Sawbuck Gamer


The Ways Of The Maze

Fracuum makes you work the angles.

By Anthony John Agnello • May 7, 2012

Fracuum is a game of right angles in the best possible way. Orthogonal games are good because they’re easy to understand. Tetris makes sense because all the little shapes with right angles fit together so nicely. Pac-Man makes sense because all the paths the yellow glutton has to follow are simple and sharp. Fracuum uses its hard angles to build a taxing descent into microscopic realms.

You are a white square that enters a series of mazes that are recursively nested within each other—like when a TV camera is pointed at a screen displaying its own feed, and suddenly there’s TV screens within TV screens to infinity. You traverse this nesting doll of parallelograms with the goal of making it to the center. Standing in the way of your heroic white square, though, are mean multicolored squares that shoot at you. Different enemies shoot in different patterns, so your passage becomes a sort of rhythm game as well.

Getting to the center of Fracuum requires a bit of tricky thinking. Since each new arena zooms into a full-screen view when you enter it, your previous trail becomes obscured. Halfway through the game, you can follow a path that’ll take you close enough to the center that you can see the “Game Over” message, but that’s just a tantalizing glimpse. You still have to backtrack out to find the proper way down. By then though, your life bar may be depleted, so the path-finding challenge is augmented by the stress of survival.

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143 Responses to “The Ways Of The Maze”

  1. Aaron Riccio says:

    Wow. I know someone in another thread had been talking up the Ludlum Dare games (#23 in particular), but this was a really well-executed game. My only complaint has to do with some of the transitions, in which shots can sometimes hit you while you’re busy switching between sizes from frame to frame of the maze, but I imagine that was meant to be part of the challenge. No desire to replay though; I’ll let 2070 rest as my score, unless someone reveals that collecting all of those cross-items unlocks the reversed castle.

    Incidentally, while playing this maze-within-a-maze, I wondered once again why nobody has attempted to make a “Cube” video game. I think that’d be a crazy dark and good adventure puzzler.

    • green_gin_rickey says:

       I made it to the center, and then didn’t know what to do. Hurray me!

      • Aaron Riccio says:

        I’m assuming by now that you’ve figured out how to damage the Thwomp-like “boss” located in that area.

        • green_gin_rickey says:

           Nah, I gave up and read an article about adventure games instead. That’s just how committed I am.

    • green_gin_rickey says:

       In related news, how do you change your display name/profile pic on here? I just want it match AV Club! That’s all I ever wanted!

    • Didn’t they try to make a Cube game back around the turn of the century? Maybe I hallucinated that, but I thought it happened around the same time the PS2 game of The Thing went into production.

    • 3FistedHumdinger says:

      That’s an interesting idea, how would one design that?  Assuming that unlike the film, you would be best served by actually leaving the starting cube.

      • Aaron Riccio says:

        I’m envisioning a procedurally generated game (changes each time) in which you must a) figure out the pattern in which the rooms are moving and b) find clues in random rooms that help you to “decode” a lock that’s in that original starting room. You begin each session with six players, perhaps each with a special ability, and your goal is to get as many of them out as possible. 

        I’m not sure how the puzzles themselves would work — on the lightest end of gameplay, perhaps there’d be, say, ten “types” of traps, each with their own corresponding mini-game (and each of those six characters is “better” at some than others, like, say, Dangerous High School Girls in Trouble) — in each room, you’d have a limited amount of time to deactivate the trap, or it would kill the player. (Sort of like Clock Tower — death scenes galore!) 

        A different approach would give you a more guided/focused trip through the cube — perhaps like Seventh Guest/Eleventh Hour, with doses of The Dig’s “What the hell am I even being asked?” — in which you’d solve full-on logic puzzles and then decipher larger “cube-wide” puzzles by finding objects hidden in the rooms. (This would be more difficult considering that the rooms were intentionally spartan.)

        Anybody else have any ideas?

    • blue vodka lemonade says:

       Apparently there’s a Fallout 3 mod called “Cube Experimental” inspired by the movie. Make of that what you will.

    • Collecting all the “money” just gets you an achievement. I thought you had to do that in order to unlock the center. :P

      Did earn me 2850, though.

  2. lokimotive says:

    This game was easier when I found the gun. I went through a whole play through just trying to dodge. Once I found the gun, I still died, it was just later.

  3. RidleyFGJ says:

    Something about this seemed very familiar, and Tyler Glaiel seemed like a name I already knew. Sure enough, the end of the game advertises Closure on PSN and it all hit me at once.

    I think I like this Tyler Glaiel fellow.

  4. Zach Adams says:

    This game feels like a really good Atari 2600 game to me. The scaling is smoother and there’s more on the screen at a time, but it’s got a very Atari design to it.

    I mean this as a high compliment; far too many people try for the Atari aesthetic, and either get the surface graphics right while missing the feel and mechanic, or just make shit games.