Last year, Cipher Prime followed up their auricular puzzle game, Auditorium, with yet another puzzler, Fractal for the PC. Long story short, we enjoyed it. Short story long, the game featured simple yet challenging puzzles set to a mellow soundtrack. It stole the hours from under your oblivious feet.
The game is back and this time it’s for the iPad in the form of Fractal: Make Blooms Not War. After getting caught nearly numb pushing hexagons to an fro for who know how long, one must say that it’s as much a match made in heaven as a game and platform can get.
For those who haven’t played the first game, the premise is simple — push hexagons into a grouping of 7. This is called a bloom. Create blooms for points and fill your bloom quota to progress to the next level. Like the devil, the challenge is in the details.
In line with the original, Fractal: Make Blooms Not War eases the player into the campaign with a simple, one bloom board and a more than manageable number of pushes. With each level, the board expands and the quota increases. After a few more levels, the game starts offering up truer challenges like multiple colors. The number of pushes become a quagmire in their own right as they become a precious resource. Bombs and electricity start to play a factor as they can gain you more points, yet get in the way of making blooms.
By about half way in this 30 level set, even the most veteran puzzle player will appreciate how aggravatingly wonderful and addicting making blooms is. To up the replay, there is also a timed arcade mode and a puzzle mode (of course) full of various, one-off challenges. This has all been seen before with its PC predecessor, however. The main focus for this title is the interface.
There is no way around it, making blooms is best done on the iPad. With Apple’s ubiquitous tablet, the game takes on a special kind of life that it never had on the PC. The simple fact you can create a chain reaction of colorful and violent explosions with one gentle touch can be exhilarating.
I can get philosophical and metaphoric by comparing the legion synaptic firings when a child first discovers how a calm pool of water ripples when s/he touches it, but I’m not going to. I’m just going to say puzzle games are pleasantly different when you’re touching instead of clicking or pressing a button, reminiscent of a childhood playing with jigsaw puzzles or building blocks. I’m also going to say that Fractal: Make Blooms Not War is a prime specimen.
So I’m not just gushing about tactile experience, the game does make some technical improvements over the original. Great example, checkpoints: in the original, players had to make it through ten levels before they reached the first checkpoint, lest they start excruciatingly from the beginning. This time, checkpoints come at increments of five. This is a vast improvement since filling that bloom quota can be extremely difficult with the number of pushes coming in shorter and shorter supply as you progress.
Cipher Prime also tweaked the art direction with slightly different fonts, sleeker icons and flashier bloom explosions. These are very small details, but, when put together they make a world of difference. Fractal: Make Blooms Not War is sharper and more mature than its predecessor because of it. And, in my opinion, its more enjoyable.