So apparently this Fractured Soul game was in development for a retail release for a while before it came out for the 3DS. If it weren’t for the fact that everything on the Internet is true, I never would have believed that it’s been in and out of development for eight years. It’s a little sad, really. If this game has been released in a timely manner, the single mechanic that the entire game was based around wouldn’t have been old news. On the plus side, now I only have to pay $11.99 for a game that was supposed to have its own box.
GAME NAME: Fractured Soul
DEVELOPER(S): Endgame Studios
PUBLISHER(S): Endgame Studios
GENRE(S): Action Platformer
RELEASE DATE(S): September 13, 2012
Fractured Soul is simple. You have two screens with very similar pictures on each. You can move your physical form between the two, while your “soul,” or a shimmery cloud version of you, stays on the other. You progress through the level using a quick trigger finger. Your soul can pass through walls and platforms, but you need your physical form to keep from falling to your death during platform-over-bottomless-pit sections. So the top and bottom screen will often alternate platforms, requiring you to switch between screens in midair. This can become quite intense in levels with the ever-pursuing wall of instant death. You also have a gun with which to shoot dudes, and can avoid dude attacks by switching screens. Hurrah for very slow laser beams.
The controls are easy to manage. One button for jump, one for gun, and shoulder for screen switching. The game’s reaction time is excellent, which is fortunate considering how difficult it can be. I never felt as though the cause of my death was due to a slowness on the game’s part. It was either a slowness of my fingers or my brain. The visuals also refrain from getting in the way. Bad guys and obstacles stand out from the background, which is also necessary considering the fact that your eyes are occupied by switching back and forth rapidly between the screens. Baddies even announce themselves with a quick little quark so you’re never surprised. Except for those floaty guys. They come out of nowhere sometimes. I hate them.
The game switches things up a little by having elemental levels. Some levels are underwater, some have reversed gravity on one screen, some are really really hot on the top screen so you slowly die if your physical form is there, and some try to pass themselves off as ice when they are obviously wind. There’s also the occasional space shooter level. Nothing special here.
Fractured Soul can be commended for offering a real challenge to 3DS owners. At first the game seemed like it would be an easy cruise, but then at the end of the first level I noticed that I only got one star out of five for being too slow and not getting all of the secret glowing triangles. It went downhill quickly from there. I went into Fractured Soul as I go into all 3DS games—expecting it to be easy. It took me most of the game to rearrange my perceptions and stop hating it for making me feel like I sucked at video games.
Part of the problem was that I was set up to expect some kind of story from this game which would motivate me to finish it. The title has the word “soul” in it, and the actual description of the game describes some kind of desperate struggle to maintain sanity as he confronts his dark past while he escapes a mysterious space station which is stuck between dimensions of time and space. When you’re actually playing the game, you get none of that. The main character is referred to as Entity number something, depending on how many times you’ve died (hint: it’s a lot).
The only hint of what’s going on is given to you in single-sentence increments at the beginning of each level which read like something out of the extremely vague Dungeon Master’s handbook. Each one goes something like this: “In the (ominous adjective)(noun), Entity #(how many times you’ve died) fights/struggles/sees/other verb (noun or prepositional phrase).” Really, if you’re not going to put any effort into your plot, just don’t bother at all. Don’t stupid up your game with a bunch of vague clichés. The level titles were even worse. They had names like “Torment” and “Rage,” but there was no context for any of these supposed emotions. What makes this fire level any angrier than the previous fire level? This section of the space station doesn’t seem any more tormented than the last. Entity whatever certainly doesn’t help us out. We don’t even know how he ended up in this space station, why it’s falling apart, or how his dumb soul got fractured in the first place!
So now you’ve forced my hand, Endgame Studios. You insisted on throwing a dull shadow of a plot onto a game rather than putting in some effort, and so instead of just mentioning that the game has no story and moving on, I have to use “story” as one of my criteria and give it a one. Plus there’s not much else to talk about.
Fractured Soul’s main game is a little short, especially considering that according to the par time of each level, I was supposed to complete it about ten times faster than I did. Of course, the real value of the game is supposed to come from replayability. Bonus levels are earned through the collection of stars that you get for beating regular levels quickly and getting the special glowy things. Also, leaderboards. Personally, I’m not one for speed runs. If I do want a challenge, I fire up the old NES instead of paying $11.99 for a game with a mechanic that is no longer new. But if you do love a challenge and want a new release to go on your 3DS, then Fractured Soul is the game for you. It’s a solid game that works well and is perfect for a set of gamers looking for a specific thing, but doesn’t suit much anyone else. Personally I keep hoping that an eShop game will pop up that has an engaging story or some actually innovative element, but alas, I have to keep waiting.
It’s hard to judge this game, because it was obviously not made for me. On the one hand, its headlining mechanic is no longer innovative. Then again, when it was originally being made, it still was innovative. The game in itself is well designed and runs flawlessly, but is really nothing but a bunch of levels strung together by a single gimmick. The challenge is a refreshing change, but with no story and nothing else new to motivate getting to the end of each level, I more than once considered giving up and harassing Endgame to give me my money back. The graphics are fine but there’s no 3D. The music is kind of cool, but in the space shooter sections just touching the walls of the station kill you, which is totally dumb. I guess the best way to put it is to say that Fractured Soul was well-made, but as hard as Endgame tried to make it special, it’s not. Without anything to make it stand out, this game is little more than average.