Fractured Soul Review

fracturedsoul
What we liked:
+ Cool use of the dual screen
+ Dimensional physics add a twist
What we didn't like:
- Repetitive
- Punishing difficulty
- Awful checkpointing
- Bland graphics and sound
- Meaningless story
Sub-par
DEVELOPER: Endgame Studios   |   PUBLISHER: Endgame Studios   |   RELEASE: 09/13/2012

Review
In space, no one can hear you yawn.

One of the most compelling things about Nintendo’s line of DS handheld systems is the interesting ways developers have made use of the dual screens. Fractured Soul uses them in a very unique way, by casting them as different dimensions that your character can switch between at will. The concept is interesting, but it wasn’t enough to keep my interest in the game, which in spite of its premise is very one dimensional.

The game begins with you on a space station infested with aliens. Fractured Soul is a platformer at heart – you’ll climb ladders, avoid laser walls and use your gun to take out enemies. The twist is that the two dimensions are different, and you’ll need to navigate those differences, and sometimes use them to your advantage, to succeed. While crossing a gap you may find that the next platform is in the other dimension, so you’ll have to jump and then quickly shift in order to land safely. With no way to block, you’ll also need to swap dimensions to avoid enemy attacks.

The story in Fractured Soul is just window dressing; the initial premise in the manual and a few onscreen words as a level loads are as close as it comes to any sort of plot development. In actuality the game is a collection of courses that you play in sequence, completing one to unlock the next. You are ranked from one to five stars for each course depending on your performance, and the stars you earn can unlock bonus levels.

In order to obtain a five star rank you will have to complete the course under the par time, taking no damage and collecting all secret gems in that run. The platforming in Fractured Soul can be very difficult, and the checkpoint system that exists in the early levels vanishes later, meaning that any fall or death takes you all the way back to the beginning of the level. Getting a five star rank requires a lot of repetition, but sometimes just completing a level requires multiple trips, as you get a little farther each time until you eventually have the whole thing memorized.

As you progress, the physics of the different dimensions change, adding a new aspect to the gameplay as the differences between them go beyond layout. For example, in the water dimension you jump higher and fall slower, but also run slower. In levels where you are chased by a laser wall and have to keep moving forward constantly, you need to manage the dimensional physics while still minding the platforms and enemies.

The biggest problem with Fractured Soul is that the amount of repetition required, even without playing for rank, makes the game get old fast. When you finally reach the end of an especially tough level, only to have one mistimed jump send you back to the beginning, it really kills the urge to keep going. It doesn’t help that the gameplay outside of the dimensional shifting is bland. Enemies lack variety, and you can only shoot straight left or right, making combat a chore, and frustrating when they approach from odd angles.

It’s like a camera filter, only less fun.


The graphics in Fractured Soul really stand out from current 3DS games, and not in a good way. Everything is jagged and low res, to the point that movements like climbing along a rope just look weird. All around it looks like what it is, a game originally designed for last generation’s hardware. Due in part to that reality, it also lacks any 3D, although to be fair that probably would have been a hindrance when quickly looking from screen to screen. The audio matches the graphics in blandness; the sound of your character jumping (which you’ll hear a lot) sounds like it was recorded in a bathroom, and the background music is pretty uninspiring.

The idea of Fractured Soul really intrigued me; a sort of two-screen take on games like Ikaruga and Outland. The gameplay reminds me of Bit.Trip Runner, but it lacks the hook and charm that kept me playing that game even as I was failing levels multiple times. With no story to drive you forward, the game just becomes one long repeated cycle – your reward for successfully memorizing one level is a new one to memorize. With generic platforming and a generally unpolished feel, the novelty wears off quickly, and Fractured Soul is best left out in space.

Review copy of game provided by publisher.

Dave Payerle

Dave Payerle

Dave enjoys playing video games almost as much as he enjoys buying video games. What his wife calls an "online shopping addiction" he calls "building a library". When he's not digging through the backlog he's hunting for loot in Diablo or wondering when the next Professor Layton game is coming.

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  • xam

    I loved Fractured Soul, and find your review troubling in a few ways. First, you claim the biggest problem is “the amount of repetition” because the game is too hard for you. The game poses a decent challenge, but i never found it particularly frustrating. The challenge had me coming back for more, and the satisfaction of beating a tough level was great. You write that if you die at the end of a level, you have to restart from the beginning- “only to have one mistimed jump send you back to the beginning”. This is completely UNTRUE. Almost every level has many auto-checkpoints within it, so if you die you DO NOT start over, you resume from the checkpoint (except for a small handfull of flying or boss levels, which simply couldn’t have a checkpoint). You also state “With no story to drive you forward, the game just becomes one long repeated cycle”. I’ll admit there isn’t a heavy story or any cut scenes, but Fractured Soul is about the actual gameplay. Fun gameplay is what true gamers should care about, not cut scenes or movies, and especially for a $10 download game. The gameplay is completely varied, and never felt like a repeated cycle. There are underwater levels, flying levels, reverse gravity levels, winter levels, and so many different elements which change the gameplay, and tons of different challenges, each level was quite varied throughout the game. It’s actually one of the freshest approaches to platforming i’ve played in a while- combining platforming with unique dual-screen puzzles, plus action & shooting as well. It’s cool if you disagree with a few of my points, but to rate this game a 4 out of 10 is a disgrace, and completely biased. So basically you wanted the game to be easier and have cut scenes, then maybe you’d give it a passing grade? A 4 out of 10 implies the game is BROKEN or completely FLAWED, yet Fractured Soul is an outstanding game, which seemed to simply rub you the wrong way. Oh it’s too hard for me, and i don’t see any cut scenes, so i’ll give it a 4. That’s pathetic, and this review should be removed.

    • TheRequiem95

      I don’t think it’s fair to insist that the review should be removed. There is plenty of disagreement over this game (among others) and each reviewer is entitled to their own opinion. I don’t think that a 4/10 implies anything on its own. I think 5 is “meh,” while 4 is slightly less than “meh.”

      It’s great to voice your point of view that you disagree, though. The game is on sale right now so I’m at least going to try the demo.