want to go back, there is only the option to exit the level or exit the game making you reload in order go back to a checkpoint for any reason.
Probably a repeating complaint from me when it comes to puzzle games, but it was rather short. I would have liked a couple levels where all the aspects were blended together rather than just one large one. Solving the puzzles at the end of these games are the highlight moment of the game and gives me the most enjoyment when solving through the hardest part of the game. I wish developers would stop making final puzzle levels like a final boss and just send us through puzzle hell.
FRACTER was a unique puzzle game worth the time I put into it! I can’t believe this game has flown under the radar and isn’t as popular as the other games within the similar genre. With how big the quiet story puzzle games are these days, this game should get noticed by way more people. I enjoyed making my way through the game and solving all the different light-based puzzles they had to offer. I highly recommend this for anybody who enjoys other games like Inside, Darq, and Little Nightmares!