As one of the oldest genres in gaming, platformers are always looking for a way to stand out. There has to be some kind of new element which draws players in and allows them to experience either something new or something more refined than what’s come before. In the case of Fractured Soul, the developers at Endgame Studios have taken full advantage of the 3DS’s dual screens. The main character is able to shift his existence from one screen to the other in an instant in order to get through the myriad of platforming challenges and enemy gauntlets. It’s certainly an intriguing idea, but is the execution good enough to compliment it?
The story of Fractured Soul is extremely threadbare. The only hints as to what the player character’s, known only as an Entity, ultimate goal is as well as why he has the ability to shift between dimensions are provided before each level. It never becomes a cohesive plot, but that’s obviously not the focus. The story is merely a tool to explain why certain things are happening in each level. Fortunately, it’s the levels where Fractured Soul stands out. While the aesthetic design leaves a lot to be desired, the levels are all smartly crafted and gradually introduce new elements to shifting realities.
It starts out simply enough with barriers, ladders, enemies, and platforms existing in one reality but not in the other. In due time, the Entity has to make it past tricky platforms and traps by moving and shifting at the same time. The Entity has only a few moves at his disposal beyond the reality shift. He can jump, use a booster for a double jump, and shoot a laser. Enemies come in a few varieties, but none present much of a challenge unless they’re placed in such a way that impedes platforming. Eventually more new elements are introduced such as one reality being normal while the other is underwater or is superheated or has the gravity reversed. It’s these elements that give the game a great sense of fun. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of accomplishment you get when beating a particularly tricky section. Unfortunately, there’s quite a bit of frustration before that. Maybe it just took me longer than most, but certain platforming sections had me absolutely stumped for longer than I care to admit.
And that’s where I stopped having fun. For all the relief you feel when completing a hard challenge, there’s an enormous amount of frustration that builds up before that. Fractured Soul asks a lot of the player with little leeway. It’s certainly doable, but you will die over and over and over again. Sometimes it’s not so bad when a checkpoint is right there to help you along, but certain levels demand that you pass every challenge in one go. It boils down to trial and error most of the time and makes progress feel like a war of attrition. The best levels are the ones that naturally build off the skills you’ve learned up to that point with the final few being the best of the bunch. There are also space shooter levels which require you to defeat enemies on both screens in order to keep your ship alive.
Despite having 25 levels, Fractured Soul isn’t the longest of games. Most players will be able to beat it in anywhere between three to six hours depending on how often they get stuck. The game does offer some replay value though as each level features collectible items which add to a star count. Five stars can be earned in each level by collecting all these items as well as beating it under the par time. Whatever your time is, it is uploaded to the game’s leaderboards where you can compare your times with friends or a national ranking. It’s a nice little feature for those who want to completely master the game. The stars also unlock five bonus levels which are especially tricky. While the $12 asking price may seem a bit steep, there’s plenty here for those willing to sink the time into it.
The music mostly consists of the standard techno fair as well as a few ambient pieces. It fits the setting well, but it eventually becomes a non-entity when you become so focused on the challenges ahead. The graphics are clean if a bit too clinical. Maybe that was the mood the developers were going for, but nothing outright impressed me. This is a game solely focused on the player experience and, in that aspect, it performs admirably. Ultimately, Fractured Soul will appeal to players looking for a real platforming challenge and those who are drawn to speed running and posting their times on leaderboards. Those who aren't up to the challenge will just find themselves frustrated.
Developer: Endgame Studios
Genre: Shooter, Platformer, Action
Release: September 13, 2012
Available On: 3DSWare
Platformers - Love 'em
Mega Man series - Like it
Space shooters - Meh