Fracter Review: A deeply engaging atmospheric puzzle game

Fracter is an atmospheric puzzle adventure game that is filled with melancholy imagery, haunting music, and complex puzzles. Anyone with an affinity for games that challenge the brain and provide a unique storyline is in for a treat. I've been excited for the release of Fracter since I first heard about it in May. You can finally get it in the App Store today.

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What is Fracter anyway?

That's a great question. Even after playing through multiple levels of the game, I'm still not totally sure what Fracter is all about, and that's how the game's developer, San Suryavanshi, wants it. Though you're led through the game's expansive world with the help of a friendly sprite, you are in charge of your interpretation. Are you putting back together pieces of yourself that you've lost? Are you tracking down the good in you while your dark side tries to keep you down? How you read the story is up to you and the ambiguity was intentional. It makes for a much more interesting conversation among players.

You control a woman exploring a very dark labyrinth in search of fractured parts of her light side. Behind each door, there are a number of light beings that you'll want to reconnect with before moving onto the next room.

Puzzles include rotating platforms, switches that are triggered by light, and buttons that you press to unlock new areas.

There are also shadows of your self, lurking in the dark. If you get too close to one, it will chase you until you can either put a barrier between you and the shadow, or you can kill it by hitting it with light.

Everything light is dark


Fracter is dark in multiple ways; visually and emotionally. It's hued with rich elements of black, gray, and white to give you a sense of isolation and confusion. You can't see much further than what's right in front of you at any given time. Are you on the right path? Is there something hiding in the shadows? It's nearly too late before you realize you should turn back.

The entire game is shrouded in darkens so that you can't exactly see the details, but you are aware of them. I could almost describe what the unnamed heroine is wearing, but not really.

Each level is made up of a series of pathways that you must travel across to find the light pieces. Sometimes, it seems like you're surrounded by water. Other times, you're high above the deepest chasm, though you'll never fall to your death.

Complex puzzles to keep you interested


The game starts you off fairly slowly. The puzzles are simple and easy to solve. They are basically the intro puzzles to give you an idea of how to play the game. By the time you reach the third door, however, the complexity ramps up significantly and you must consider all of your options as you wander through the labyrinth, looking for the answers.

You may have to step on a button to activate a rotating platform. Then, rotate the platform the right way to access another platform. Then, rotate the second platform to access a third, following this same set of actions until you reach the light piece. All the while, hiding from the shadows because, without a light source, all you can do is hide from them.

You may have to manipulate a number of different sources of light so that their beams trigger a switch. Sometimes, beams must be bent using a mirror. Sometimes, you must rotate a platform in order to get both the light sources and the beams in the correct places so that the beam lines up correctly.

As you progress through the game, the puzzles layer on the complexity, all while asking you to keep an eye out for the baddies.

Watch out for those baddies


Though this is a puzzle game, there is an element of action. I've mentioned the shadows that lurk in the dark. They will attack you and break you down if you don't watch out.

You don't have any weapons on your person. You can destroy them, but only by using light sources in the environment. When you move a beam into the direct path of a shadow, it will disintegrate.

You can also use those light beams to protect you from the shadows. If there is a beam up, the shadow won't try to walk past it to attack you. It will instead bang its fist on the light barrier and then walk away.

How it all plays out


You move around by using an on-screen joystick, which you can change in the settings section to be a floating joystick or hold-to-move. I preferred the floating joystick because it gave me the ability to use my left or right thumb to walk while using the other hand to perform other actions, like rotating a light source or platform.

Aside from walking or running around, you'll also be tasked with rotating objects, which you can do by touching the object, like a light source or platform, and moving your finger in a circular motion in the direction you want to go.

There are some additional minor mechanics, like pushing a large block, which are noted by the game's helpful narration.

What is the meaning of it all?


At the beginning of the game, the protagonist looks into a mirror, after which dozens of light and dark silhouettes run out from it. The lone woman left standing becomes drained. As you collect the light pieces, she gains back her energy and moves faster through the labyrinth.

I don't want to try to interpret the intent of the story too much. The fun is discovering what the story means to you.

Interspersed through the different levels are poems that both help you understand how to play and give you some insight into what it all means.

You'll have to play Fracter to find out what you think the story is all about.

A note on the soundtrack


I would be remiss if I didn't mention the beautiful soundtrack and audio effects that go along with Fracter. It's clear that a lot of time and effort went into, not only creating atmospheric music that fits the mood of the game, but the right kind of gameplay audio to add to the overall effect. Moving light sources to create beams, for example, is on par with the likes of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Each movement of the beam creates a different tone. It's really lovely.

When I spoke with the game's developer, San Suryavanshi, he told me that Mark Latimer was the lead sound designer and worked with the team at La Hacienda Creative in Montreal. The music and sound effects really add to the overall immersive engagement. There is no official news yet on a dedicated soundtrack, but Suryavanshi hinted that there's something in the works and we may see it later this year.

My Verdict

Fracter is a beautiful and engaging game that makes me feel both joyful and sad when I play. Joyful because it's unique and interesting and makes my use my brain to solve those puzzles. Sad because the story I've made in my head about what's going on is a loss of innocence and trying to remember what it feels like to be carefree and happy again. #Imnotcryingyourecrying.

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Lory Gil

Lory is a renaissance woman, writing news, reviews, and how-to guides for iMore. She also fancies herself a bit of a rock star in her town and spends too much time reading comic books.  If she's not typing away at her keyboard, you can probably find her at Disneyland or watching Star Wars (or both).