Rapid yet creative dual-screen platforming action; rather motivating online leaderboards and par times; disturbingly addictive replay value
Entity #086's death sound clip eventually gets carved into your by-then mushy brain
One thing’s for sure: Fractured Soul is not for the faint of heart. And though it’s had a long and bumpy road in finally being self-published on Nintendo eShop, Fractured Souls shows no sign of being worse for the eight-year wear. Playing as the robotic, blaster-armed Entity #086, your job is to work your way through a spaceship, braving ice, lava, and space itself. You’ll do this by the usual platforming mechanics, of course– running, shooting, and (double) jumping– but tap a shoulder button, and suddenly Entity #086 will appear in a different plane of existence entirely, on the other screen of the 3DS.
Pulsating enemies will often appear either on one screen or the other, and only by appearing in that particular dimension can you destroy them. Similarly, if you need to climb a ladder to get to the next platform, you’d better tap that shoulder button if it’s only on the other screen. It’s a clever mechanic that makes quick work of inexperienced platformers, if not most gamers who try Fractured Soul for the first time. This is especially apparent, for example, when hopping across some Mega Man-esque disappearing blocks, which err between the 3DS’ screens. It’s a good thing this game doesn’t use lives and graces players with more checkpoints than Bioshock.
Each stage is selected from the title screen, and unlocked as you play. All last for around three to five minutes at an ideal pace, though the inherent timing difficulties in platforming games combined with Fractured Soul‘s multi-screen thinking will likely slow some players to a nail-biting halt. To further encourage players to hurt themselves, though, is a “par” number that appears with almost every stage, though Endgame Studios’ Grant Davies admits this is a bit of a misnomer because it’s based on the staff’s fastest times. (I am about nine times par on one early stage, and usually am still not even close.)
Added on are collectible glowing items called Secrets, which in the vein of all great platformers unlocks even more diabolical stages. And lest players become complacent, Fractured Soul is the rare game on eShop that supports online leaderboards with Nintendo Network, with individualized boards per stage for global, friend, and nearby rankings. Yes, there is a name for frightful, self-induced masochism, and it is Fractured Soul.
Every now and then, Fractured Soul gives way to its Ikaruga-style shmup roots.
There are, of course, places where the pleasure outweighs the pain more often. Around the fourth or fifth stage of the game, when you’re becoming more and more confident about your dimension-shifting abilities, Endgame Studios throws a curve ball. Instead of shifting dimensions to do mundane tasks such as climb ladders or shoot enemies blocking the way– though you usually will just walk through enemies by shifting to the other dimension, for speed purposes– suddenly you’ll shift dimensions to climb invisible crates, jump across one-hit-kill electric storms, and essentially flee from a incoming destruction wave while screaming with misplaced glee. Other times, you’ll be forced to change dimensions– and directions– between your first and your second jumps, giving a remarkable quality to a otherwise long-ridiculous game mechanic. While its more forgiving, puzzle-esque sequences certainly impress, Fractured Soul excels when throwing you into these types of dimension-shifting onslaughts, where you must think quickly or fall into platforming hero hell.
It’s generally never a good idea to be in a dimension with lava in it, though it’s generally always fun.
Through five worlds and eighty levels must Entity #086 traverse, and though this might sound like too much of a good thing, how Endgame Studios has accomplished making every stage fresh is worthy of note. Sometimes, Entity #086 will be underwater in one dimension but not the other, allowing players to switch to water whenever they want to jump farther away, while sacrificing mobility to escape from enemy fire. Other times our hero will turn on his VVVVVV-esque charm and go antigravity, going upside down while changing dimensions in order to land on platforms that simply would be silly to land on otherwise. What Fractured Soul never does, however, is make its dual dimensions gimmicky. Each new exploration is deliberately fine-tuned for specific gaming mechanics, rather than for novelty’s sake. The only difficulty here is in beating enough stages to explore some more.
Although Fractured Soul is priced at a higher point than most eShop games, at no point does it ever play like the stereotypical downloadable eShop title– which is understandable, considering it was once considered for retail. It’s a game that naturally intersects action platforming with lateral thinking, never splurging on one over the other. Fractured Soul‘s dual-dimension gameplay, combined with its speed run-focused online leaderboards and forgiving checkpoint system, showcase it as one of the finest 3DS games among both retail and online titles.
Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.