Review: Fractured Soul (3DS eShop)

Seeing double

Anyone who's followed the development cycle of Fractured Soul will know that the game has experienced quite a few ups and downs on its route to retail. Not only has it been in development for close to eight years, it's also a game that even the developers wondered would ever actually see the light of day. Now resurrected on Nintendo's eShop, platforming fans can see what all the fuss was about, albeit with a steeper price than many might expect.

Upon first glance, Fractured Soul doesn't deviate too far from the standard platforming fare we've seen from 2D releases over the years. You'll still spend the majority of your time running, jumping, and blasting your way through the game's many levels, but there are a few twist to give the game a unique look and feel.

When it comes to platformers, pinpoint and responsive controls are a must. Thankfully Fractured Soul hands you a solid set of play controls to work with. Not only will you face a wealth of jumping challenges, but you'll soon find that some platforms will only be able to hold you for a short amount of time before giving way. Enemy placement is equally well done and eases you in gently before dialing up the challenge not only in the individual location of foes, but also their respective movement and firepower.

Since both screens are used at once, you're going to have to train yourself to extra vigilant if you're going to survive the game's intense screen-switching gameplay for very long. Not only do you have to keep toggling between screens in order to navigate the level platforms themselves, you'll also have to do so in order to successfully tackle the constant barrage of enemies coming your way. You'll constantly be coming across ledges and enemies that can only be navigated on one specific screen and it's up to you to make sure you're always in the right place at the right time. You'll even find yourself switching screens almost seamlessly and intuitively after awhile. It's this careful balance of platforming, shooting, and moving from screen to screen that makes the game such a unique and creative challenge.

As if the standard platforming wasn't enough, there are a host of shmup levels that mix things up a bit. These still feature the same screen-toggling action, but the physics, much like in the various worlds, sometimes feel very different and offer a lot of variety in the way the game plays and feels. While some action games toss in a shooter level to mix things up, Fractured Soul's shmup levels don't feel the least bit tacked on and add a wonderful change of pace to core of the game.

As if the meat of the package wasn't enough, the game also features a good amount of replay value for players who like to go back to levels to pick up secret items they missed the first time through, or take a shot at the par times for each level and earn more stars on their level grades. To make things even more competitive, players can also log onto the online leader boards and see how their performances stack up against friends and other players around the world.

The polygon look of the game might seem a bit odd at first glance, but once you get a taste of the rotating and zooming environments, you'll begin to see the reasoning behind the developers going with this specific graphical style. Each level has a slightly tilted look that gives off a really interesting feeling of depth in the surroundings. And when you toss in some of the gorgeous backdrops off in the distance you've got enough eye candy to keep you constantly wondering what's in store for you next.

As for the music, there are plenty of synthesized techno beats to go round, but it's the way the developers manage to keep them in the background and prevent them from interfering with the game's sound effects that comes off the most impressive. The musical track always seems to blend seamlessly with the intensity of the on-screen action, rather than drawing your attention away from what's happening.

Conclusion

Fractured Soul might have taken a while to see a release, but it lives up to the hype by taking a smooth platforming experience and weaving a dual screen play mechanic into the mix that greatly increases the playability and charm of the game. The price is a bit high by eShop standards, but for a gaming experience as rich and polished as this, it's not the deal breaker you might imagine. Those who aren't sold on the genre may wish to look elsewhere, but fans of intelligent action platformers will consider this money well spent.

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