Fragment, one of the fourteen point-and-click adventure games found stuffed inside the AGS Bake Sale bundle, is the final product of a team effort from Ben Chandler and Sebastian Pfaller. It’s a much more serious story than I’m used to with Chandler’s games, like picking up a Roald Dahl novel only to discover it’s really some new shadowy tome by William Gibson. Still, it’s an enjoyable hour and change of puzzle-solving, but maybe not the happiest. Definitely unnerving from the moment you collect your first fragment, that’s for sure.
It’s the future, and no, I don’t know what year. You play as Timothy Jenkins, a young, blonde-as-a-lemon scientist conducting a range of experiments around the exploration of human memory and emotions, aided by a female AI called Arkady. Lately, Tim has been losing himself in his work, as he recently broke up with his girlfriend Marylee, and he’ll take any distraction he can get. This work involves exploring different virtual plateaus for fragments of data, and Arkady has begun creating these landscapes from Tim’s memories, an act he’s slowly finding a bit disturbing. And rightly so. Naturally, as human-crafted AI are wont to do, ulterior plans are brewing in the background, and Tim eventually finds himself trapped in these digital dimensions.
Fragment has a great gameplay setup that constantly keeps things fresh and had me looking forward to jumping back into the
Animus virtual realms that Arkady put together. Each plateau you visit is strikingly different in tone, look, and puzzles, and that made hoping back in all the more exciting. There’s also some great, moody sci-fi tunes that are heavy on the bass to provide a unique soundtrack while you are scouring the screen for important pixels to click on. At first, when Tim commented on the music, I was taken aback, but it all eventually makes sense. After you’ve collected a fragment, you have to do a small puzzle on the computer of finishing a broken circular design (or sometimes very non-circular), but all this equates to is just clicking around enough until everything lines up. It’s something else to do, but I’d rather have more things to look at/interact with on the plateaus. Everything else is pretty standard for the adventure game genre, with one mouse button to look and the other for using, and you are never found carrying useless or red herring items, which I always appreciate.
So, there’s two possible endings based on a key decision you make near the very end of Tim’s sojourn. For those curious, I went with quarantine, but I’ll probably see if I can find a different choice played out on YouTube or something, because I’m curious, though not enough to play through it again, as nothing else seems like it would change. The plateaus ramp up in difficulty fairly slowly, but the few ending stages, despite how sparse they actually are, end up being the most interesting parts of Fragment. They had me re-thinking my literal steps, and the puzzles there are quite inventive and unlike anything else in the game.
Other than the fact that Tim looks nothing like a scientist in my stereotypical mind, I really enjoyed Fragment. Again, it’s very dark, very dreamy, very futuristic in an uncertain sort of way, but there’s a lot of beautiful visuals and interesting topics discussed, like what it means to be human, what it means to be artificial, and what it means to be social, all aspects I struggle with daily. Plus, a groovy soundtrack. I’m not sure if Chandler & Co. have released it for free or not since the AGS Bake Sale ended though.