App Review: Fractopia (PlayStation Mobile)

Fractopia PlayStation Mobile

Fractals… a mathematical wonder and something that have held a fascination with artists for years. Since computers were powerful enough to render fractal based graphics quickly enough they’ve been used in games or artistic displays since the 80s and now it’s the Vita’s turn thanks to Nostatic Software…

My first encounter with fractals in computers were thanks to LucasFilm Games and the Commodore 64 when they released a series of games using a fractal engine to create vast mountainous landscapes the likes of which had never been seen before in the 8-bit era. It wasn’t until the Amiga and the legendary demo scene when I was first introduced to the beauty that was seen from the recursive imagery displayed from the Julia and Madelbrot fractal sets. In those days, they were often used as still images or pre-rendered animation as the computing power simply wasn’t there to render animations real time but they still looked remarkable.

It’s clear that Mike Oliphant from Nostatic Software loves the sheer beauty of these as well so Fractopia was born. In essence, it’s a small app for PlayStation Mobile which allows you to view eight variations on the Julia and Mandelbrot sets rendered to the Vita’s screen and then using the touch screen or right stick you can pan and zoom in on them. In addition to resizing the images, you are able to alter the colours used for each of them and find out specific details about the variations on the Julia or Mandelbrot set in use. In the case of the Julia set, you can also adjust the parameters themselves to create a significantly wider ranger of images than the eight presets on offer.

And that’s pretty much all there is to it and that’s the big problem with Fractopia. Once you’ve looked at the different renders of the fractal sets and played around with the colour settings and the variations for the Julia set, you’ve pretty much explored all there is to it. Where Fractopia could really show some sort of appeal to show how remarkable fractals really are seems to fall flat as well because all of the images have a fixed zoom limit and once that is reached all you can do is zoom out or just return to the main menu. It’s only a minor point, but being able to see for yourself the never-ending nature of fractals would have been a really big plus point for the app and it’s sorely lacking.

With the retricted zoom functionality part of the main appeal of fractals has been taken away and it’s something that you’re not likely to return to after your first use, despite the ability to explore deeper into the diversity that the Julia set has to offer. Granted, it can create some breathtaking images and with the Vita’s ability to take in-app screenshots easily you could create some superb custom backdrops for your PS Vita’s menu screens but it’s hard to see what else you could do with it.

With the app running in complete silence as well, there’s nothing really there to recommend it other than as a curiosity for long term appeal. Could it be improved? Certainly and I think a lot of work is needed to make it a worthy purchase if you’re looking for something you’ll use more than once or twice, but sadly as it stands it’s not something I can honestly recommend as a must-have purchase to anyone other than someone with a deep-rooted fascination with fractal imagery.

Simon Plumbe

At A Glance

  • Title: Fractopia
  • Publisher: Nostatic Software
  • System: PlayStation Mobile
  • Format: PSN Download
  • Cross Buy: No
  • Cross Play: No
  • Online Multiplayer: No
  • Memory Card Space Needed: 5Mb

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About Simon Plumbe 892 Articles
Husband, father and lifelong geek. Originally from the West Midlands, now spending my days in South Wales with my family and a house full of animals. Passionate about video games, especially retro gaming, the Commodore 64 and PlayStation Vita. Love pro wrestling, sci-fi and I'm an animal lover and vegetarian.Enjoyed this and my other articles? Why not buy me a coffee: http://ko-fi.com/simonplumbe

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