Review: Fractured Soul (Nintendo 3DS)

Fractured Soul
Developer: Endgame Studios
Publisher: Endgame Studios
Genre: Platformer
Release Date: 09/13/2012

Fractured Soul is an interesting game that has been in development limbo for nearly a decade. The game is finally available, delivering on the promising mechanic of switching between both screens of the Nintendo DS. With so much time in the oven, the end result has a few hiccups, but, overall, provides a satisfying experience.

Fractured Soul matches a common theme seen in the recent Nintendo DS shop releases – it is incredibly thin in its storytelling. The game’s description puts the player in the role of a “forgotten” being, stranded in a deep space outpost with amnesia. To put it simply, the player’s goal is to get the heck out of there. As each stage boots up, players are able to read a couple of sentences that introduces the next scene, but nothing is ever really done to push some serious storytelling.

If you don’t mind a light story and just want to jump into the action, like in the games of old, what is here won’t bother you too much, though. The game is built to be straight forward, giving players a series of stages to tackle and very challenging bonus stages to unlock through efficient performance.

Although the title is marketed for the Nintendo 3DS, unfortunately, Fractured Soul doesn’t take full advantage of the system’s capabilities. Some of the visuals look like they came straight from the previous handheld generation with jagged characters, but the pop of color coming from various energy effects in the game can be pleasing at times. On top of that, the stages have an effective atmosphere to them, providing dark, brooding hallways when needed, but still offering some variation in later levels that change up the different hazards the player encounters.

The sound can also be hit or miss. The grunt of the player character when he jumps wears old fast, but the music fits the mood of the environments well even if it easily gets lost in the action. On top of that, you’ll get standard sound effects from firing your character’s weapon and explosions, which are all well enough. Fractured Soul‘s presentation might not be the best ever seen on the system, but it gets the job done and nothing is outright offensive. Thankfully, though, the title’s gameplay is where the majority of its appeal lies.

The game’s biggest hook is its dimensional gameplay, which has players hitting a shoulder button to flip between the top and bottom screens. Innocently enough, this starts out as a mean to get past security walls and make simple jumps to platforms, but as players, progress, the game finds more devious ways to force the player to master the mechanic. Outside of the flipping, players have buttons to shoot and jump. The controls are kept simple with these few commands and the title gave me tight control of my character, which is a necessity in the genre.

Running and gunning through the levels, Fractured Soul’s action gives off a Mega Man vibe, especially when it comes to scaling the ladders strewn about the environments. Much like the classic Capcom series, Fractured Soul demands quick responses, and at times flawless execution, which should be quite attractive to classic game players. At first, the dimensional mechanic seems gimmicky, but once altering environments and well-placed obstacles and enemies come into play, flipping over to the other screen is essential to life as shooting.

As players make their way through the stages, elements such as high winds, underwater locations, reversed gravity and more challenge the player. When underwater, the player can jump higher and descends slower, high winds push players forward for huge jumps or push them back to impede them and nasty environments such as ones filled with fire or energy fields that chase a player through the stage give the player another obstacle to tackle. Just when you’re fully comfortable with one hazard, the next one pops in to hand you a few more deaths.

And that’s what makes Fractured Soul a bigger treat for retro game fans – the unforgiving challenge. The action is solid for a younger generation, but the frequent deaths and sometimes unforgiving checkpoint system might aggravate more than entertain. I would say the challenge does ramp up a tad unevenly, but anyone who dedicates enough time to the game should feel accomplished with progressing through the game.

Breaking up the platforming segments are shmup-inspired stages, featuring dual-screen action, which ease off the falling deaths and allow players to blow a little steam. However, after a stage element is introduced, players can expect the challenge to considerably ramp up after a few levels. Those really wanting to test themselves can storm through the levels as fast as they can while picking up collectables to unlock extremely difficult bonus levels, giving someone likes the game a little more to come back to.

Short Attention Span Summary

Overall, Fractured Soul has a lot going for it. Despite some presentation setbacks and some uneven difficulty swings, the title is enjoyable playthrough for fans of the classic Mega Man era. Overcoming the challenge is satisfying and once the game throws in some mechanics that play off the dimensional platforming, the gameplay becomes quite interesting, almost like solving a puzzle. The $12 price tag coupled with a higher difficulty might put off some players, but the feel of a classic game is present in Fractured Soul, moved forward with its smart dual-screen design.



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