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Fractured Soul Review

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating

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Fractured Soul

Fractured Soul

Image © Endgame Studios
When the Nintendo DS was first unveiled, audiences took immediate note of the handheld’s two most prominent features: Its capacity for touch-based input, and its dual screens. Interestingly, while developers have found creative ways to utilize the DS’s touch screen, few games have experimented with providing simultaneous action on both screens. Fractured Soul for the Nintendo 3DS finally provides platforming fans with a fully-baked action game that takes full advantage of the 3DS’s dual screens, and oh boy, will it ever give your brain and your reflexes a workout.

Whereas modern platforming games focus on providing a whimsical experience (like Super Mario 3D Land), let the player feel like a powerhouse (Kirby Mass Attack), or encourage players to wallow in the genre’s nostalgic roots (Mutant Mudds, Cave Story), Fractured Soul goes back to platforming’s bare basics and adds a new dimension through body-flipping. If you’re looking for colorful graphics, an engaging story, or mercy, you won’t find it here. If, however, you want a bone-breaking platforming experience that’s been squared, then welcome home.

Developer: Endgame Studios
Publisher: Ignition Entertainment
Genre: Action/Platforming
ESRB Rating: E10+
Compatible With: Nintendo 3DS
Price: $11.99 USD

GOOD: Utilizes a unique mechanic that adds a serious challenge. Hardcore platforming fans will be driven to try and try again.

BAD: Gameplay is extremely frustrating. Checkpoints can be spaced far apart. Graphics and sound are unremarkable.

THE BASICS: Me and My Shadow

In Fractured Soul, you play as a rogue who’s been trapped on a space station with no idea how you got there. All you know is, you want out. Escape won’t be easy, as the station isn’t keen on letting you go for some unknown reason. You have one advantage: You can slip in and out of a parallel dimension at will, an ability that can help you bypass certain traps and pits.

Fractured Soul is light on story. The game isn’t interested in telling you a tale, though: It wants you to sweat, which it accomplishes by forcing you to focus on both of the Nintendo 3DS’s screens in a single moment. You’ll either be a platforming ace by the end of it all, or you’ll grow frustrated and throw your 3DS hard enough to embed it in a wall.

GAMEPLAY: Two is More Frustrating Than One

The action in Fractured Soul takes place across both of the Nintendo 3DS’s screens. Each screen projects a dimension, and though the dimensions seem identical, there are small but important differences. The fleshy protagonist occupies one screen, and his spirit occupies the other. You can switch them out in a blink with the “R” button, an action that’s key for getting past the space station’s tricks and traps. Whereas your spirit won’t sustain damage from the traps or enemies, it’s intangible. Your body is necessary for climbing ladders, shooting bad guys, jumping, and navigating platforms and ladders (make sure your body is ready).

Jumping, running, climbing, and performing the usual platforming exercises are necessary for getting through Fractured Soul, but your survival really depends on monitoring the action on both screens, and flipping between them when necessary. Sometimes it’s as easy as shifting in a calm, unhurried environment. Most of the time, though, the game requires you to shift mid-jump and perform other tricky stunts. If, for instance, there is a laser-barrier sandwiched between two ladders, you need to switch to your spirit form in order to bypass the barrier and then quickly switch back to a solid form so that you can grab the ladder. Needless to say, the rate of failure in Fractured Soul is high, and so is the potential for hair-grabbing frustration.

You have unlimited lives, however, so if you come across a sticky spot, you can retry as many times as necessary. There are checkpoints scattered throughout the game, and thankfully, most of them are close together. Unfortunately, sometimes you’re expected to power through long stretches of a level without screwing up. Clear all children from the room before you play: You will swear.

Fractured Soul also features space shooter levels wherein you need to flip between the two screens to avoid enemy projectiles and return fire. These gameplay segments should be of special interest to ladies and gentlemen that have been pining for an extra-challenging shoot-em-up in an otherwise sparse market.

GRAPHICS AND SOUND: Cold as Space

One of Fractured Soul’s bigger misfortunes is its lack of distinctive graphics. While the polygon-based character models and environments certainly aren’t offensive, they’re definitely uninteresting. Most downloadable Nintendo 3DS platformers try and add personality via their visuals, usually by offering a sprite-based retro style. That’s not to say Fractured Soul needs to jump off the 16-bit nostalgia bridge like everyone else, but some kind of distinction would not be amiss—especially given the size of the game file!

Likewise, the music in Fractured Soul is pretty forgettable. The game’s soundtrack won’t get in the way of the action, but neither will you be humming to yourself after the game’s shut off. Do expect the dying screams of your hero to follow you into the night, though—you hear them an awful lot.

CONCLUSION: For the Kings of Platforming

Aside from its split-screen mechanic, Fractured Soul is a no-frills platformer. However, if you’ve been dying for a side-scrolling action that will pummel you challenge-wise instead of merely offering a trip down memory lane, this dangerous romp through space might be exactly what you need. One thing’s for sure: if you stick to it, your eyes and brain will learn how to stretch and cooperate in ways you probably thought impossible. Fractured Soul is real “brain-training.”
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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