I've never understood the phrase "when push comes to shove". What's that even supposed to mean? I think it has something to do with how one action can produce a significant reaction, but is it necessarily a bad thing? In Fractal, the newest puzzle game by Cipher Prime (makers of Auditorium), pushing and shoving in just the right way can lead to an explosively good time.
In Fractal, your goal is to create "blooms", which are made of six "fractals" (hexagons) of the same color surrounding a central fractal. To do this, click on any open space next to a fractal on the board (including the outside border). In any direction where there's an adjacent fractal, a new fractal appears, pushing existing fractals outward from where you click. When a bloom is made, the seven fractals are removed from the board, and create a final push from the center of the bloom, expanding out in all six directions. (Really, this all makes more sense when you see it in action.)
It is by harnessing the effects of each push that you're capable of setting up multiple blooms, chain reactions, and taking advantage of power-ups like explosions and lightning. If you're playing in Campaign Mode, your goal is to clear enough fractals with your limited supply of pushes to make it to the next level and rack up a high score. Arcade Mode challenges you to clear special fractals to boost your time remaining, and Puzzle Mode pits you against a series of brain-bending challenges that test your planning abilities.
Analysis: Cipher Prime succeeds once again in creating a puzzle with an atmosphere that pops with energy and a unique challenge. Fractal uses a music system that changes with how well you're playing, speeding up if you're running out of time or slowing down as you run out of pushes. Granted, it sometimes feels like the same loop is being played in different keys with different levels, but it's still not offensive to the ear. The combination of music and graphics creates a sense of excitement that rewards every successful move you make.
Being successful, however, is quite tricky. If you're looking to line up chain reactions or larger blooms, it's sometimes hard to remember that every move you make can have multiple consequences. Pushing some fractals into place to finish a bloom then causes six rows of fractals to be pushed outward, possibly taking the next move you had in mind out of alignment. It takes careful planning, two, three, even five steps ahead to really master this game.
Whether or not you achieve this balance of strategy and luck, Fractal is a unique puzzle that caters to all levels of experience. The three modes of gameplay (actually, five, considering that there are three different Arcade Mode challenges) provide a wide variety of ways to play, and can satisfy cravings for both quickfire explosions or tediously planned chaos.
While the complexity of Fractal is hard to describe, it's quite easy to play, but still a challenge to fully conquer. So start pushing, and watch a world of possibilities bloom before your very eyes.