Fractured Soul is a 3DS eShop exclusive that offers lots of challenging, seamless dual screen platforming gameplay in a 2D futuristic world.
Normally I try to 'beat' every game I review when feasible, but Fractured Soul (FS) has proven too tough in the time I'm allocating for it. Over the course of several hours, I have managed to get roughly halfway through the game, and have had a lot of fun, and frustration doing so. What begins as a simple platformer with a cool phase-shifting mechanic becomes a pixel-precision, pattern-memorizing grindfest as you move into the 10th+ level (there are over 30). Those that love the genre and the old school challenge of are likely to find it exhilarating, but the rest of us may struggle to find reason to keep playing as the number of deaths continues to rise.
Fractured Soul's gameplay is built around the ability of your character -- simply known as Entity #-of-times-you've-died -- to instantly shift between phases. There's what I call the 'solid' form of Entity and the 'phased,' or transparent form. Both screens of your 3DS are used to present the interactive world, although I should point out that this is solely 2D title. Combat and platforming puzzles (and later, SHMUP gameplay) are the primary gameplay elements, both of which tie constantly to the phase-shifting mechanic. The game is spread across five zones that alter the style of puzzles. The underwater levels for example allow you to move slower and jump higher, while other zones have inverse gravity and strong winds. Controls include jumping (B or A), phase-shifting (L or R), and shooting (X or Y). Often, you will need to jump and instantly shift to avoid an environmental hazard or to catch a moving platform. Combat sequences are pretty straight-forward, as you have a infinite-ammo energy gun to destroy a variety of different robots.
Where FS really impresses is in the platforming gameplay. I thought Endgame did a great job with puzzle design and keeping players constantly shifting back and forth between both screens and having to do so with increasingly demanding precision. It's fun and cool, but as the levels roll on, the difficulty continues to ramp up while my level of fun began to wane. Endgame does allow for infinite continues, although the checkpoints are at times poorly placed, if at all. In other words, some checkpoints are placed in areas that force you to play-through simple parts over and over, just to get back to the difficult part where you might die seconds later. Replaying areas and learning the pattern of enemies is a staple of the genre though, so again, those that are big fans of it aren't likely to mind as much; that said, replaying areas over and over again became grating.
Each level is designed to be completed within a certain very low 'par' time and most levels have at least one secret that generally requires some extra-clever platforming skill to reach. Most levels take around ten minutes to complete, some far longer. Upon the completion of each stage, a five-star system is used to rate your performance. There are online leaderboards, as well as six bonus stages that unlock as you accrue 10, 20, 40, and on up to 100 stars. Once you have beaten a level, you can go back and replay it as often as you like to improve your score.
As far as presentation, Fractured Soul looks and sounds fine; it's not going to win any awards, but I thought it was well animated and offered some pretty interesting environments and effects. There are a lot of generic sci-fi ship gray backgrounds, but you start to notice that a little bit less as the game goes on and the platforming gets more demanding. The effects and soundtrack aren't all that memorable, but they too are fitting and at the very least, get the job done.
To the summary...