I'm so, so excited to start covering Wii U. With the new HD video push we're doing, plus the setup for direct feed footage and 3DS/Wii U promo videos I'll be tackling, there's just so much content to bring out! I sure hope you're just as excited to see it! As we all wait for Wii U, please enjoy this Fractured Soul review! A great game to keep you busy! See you in a few, short hours.
Fractured Soul has been traveling a very long road to release. It eventually took a change of platform (DS to 3DS) for this title to launch. With so many years in development, you could think that either the game was facing serious issues every step, or the team working on it was really pouring their heart and soul into it. Now that I've wrapped up the main campaign, it's very clear that at its core, Fractured Soul is a very engaging concept.
That's part of the issue with Fractured Soul, though. The core gameplay and its mechanics are all very well handled. The game function as it should and its ideas are explored fully. The thing is, I think that laser focus on the gameplay mechanics may have caused the game to suffer in other areas. As I always say, gameplay is most important. When all is said and done, the quibbles I'm about to talk about don't amount to a reason to avoid the game. It's just some details that need to be voiced in a review.
Outside of the main gameplay elements, Fractured Soul is very bare bones. The visuals really aren't anything special to look at. They almost look like graphics that were placeholder in some spots. Items that were meant to be replaced with higher quality work when the gameplay was taken care of. I was actually saddened to see the visuals fall so flat, as the gameplay itself is wonderfully developed.
If you're looking for any kind of engaging story out of this game, you're once again going to be disappointed. A very minimal effort was put into creating some sort of story/environment in the game. You get a few lines of text to introduce each level, and those only serve as something to keep you busy while you wait for the game to load. With loading being quite quick, these story bits are quickly forgotten. In the end, you get a very loose idea of what's going on, but it's not anything you're going to remember.
Rounding out the bare-bones approach is the entire sound package. There are lots of sound effects that sound low-quality. There are also some sound effects that you've heard in countless TV shows and video games. It doesn't seem that any real care was put into the audio package. It simply gets the job done. For me, that's really not a quality that I'd like to have in a project I was involved with. Even just a bit more attention to the audio could have made for a much more enjoyable experience.
These little things add up as a major detractor for some people. There are gamers that want the presentation to match the gameplay. I don't think there's anything wrong with that. I just happen to be able to look past those things to enjoy the actual play of the game. With that said, I really do feel disappointed with the presentation. A sprucing up of those elements could have really made Fractured Soul something special.
For those that are willing to sidestep all those issues, you're going to quickly find out that the devs clearly spent all of their time on the gameplay of Fractured Soul. This is a dual-screen platformer that really explores some unique ideas that will definitely put your gaming skills to the test. This is the thinking man's action platformer. You're going to have to do a lot of puzzle-solving while on the move, which is sure to get you sweating as you progress.
Fractured Soul does a wonderful job of easing you into the main gameplay mechanic. While you'll be running, jumping and shooting, the real meat of the gameplay comes from shifting between two worlds. Much like Chronos Twins, you'll be shifting back and forth between two characters that are in the same location. These locations are split between the two screens, with one character/setting on one level and the other character/setting on the other. As you move one character, the other will move as well.
There are going to be all sorts of things that get in your way on each screen. Sometimes you won't be able to progress due to locked doors on one screen. You'll have to switch back-and-forth to walk through the open paths that will take you to the exit. These are the simple challenges that the game throws at you early one. Platforms to jump on, doors to bypass and buttons to press. Nothing too sophisticated when you start, but you better make sure you learn the basics well. This game is just itching to kick your ass.
I don't know that I've played any other game that really makes you think on the fly like Fractured Soul does. You'll come upon situations that require thinking in ways that you might be surprised with. I'd drop in on elements that I couldn't believe required me to do so much at once. There are plenty of situations that have you reacting to multiple hazards on both screens at the same time. Be prepared to switch back and forth quickly, take out enemies on both screens and avoid lasers/pits/traps all at the same time.
I was also very pleased to see jut how well this switching mechanic is explored and built upon as the game goes on. I never felt like the mechanic overstayed its welcome, thanks to the various ways the game has you use it. Earlier on, you'll find a lot of switching in order to take out enemies and jump/ride platforms. Later on, you'll have to hang on ledges and jump across vast, open chasms. You'll also tackle levels that have one character fighting through an underwater section while the other is dry. You can jump higher while in water, which opens up puzzles that have you jumping in one screen to reach a platform in the dry level.
Even more interesting are the levels that throw you into lava-filled locations. Once again, one screen is filled with lava while the other isn't. You can only travel in the lava-filled levels for so long before your suit overheats. In order to cool it down, you have to switch to the opposite screen that lacks lava. This means you not only have to work out the puzzle along the way, but you have to make sure you do them in enough time to not overheat and kill off your character. You'll face some tasks that you might think impossible at first, but they are oh-so satisfying when you clear them.
Some sections in Fractured Soul required me to do so much thinking and gameplay at once that I couldn't even look at the screen. I'd have to take out the visuals once I learned patterns. I started playing based on the timing of elements. I'd listen for sounds and learn the button presses in order to get through super tough sections. It was easier to react based on sound than trying to react to the visuals as well. It sounds quite tough, but I love games that give you a challenge like this. Man, getting through these sections made me feel like I really accomplished something big!
As I said, I never felt the levels or mechanics grew stale. Still, the devs wanted to spice things up even more. They threw in a few shooter levels that have you piloting a spaceship through various locations. You'll fly through space, fight bosses and even navigate other buildings/ships from entrance to exit. These portions were equally as fun as the on-foot sections, and they even have their own mechanic. You have to shoot enemies to keep a damage meter from filling up...and you have to do this on both screens. That means switching between both screens and taking out enough enemies to make sure your ship can hold itself together.
Don't find the game challenging enough with all it throws at you? You can also hint out all the hidden secrets in the game. These come as gems that you have to collect while navigating levels. Most of them are placed in locations that will have to shifting and jumping in all sorts of crazy ways to get them. If you think the levels are tough when fighting for the exit, good luck getting these gems! Hell, there's even a par time for each level that you can try and tackle!
Grabbing these gems and making par times will give you a better star rating for each level. Why bother getting good star ratings? These stars will open up bonus levels that really, REALLY test your skills. Trust me, don't try tackling these levels until you've wrapped up the main game. Everything you learn while playing the main game is going to be put to the test in these bonus levels. You'll even learn a new thing or two while trying to clear bonus levels. If the main game didn't have you screaming at your 3DS, ready to throw it on the ground, these bonus levels should do the trick.
Fractured Soul is such a fantastic game when it comes to gameplay mechanics. New, fresh and engaging ideas that are fully explored. It's a shame that the rest of the game is so ho-hum. Visuals, sound and presentation in general are just enough to get by, rather than fully fleshed out. Fractured Soul could really have wowed people if it had the whole package, but I fear some gamers are going to hang back due to these issues.
For those that don't mind a bland presentation, PLEASE play Fractured Soul. No matter how long you've been gaming, it's really going to test your skills. I honestly cannot recommend the game highly enough. This is a gameplay mechanic that is truly explored in so many ways, all with a very nice difficulty curve. The game expects big things from you, but it doesn't throw them in your face within the first 5 minutes. I personally cannot recommend the game highly enough. As long as gameplay reigns supreme with you, you'll definitely find Fractured Soul to be a fantastic experience.