In an era where Mega Man has fallen away, where Contra has disappeared from popular culture…Fractured Soul is here to scratch that hardcore platforming itch. This latest Nintendo 3DS title from EndGame Studios has you leaping over all sorts of chasms, lasers, and death-filled traps while reaching a level’s end. But does Fractured Soul reach the goal? Or does it fall to pieces?
Fractured Soul starts you as unknown entity trying escape a trap-filled space station. That’s about all the exposition you’ll get, and that’s all the game needs. Fractured Soul is all about the platforming, and there is plenty of it – double the normal amount, in fact. You see, the game’s core mechanic involves switching between two forms: one on the top screen, one on the bottom. When one form is in use, the other takes the same actions, but in a phantom form. The screens rarely match; you’ll have to switch to the other screen to get the phantom form through a gate, then back again to continue. This is a very basic example, as the need for switching gets more frantic and tricky as you progress. Later levels use new mechanics such as wind currents and water, which slow down the entity’s physical form while increasing his jump’s airtime.
Sometimes you’ll have to switch between screens to take out enemies. A simple tap of a button will fire the entity’s blaster, much like Mega Man’s buster. In this way, the best comparison to make for Fractured Soul is the Mega Man series. Lots of difficult platforming awaits you as you take the entity from point A to point B….and in turn, take his phantom form from point C to point D.
The game isn’t limited to platforming levels, though. Sprinkled in are galactic shoot ‘em up levels. Here, a meter sits on the top left of each screen. When one screen is not in use, the meter depletes. Killing enemies refills this meter, so switching screens and killing evenly will keep both ships going. These levels conclude with a typical bullet-pattern shoot ‘em up boss, a fitting end to such a stage.
Platforming and shoot ‘em up…and that’s it. That’s all the play Fractured Soul offers, but there is more to see. Platforming levels do contain hidden items called secrets. Collecting all these and finishing the levels in a decent time – there is a par time for each course – affects your level rating, from one to five stars. The more stars you gain over the course of completing levels, the more secret levels you unlock. As you can imagine, these secret stages are of the hair-pulling difficulty level. Add this to the fact that you can track your best level completion time, and you’ve got yourself some replay value…though not much.
Fractured Soul offers a unique platforming experience with its screen-switching mechanic, and the shoot ‘em up levels are a nice addition. Bringing hardcore platforming to the 3DS is also nice, but some levels are downright frustrating. Fun quickly turns to rage during some segments, and that’s never good (this isn’t Dark Souls). Finding secrets for challenge levels and trying for better completion times is a reason to revisit the game, but they’re the only ones. Still, for just $11.99, Fractured Soul holds its value. If your 3DS is collecting dust, you could do a lot worse with a new title.