PAX East 2013: Fractured Soul PC hands-on left me baffled and pleased
Tucked away in one of the quieter corners of PAX East was one indie game that may be familiar to 3DS e-shop users. Fractured Soul, a puzzle platformer released on the dual screen platform, is now headed to PC. I’m happy to report the game deserves the extra attention a PC release will hopefully provide.
The 3DS made a lot of sense for Fractured Soul, but had it simply stayed on the tiny corner of gaming that is the e-shop, most people would never know it existed. The gameplay is deviously simple. Each screen features a slightly different version of the same environment, with the player’s character on one screen and a phantom version on the other. Pressing a button swapped the character from top screen to bottom and vice-versa.
The PC version of the game doesn’t have the advantage of two screens; instead, the action is divided between the top and bottom halves of the screen, not unlike a split-screen mode in a console FPS. The advantage is that the power of a PC allows a smooth framerate. One of the complaints of the 3DS version was that it had a tendency to chug. Not here, though -- in the demo I played, all the action seemed to run at a consistently smooth 60 fps.
Through a sampling of levels, I found a game with some very simple controls that lead to some profound puzzle gameplay. You can walk left and right, duck, shoot, jump, double-jump, and switch between top and bottom screens. It’s that swapping where things get really crazy.
Many moments in the demo had me staring at both screens, assessing what needed to be done before my next leap. Often, platforms will only exist on the top screen, where the bottom screen will have a bottomless pit. Sometimes, enemies only exist on one screen, and later levels showed me that dealing with them and not losing all your health is a very real concern.
The game has plenty of twists along the way, too. One example was a level that was flooded on the top half of the screen and normal on the bottom. The result was that you moved more slowly on the bottom screen but you could also jump a lot higher. An even crazier departure had me playing a vertical 2D shoot ‘em up-style game where I was a little space ship. The action was split vertically here, and I had to kill enemies on both sides to maintain a fuel bar. On one side of the screen I'd be fighting tons of smaller enemies while fighting a much larger and heartier boss enemy on the other. Fractured Soul wears its love for all things 2D and hardcore on its sleeve.
On top of that, the game has plenty of secrets to find that unlock bonus levels and get high scores. You’re rated at the end of each stage, and I was told the PC version will have additional features to facilitate speed runners and perfectionists. On the other side, the game will also have an easier difficulty mode, since the original game was deemed too hard by many players.
Either way, it seems like this is the version of the game to get. You can help move the process along by supporting the game’s release on Steam Greenlight. It’s looking like a winner, so I highly suggest you do.
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