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August 30, 2011

Review: Fractal for iPad

Posted by on Aug 30, 2011

A couple of weeks ago, we announced that Cipher Prime‘s Fractal was on sale in anticipation of their launch of the game for the iPad.  The game has since launched, and I have had the chance to take it out for a spin.  This latest offering is every bit as good as previous titles from the Cipher Prime boys, and is, in my opinion, far superior to its original incarnation on the Mac and PC. Read on for my thoughts.

Fractal is a puzzle game in which players are given a board made up of many hexagonal spaces. The goal is to clear as many colored pieces from the board as possible by pushing them around to form “clusters.” When a cluster is formed, it explodes, sending colored tiles outward briefly before they disappear. This behavior allows a player to create chain reactions of clusters, which is both useful for increasing the number of points earned and decreasing the number of tile pushes required to meet the clear target for a given level.

This might sound confusing when I describe it (it did to me), but it will take you less than five minutes of playing to pick it up – and once you do, you’ll find the gameplay so addictive that you’ll have a lot of trouble putting it down again.  I recommend first time players fire up the campaign mode and start progressing that way.  It gradually ramps up the difficulty and you get enough early successes to keep driving you forward. And let’s not forget how beautiful this game is.  The soothing colors, gorgeous animations, and excellent music make this not just a game but an audio visual experience.  You should definitely use a good set of headphones for this one.

Like any good game, it continues to build on itself, adding more rules and more ways to eliminate tiles as the levels progress.  Fractal does a great job at introducing these concepts in an approachable way.  When progressing through the campaign, a new tile type will be presented to the player every few levels or so. For example, my favorite tile type is an electricity tile. When you complete a bloom involving this tile, all tiles of the same color that are connected are cleared at once, letting you clear literally half the board if you set it up properly.  The amount of points required to pass the level will generally be a bit lower (or you’ll have more moves to get the same score), which takes the pressure off and lets you play with the new technique while still advancing in the campaign.

Strategic use of an electrify node can clear a good deal of the board.

 

Once you’ve either beaten or gotten tired of the campaign, there are two other modes to capture your interest as well.  Puzzle mode takes you through a series of challenges of increasing difficulty, first designed to teach you game concepts, then designed to challenge your mastery of them.  This is a good place to go after playing the campaign for a while, since it will teach you some gameplay techniques you might not have discovered on your own, making future sessions easier. The second mode is arcade, which is just how it sounds.  You get a random board and try to get the highest possible score on successive clears.  All of your scores can be posted to the Apple Game Center to compare yourself with the rest of the world.

All of this functionality is on the PC/Mac version of the game that has been available for about a year, so if you’ve played this, you’ll know exactly what you’re in for.  But let me tell you, having played both versions extensively, Fractal for iPad is the way Fractal was meant to be played.  The added interactivity of using your fingers instead of the mouse to interact with the board feels so much more natural, and being able to pull out my iPad to play the game at a moment’s notice is far superior to booting up a laptop just to play.

Puzzle mode offers players a host of preset scenarios to solve.

 

Fractal is available on the Apple app store now, and if you act soon, you can get it for a meager 99 cents.  You owe it to yourself to own this game, so go and get it.