After being in development for nearly eight years, Fractured Soul has finally arrived. Created by Melbourne-based developer Endgame Studios and calling the 3DS eShop home, Fractured Soul is a 2D platform game with a twist. The action takes place on both screens at once! While this may not sound like such an original concept, the idea originally came to light back during the DS generation. Inspired by Mega Man and Ikaruga, Fractured Soul is a challenging game that requires players to make their way through a variety of side-scrolling levels and even take charge of some shoot ‘em up space flight missions.
The difficult nature of Fractured Soul is what hits you when you first launch the game. Pinpoint accuracy is required when running, jumping and shooting, along with full attention to what’s happening on both screens at all times. It’s not exactly the type of game you would want to play if you had a short temper or were attending anger management classes. The pain is luckily eased with the inclusion of occasional checkpoints and also a steep, but fair increase in difficulty over time. The controls lend themselves well to all of this being incredibly precise and responsive. This pays off in the later stages of the game when life-saving choices need to be made every second.
If you’re able to stick with it, Fractured Soul offers a rewarding and satisfying experience. Platform veterans who enjoy navigating their way through complex levels will be right at home here. With a tap of the L or R button, action effortlessly swaps from one screen to the other. You could be jumping platforms on one screen, when all of a sudden they run out. Look up top and you’ll see there’s a path. Swap screens and you can continue on. It’s that easy! The same applies to barriers or enemies appearing on one screen. Based on what appears where, the player must make the decision of which screen they should be on. It’s this simple but unique mechanic that makes Fractured Soul standout from the usual 2D platform offerings.
In between levels are shoot ‘em up space flight sections. These provide much needed breaks from the core game. As weird as this may seem, it actually works out quite well. The whole futuristic robot space theme means the two genres go hand in hand. These sections are best described as classic shoot ‘em up levels inspired by games such as Ikaruga. Players must guide their ship through space and at the same time gun down everything in their path whilst avoiding oncoming fire. Adding an extra layer of depth to the experience is the online leader board system. This feature allows players to compare their times to friends or the world. There are also secret items to be uncovered, which adds to the game’s replay value.
The visuals are unfortunately one of the lowest points of Fractured Soul. Compared to the punishingly innovative gameplay, the graphics are quite ordinary. Visually this 3DS eShop title is more comparable to a DSiWare game. Given the history of Fractured Soul’s development, it’s easy to understand why the graphics look the way they do as well. The lack of 3D slider tech doesn’t help the situation either (even if it was left out for strategic reasons). The music and sound is a little bit better, but still quite jaded. Both are more on par with a DS game lacking the crispness and clarity many other 3DS eShop titles have. The techno tunes in the background of each level are one of the more positive parts along with the little grunts coming from the robots each time they jump or move about.
Fractured Soul certainly has a strong concept and solid gameplay mechanics backing it. It’s just the ruthless attitude the game has towards the slightest mistake that holds it back from being a more recommendable and accessible eShop title. Fans of old school platformers will be right at home with this game, but those who are more used to the recent forgiving style of platform gaming may not be so patient with its difficulty or that impressed with the low quality presentation, graphics and sound. Anyone who thinks they’re a veteran platform gamer should give Fractured Soul a go as long as they’re prepared to stick it out. Those who don’t get excitement out of repeating the same levels over and over again due to their difficulty though should probably look elsewhere for their next side-scrolling thrill.