Fractured Soul is a side-scrolling game (available via Nintendo eShop) that blends many of the basic elements of the puzzle/platform genre with its own unique twist. Some of the best eShop games to date are actually based on the same one-trick concept – Mutant Mudds, VVVVVV, Mighty Switch Force! – but none of them are quite as tough or as exciting as Fractured Soul.
In this case, the traditional 2D gameplay is split into “parallel dimensions”, with slightly different versions of the same stage set on the top and bottom screens. Most of the tricks up Fractured Soul’s sleeve are designed around this gameplay mechanic, and part of the challenge is learning how to survive while rapidly shifting between the two screens.
Fractured Soul feels a lot like Mega Man, only it seems to constantly play “tug of war” with your attention span by diverting your focus and barraging you with obstacles, enemies, platforms and projectiles that are found on each screen. Some objects appear in both dimensions, but a lot of the game involves shifting to the other screen for the sake of passing through obstructions.
For example, imagine you are making your way through a corridor, when suddenly you come across an enemy robot and a dead end – your path is obviously blocked, and the robot has already started firing his plasma rifle. You quickly glance at the opposite screen – the “parallel dimension” of the stage – and you notice that the dead end and enemy robot are not part of that view. With no time to react and a clear path in sight, you “shift” from one screen to the other, and continue safely down the hallway. After you encounter a few more puzzles like this, you start to catch on…”switch to the other screen, pass through obstacles,” no big deal…right?
Here is the catch: Fractured Soul throws new challenges at you just as you begin to embrace and master all the issues that you were having with the previous ones. Like last year’s Shinobi (Nintendo 3DS), part of the fun is learning how to bee-line through the stages. Making the perfect run and tackling the seemingly impossible gauntlet of platforming challenges will leave you enjoying more success with each consecutive attempt.
Sure, it involves a lot of trial-and-error, but Fractured Soul also benefits from its online leaderboards feature: you can earn up to five stars for your performance in each stage and then compare your high scores with other players from all over the world. Naturally, “speedruns” are encouraged, which is pretty cool – it actually feels very rewarding to shave a second or two from your best score, particularly if you earn another star or two for the effort.
Fractured Soul doesn’t need a bunch of complicated mechanics or obnoxious distractions to provide a tough challenge. In fact, there isn’t even much of a story or a plot – you more or less jump right into the first stage once you select “New Game”.
Instead Fractured Soul focuses on its most unique innovation (the dual-screen game design) and excels with the brilliant execution of that idea. It urges you to break from your traditional platforming routine, re-thinking your approach to such a familiar genre…in fact, this is perhaps its most impressive accomplishment. It forces you to play by its tricky rules, but it takes you on a pretty slick ride as long as you manage to master the split-screen concept.
If you are the type that tends to have a limited amount of patience, you should be warned: Fractured Souls has the potential to break even the most patient player, but it certainly rewards you for putting up with such a high level of difficulty. I walked away from this one feeling quite satisfied, and urge fans of the aforementioned puzzle/platforming games on eShop to look into this one as well.
*Review Note: This review was originally published on GamingTRUTH.com.