Review: Fractured Soul for Nintendo 3DS eShop

Fractured Soul is not the first game on one of Nintendo’s dual-screened systems to feature action on both screens at once, but this is perhaps the first I’ve played to implement it in such a way that demands a true sense of dexterity and being able to multitask.

Sure, some people– myself included– might point to several tabs open in an internet browser, reading an article in one while a video is paused in the other and call what they’re doing “multitasking.” But it really isn’t… not in the way Fractured Soul implements it, where you very literally have to be aware of what is going on in two places at once.

The core of the game is a classic-styled 2D side-scrolling platformer with 3D modeled graphics, “created by platform gamers for platform gamers,” as the overview boasts. Stuck in an abandoned outer space outpost which is under attack, it is your goal to escape, a goal which might be otherwise impossible were it not for your character’s special power.

As you progress through the game’s 30 levels, themselves spread across five zones, you will see the same area on both screens, but with some differences. For instance, a platform, enemy, or trap on one screen may not be on the other, or the environment itself may be different– water could have flooded the top screen’s area, while the bottom remains dry.

With that said, your character only occupies one screen at a time, with a wireframe “ghost” appearing in the other. As you encounter certain obstacles, you’ll need to press one of the shoulder buttons to switch from one screen to the other.

At first, it’s a fairly simple yet engaging affair. Encounter a laser barrier, and shift to the other screen/dimension to bypass it. Find a ledge you can’t reach? Shift and use the platforms there to aid you.

However, it doesn’t take very long before the game gets tricky– very tricky. You’ll soon encounter areas where you must jump from one platform and shift in mid-air to land on another which only exists in the other screen. Before you know it, there are some really tricky areas where you have to move and shift between the two at a rapid pace, but not too rapidly, or else you’ll take some critical damage.

The enemies throughout the ship further complicate matters. On their own, they can be formidable, and the platforming is certainly challenging enough by itself. But there are areas when they come together, and it can feel like a bit much.

Thankfully, the game does not employ a standard lives system, and so you’re free to perish for as long as you can stand it. The scoring system, on the other hand, is anything but merciful, and only the best are likely to finish any of the stages with more than one or two stars. I haven’t seen a scoring system this brutal since Mega Man Zero, but thankfully, it only seems to be for bragging rights.

The controls are simple, with jumping, running/ducking, and shooting being the only other functions besides swapping between dimensions. They are very solidly implemented, and need to be in order to overcome the obstacles this game puts before you. IF there is any complaint, however, it would be that the standard jump feels worthless. Most of the time, you’ll be using your rocket-powered double-jump to clear even standard gaps, and using it can be a bit of a hassle in life-or-death situations. A better standard jump might have been preferable overall.

Put simply, though, this game is definitely not for everyone, and only the truly hardcore need apply. There is a sense of pattern memorization here, which can be good in some cases. But when compounded with the need to switch your focus from one screen to the other– especially in areas where it happens so rapidly that you tend to lose track of which screen you’re on– it shifts just to the other side of the line from “engaging” to “somewhat irritating” to me.

The graphics are quite nice, and are accompanied with a fitting sort of techno-synth music. At first the backgrounds seem lacking in variety, but as you progress, you see some nice touches with water, plant life, and even the reaches of outer space.

Fractured Soul is a very solid, well put-together game, but one which requires a certain sense of being able to keep track of what is going on in two places at once and the ability to endure trial-and-errors to survive. If you’re up for a challenge and a true test of multitasking skill, then this is the game for you. Anything less, and you need not apply.

Fractured Soul was released for the Nintendo 3DS through the Nintendo eShop for $11.99 on September 13th, 2012. A review copy was provided by Nintendo of Canada.

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David Oxford

David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you're interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.