Fractured Soul dropped in 2012 on the 3DS, and we never got around to reviewing it.
Let's fix that with the arrival of the brand new PC port two years later, shall we?
Fractured Soul (3DS, PC [reviewed])
Developer: Endgame Studios
Publisher: Endgame Studios
Release Date: February 25, 2014 (PC) / September 13, 2012 (3DS)
At first glance, Fractured Soul seems like a straightforward action platformer. You have the ability to double-jump and shoot, like any number of genre staples out there, which isn't all that exciting. Then you press the "switch" button and everything changes.
You see, Fractured actually has you controlling two characters at the same time. The screen is divided into two sections -- top and bottom -- and each has a completely different "take" on the level. For instance, one may have a ladder available to save you from falling into a pit, and the other will have a giant bed of spikes waiting for you.
You can switch screens at any time, including in mid-air. It's a scheme similar to Housemarque's wonderfully crafted Outland, but with less emphasis on style and more on clean old-school platforming. So you don't pull your hair out in frustration, the "active" personality is colored in, and the "inactive" one is invulnerable and looks like a wire frame, making it easy to know what "soul" is in control. One of the coolest things about Fractured Soul is how it messes with your mind. Because of what's visible on one screen, you may start shooting at something that isn't actually there, or think a jump is safe when it leads you straight down to hell.
What's great is that every world mixes things up with new concepts like shifting gravity, and a host of "extra" stages with score-attack elements will keep you busy afterwards. Endgame Studios also doesn't waste your time with remedial and elongated tutorials, as Fractured ramps up fairly quickly -- and that's just good design.
Visually Fractured Soul isn't going to break any new ground, but the neon blue and red style is endearing enough to make it stand out. Because the game is adapted from the 3DS, which originally catered to two separate screens, there is one caveat with the PC version -- there's a border between the two realms that occasionally gets in the way, which can be annoying at times. But the forgiving checkpoint system practically makes it a non-issue, and it's something you can accommodate for as you learn more about the game.
There aren't a whole lot of changes from Fractured Soul's first portable outing outside of enhanced visuals (with 60 frames per second), tweaked difficulty, and the addition of multiplayer. The 3DS' "normal" difficulty mode is now "hardcore" -- a response to fans who suggested the original was too hard. While that could have been a problem if the developers didn't stick the original experience in there, the fact that hardcore is still standing is more than good enough for me. Platforming fans, you'll want to start there.
Another major advantage the PC version has over the 3DS iteration is the new aforementioned multiplayer mode. Before you get your hopes up, it's asynchronous -- meaning your co-op partner cannot control themselves until you manually switch over to the other screen, and vice-versa. Because you'll have to quickly "take over" sometimes in mid-air in situations beyond your control, multiplayer is even harder than the base game.
I'm not sure there's enough here to warrant a double-dip, but if you're a platforming fan and haven't played Fractured Soul yet, it's worth your time. Although it could stand to use a little polish, Endgame Studios has created a wonderfully raw retro experience.
Fractured Soul reviewed by Chris Carter
Impressive effort with a few noticeable problems holding it back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth most people's time and cash.
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