In development for quite some time, Endgame Studio’s newest title, Fractured Soul, almost never was. Initially intended for release as a DS retail title, the studio unfortunately suffered many setbacks and delays over the years. Finally the game has been released as it has found a home as a downloadable title on the Nintendo 3DS eShop.
On the surface, Fractured Soul seemingly looks to be yet another 2D platformer. A robotic/soldier type character, simply known as the Entity, armed with a blaster gun, makes an attempt to escape a series of space station like outposts; but interestingly, he does so within two different dimensions. Using both screens on the 3DS, gameplay takes place in parallel worlds, which adds an interesting twist. Your character has the ability to warp between two different dimensions, leaving a shadowy image in one, while jumping about, shooting enemies and manoeuvring around obstacles in the other.
Unfortunately, there really isn’t much of a story to speak, simply a few paragraphs between levels, so who this Entity is and why he is there is unknown, although given the genre I suppose it’s not really necessary. Graphically, nothing really stood out for me. It didn’t look awful by any means, but there was really nothing spectacular to speak of. And oddly enough, despite being available in the 3DS eShop, playing the game in 3D is not an option, a feature Endgame decided to leave out.
The controls in Fractured Soul are quite simple to master. The D-pad or circle pad are used to move back and forth, A and X to shoot your blaster gun, B to jump (tapping twice to double jump), and the left and right shoulder buttons to switch between dimensions. After playing this game for a few hours, my fingers and thumbs were quite sore, as gameplay is intense as it forces you to rapidly switch back and forth between dimensions to avoid enemies, cross large gaps, run from lasers and other such obstacles. Sometimes while in mid-air, or in the midst of dropping down to a different part of a level, you find yourself dodging here too.
There are 30 levels to play through, taking place in five different zones, with a mix of platforming, puzzle and shoot’em up elements. Each zone offers an added challenge on the 3DS top screen, a parallel dimension with added environmental effects, taking place in various themed levels such as underwater, through wind, in scorching heat or inverse gravity. These levels all have different play mechanics. For example, playing underwater will slow you down as you run, but will give access to higher platforms as you can jump/float higher. Speed runs and exploration are encouraged, with online leaderboards, and stars rewarded at the end of each level depending on how fast you completed and how many secret items you find in the level.
The first few levels are a bit forgiving as you learn the controls, but the difficulty certainly ramps up quite fast. This game is extremely tough. A hardcore platformer at its finest, much like the old school platform games of the past. And with the added challenge of focusing on what’s happening on two screens, Fractured Soul will certainly try your patience. There is no question, you will die, and die frequently. I often found myself focusing on a platform or objective on the bottom screen, only to jump to my death on the top screen, or I wasn’t quick enough switching screens while attempting to escape a laser. Thankfully, infinite lives and numerous checkpoints make dying a bit more tolerable.
Despite being extremely difficult, Fractured Soul is a very addictive and entertaining game. I often found myself rage quitting, only to come back to the game within minutes to try again. The satisfaction of finally reaching the end of a particularly challenging level is very rewarding. There are also hardcore challenges to unlock, but admittedly, I wasn’t particularly skilled at this game as I hoped, and did not have the opportunity to unlock and play any of them.
At $11.99, Fractured Soul may seem a bit pricey for a Nintendo eShop downloadable game, and given the difficulty it certainly won’t appeal to everyone. That being said, Fractured Soul offers a lot of replay value, and with over 30 levels to navigate, online leaderboards, and unlockable challenges, there are many hours of entertaining, challenging, and addictive gameplay that the hardcore platforming fan should not miss out on.