The Nintendo 3DS eShop has been getting rather busy and seeing bigger and more expansive games showing up on the service. The most obvious example is the release of New Super Mario Bros. 2, but there have been other examples of retail quality games coming to the downloadable store. The most recent example is that of Fractured Soul from Endgame Studios. The game has a rocky past, as it was originally developed as a retail DS title beginning in 2004, but publishing deals and circumstances pushed the game back a number of times. It’s finally seeing release as a downloadable game, and I’m here to tell you that it was worth the wait.
What You Need to Know
Fractured Soul is a dual-screen, puzzle/action platformer with an emphasis on speed runs. While the action only takes place on one screen at a time, you’ll need to pay attention to both screens in order to successfully complete every level. There are around 24 or so levels and it will take you anywhere from four to six hours to complete, with a half a dozen bonus levels available for unlocking.
Fractured Soul doesn’t waste any time letting you know you’re going to have to work to finish the game. It immediately sets you into scenarios where you have to quickly flip back and forth from one screen to another jumping across gaps, running down corridors with closing doors and either taking out or sneaking by enemies. Early on it’s easy enough to figure out what’s going on, but as the game progresses, things get much more difficult with enemies placed in precious landing spots or enemies that require you to shoot them on both screens in order to progress.
You’ll need nimble fingers and quick puzzle solving skills. A number of puzzles will require manual dexterity that a doctor would be jealous of. Jumping off a platform into mid-air while you reverse gravity, avoiding force fields on both screens and dodging enemy fire isn’t as easy as it sounds.
No 3D? No Problem
One of the more interesting choices the design team went with was to not include stereoscopic 3D on the top screen. In the end it’s actually nice because constantly shifting your focus back and forth between the two screens can be jarring on the eyes.
It also means they’re able to put more detail into the characters and environments. There aren’t many different enemy types, but they’re all very well detailed and animated. When you kill them they explode into a neon spray of lights that looks quite nice. Shimmering force fields and lasers add a good amount of light to the environments. When the main character shifts back and forth between the screens, the unused screen displays a neon-outlined wire frame model of the character so you always know where you are.
A few levels into the game you’ll run into a switch in the gameplay style where it changes from the platforming levels to a side-scrolling shooter. These levels break up the game and allow you to do something other than just platforming. They’re a very welcomed change of the pace. They play similarly to the platforming levels where you have to switch back and forth from one screen to the other. It immediately reminded me of games like Ikaruga where you’re switching from the black and white polarities, but it differs in that you have to pay attention to essentially two games at once. In these levels your life bar is constantly depleting on each screen and you have to shoot enemies to refill it. Managing that while making sure you’re on the right screen at the right time takes some getting used to. Boss fights also take place on both screens and you have to learn the patterns of the boss and how things are slightly different on each screen in order to survive.
These levels almost didn’t make it into the final game, but they ended up being my favorite part of the whole experience. I really hope Endgame Studios revisits these levels and creates a whole game based around the concept because I feel Fractured Soul could have used more of them.
It’s very difficult to find anything bad to say about Fractured Soul. The platforming is fantastic and the puzzle elements are challenging. You’re going to find yourself screaming at some levels because they just seem impossible, but you’ll feel extremely satisfied when you pull off crazy maneuvers using the mechanics. This is a platformer that really has multiple ways to play it and can fit to a few different styles of play. It’s unique in that regard and will make for some interesting conversations as people talk about how they completed different parts of the game. There’s very little story to speak of and the characters might come off as a bit generic. In the end, it’s a platforming experience well worth your money and you’ll find yourself wanting more .