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Portabliss: Fractured Soul (3DS eShop)


This is Portabliss, a column about downloadable games that can be played on the go.

If the cancellation of the retail DS and 3DS versions marked the end of Fractured Soul, it would have been a tragedy. That would have been the case five years ago. Instead, Endgame Studios just got to self-publish it on the eShop for a lower price than it would have commanded at retail. And that's why 2012 is pretty cool.

Gallery: Fractured Soul (9/12/12) | 8 Photos

Fractured Soul isn't the most beautiful game on 3DS, and it's one of the few that doesn't display in 3D, but the graphics clearly convey all the information you need to know – and that's important, because your eyes will be darting back and forth between the two 3DS screens. Rapidly. All the time.

The game takes place, as a few other DS games have, in two separate environments, divided across screens. They're similar, but not identical: there might be an energy barrier on the top screen, or an enemy on the bottom screen. You have to warp between these two literally parallel worlds with the shoulder button, leaving a blue outline of your position on the screen you aren't physically occupying.

When I started playing this game, I thought of warping as a method of traversal between two different venues for action: in other words, you warp back and forth to places you'll be jumping and shooting. But that's not how Endgame designed it: instead, you'll have you warp back and forth with such speed and dexterity that warping joins jumping and shooting as an action. Instead of setting up interactions, it becomes a new form of interaction.

Portabliss Fractured Soul 3DS eShop

You don't get much time to get used to the idea before weird variations are thrown at you. One early level gives you a normal environment on the bottom screen and an underwater environment on the top screen, both of which have moving walls closing in on your left. Movement is slower underwater, but you can jump further, and the game forces you to navigate both – by jumping, then quickly moving to the underwater world, then back to regular gravity once you've cleared enough distance. There's a lot of mid-jump warping. It takes a lot of practice, and a lot of repeated deaths.

There are also clever side-scrolling shooter segments that require you to keep jumping back and forth between screens, killing enemies to fill a meter on each screen. That way, you're not encouraged to use the warp as a dodge maneuver, but are instead encouraged to seek out confrontation.

Fractured Soul has a rare feature for a 3DS game: leaderboards, which track your completion time for each stage. The only problem is that you have to complete the stages, which is easier said than done. This game is Mega Man Hard.

Fractured Soul is available for $11.99 on the 3ds eShop. We're always looking for new distractions. Want to submit your game for Portabliss consideration? You can reach us at portabliss aat joystiq dawt com.

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