A space station tears itself apart at the seams, and an inter-dimensional rift is all that saves the station’s occupants from destruction. Running from the coming oblivion is the entire premise of Fractured Soul, a dual-screen platformer made especially for the 3DS Shop. You’ll take the role of the station’s “entities,” robot/humanoids with arm cannons and the ability to jump between the top and bottom screen dimensions at will. But the game’s not a Megaman-style shoot-’em-up; instead, it’s more of a action-puzzle hybrid, challenging you to find the quickest route through the chaos to the end of the level.
The space station simultaneously exists in two separate dimensions, but the dimensions aren’t identical. Platforms and ladders will exist in one but not the other, baddies may appear in just one of them, and jumping back and forth between dimensions is the only way to reach the goal safely. Sure, you might be able to pound through a wall of enemies with your cannon, but more often than not there’s a faster way to handle the problem by switching dimensions, and the game’s all about speed. You can get up to a five-star rating on each level by finding all of the level’s secret objects AND finishing quickly. There’s no limit to the number of times you can die in each level, and you’ll appreciate that in many cases.
Fractured Soul has a habit of sneaking tough-as-nails challenges into the fray. By the middle of the game you’ll find yourself fighting less for stars and more just for survival. Between the grenade-launching baddies, reflective shields that bounce your own attacks back at you, insta-death force-fields, and precision jumping stages you’ll want to pull your own hair out. Later stages will change the top screen dimension, so you’ll have to deal with being underwater, in superheated molten stages, and even deal with shifts in gravity. I almost wanted to shut my 3DS forever on a few occasions.
Even though it’s great to play something with some old-school unforgiving difficulty, a couple facets of the game can be frustrating in a bad way. The game’s all about time-trials, but dying doesn’t reset the game’s clock. So even when you’re forced to go all the way back to the beginning of the level, the only way to reset time is to go through the menu and choose “restart” every time. Considering time is such a vital part of the star ratings, it would have been nice to have a “time trial mode” or something where death would reset the clock since some of the par times for levels seem almost absurd. And though some of the Fractured Soul‘s best moments come in the Gradius-like space-shooter levels where you have to alternate between dimensions to keep each starfighter alive,there are far too few of them. A small grievance: There’s also absolutely no 3D to speak of in the game, and though I applaud the team for not tacking it in sloppily, some of the visuals would have looked spectacular in 3D.
Fractured Soul‘s got a lot to offer in a small package. If you’re a glutton for punishment, completing the time trials will definitely extend the life of the title. Grab Fractured Soul on the 3DS Shop for $11.99.
Final Score: 4.25/5