BASS OF OPERATIONS
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.