BASS OF OP­ER­A­TIONS

EDGE - - PLAY -

Com­plete one of the main puz­zles and the cam­era an­gle shifts abruptly. Sur­prised by this atyp­i­cal hand­hold­ing, you take the hint. Plat­forms form un­der your feet, guid­ing you to a brief puzzle in which you ar­range notes on a se­quencer. They’re a great change of pace, tax­ing a dif­fer­ent part of the brain, but re­ward­ing it in the same way, with the mu­sic reach­ing an­other crescendo. You also un­lock new synths and ef­fects for the se­quencer at your home stu­dio. move one at all un­less you’re stand­ing on a colour­coded plat­form, get­ting to which is a puzzle in it­self.

Get­ting stuck can frus­trate in a game that gives you so lit­tle in the way of in­struc­tion, but the mu­sic keeps you go­ing, build­ing up as you progress, a new el­e­ment ar­riv­ing in the mix for each suc­cess­ful step you take through a puzzle. It’s no mere sound­track, ei­ther. Those cir­cuitry puz­zles, for in­stance, aren’t just about lin­ing up com­po­nents in the right or­der: power must pass through me­ters whose nee­dles are ma­nip­u­lated into po­si­tion by tweak­ing vol­ume or ef­fects lev­els.

When you suc­ceed and the fi­nal piece of the puzzle slots into place, your re­ward isn’t a text back­slap, achieve­ment popup or skill point, but a drop. Beats and bass crash in as the record you’ve been piec­ing to­gether reaches a crescendo. It’s like hav­ing Boards Of Canada noodling away be­hind you as you work on the world’s hard­est jig­saw puzzle and both of you hav­ing two very dif­fer­ent eureka mo­ments at the same time.

Where play­ing Pro­teus meant find­ing beauty in its pro­ce­du­rally gen­er­ated mu­si­cal chaos, Fract OSC’s use of mu­sic is rigidly au­thored, and is all the more pow­er­ful for it. It can be too ob­tuse at times, but the re­wards are quite un­like any­thing else in games: the mu­sic peaks, a laser beam rock­ets off into the sky, and you turn, head­ing off af­ter that dis­tant synth, in search of your next project deeper in the neon un­known.

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