Fractal: Make Blooms Not War review
A good puzzle game subtly rewires your brain, and there are certainly enough surprises lurking within Fractal to get some new synapses firing. Cipher Prime's extremely pretty offering tasks you with creating "blooms", circular groupings of seven same-coloured hexes, by tapping an empty space on the board and "pushing" new tiles out in the direction of every piece touching it. It's a challenging concept to get your head around at first, and not one that you'll easily confuse with the likes of Tetris or Bejeweled.
There's more here than originality, however. Fractal, as the name suggests, quickly becomes rather complex, introducing two colours per board – you can only match like with like, of course – and throwing in a range of special tiles like explosive mines, points boosters, and a lightning bolt that lets you clear any connected tiles of the same hue when you touch it off, Lumines-style. Each level gives you a tile target to clear before your allotted number of pushes run down, and the campaign encourages you to learn quickly, with even early stages offering swift punishment if you waste precious moves.
Elsewhere, the same mechanic lives on brilliantly in a three-part time-extending Arcade mode, while a separate series of discrete puzzle scenarios need to be unlocked in the main campaign but are actually the best place to start your Fractal career, as they break the game down into its constituent parts far more elegantly than the developer's scribbled instructions do.
With its pulsing, ever-changing playing fields and foppish rhythm-action audio elements, one of the main reasons to play Fractal is simply to enjoy its wonderful aesthetics. Luckily, as is so rarely the case with a new puzzler, beneath the smart visuals lies a challenge that's truly worthy of your mastery: a creative and surprisingly prickly form of mental weeding that swiftly becomes a pleasure to lose yourself within.