By: Matthew Striplen
Splice gives us an interesting take on the traditional puzzle game. Created by Cipher Prime and originally released in 2012 for PC, Mac and various portable devices, Splice is making its console debut on the PlayStation Network. Players must arrange bacterium-like capsules in a set pattern, as seen above. The game immediately struck me as tangrams of the future, with a few nuances to call its own.
Each strand must be completed in a set number of “splices,” or moves. Even if the correct shape is achieved, the strand cannot be completed if the splices become exhausted. One of the more intriguing aspects of the game is how the links of bacteria behave depending on how they’re arranged. If only one strand is connected to the base cell, the strand will hang straight down, if another cell or strand is connected to any of the numerous binding points, the entire chain will reorient itself to create symmetry.
In addition to the standard cell, three special cells play vital roles. One simply adds another cell in front of it, another copies everything in front of it while connecting it to the existing strand and the last self-destructs and destroys everything in front of it. The copy cell also recreates any special cells that fall under its sphere of influence. Needless to say, special cells provide the most interest to gameplay.
As far as difficulty is concerned, Splice takes its time, slowly introducing the player to new mechanics. That being said, veterans to the puzzle genre may lose interest early on due to lack of a sufficient challenge. Don’t lose hope, though, as the last few sequences pose some serious head scratchers.
Simplicity is the rule by which Splice‘s graphics are governed. Muted backdrops frame the puzzles nicely, while not distracting from the task at hand. A nice graphical Easter egg uses the controller’s gyroscope. By tilting either left or right, the strands can be shifted from one side to another. This initially gave the impression that 3D puzzles were in store, but sadly they were not — *hint hint nudge nudge* Cipher Prime.
Splice‘s music stands out as unusual in the gaming world, featuring a solo piano track. The entire soundtrack was composed and recorded by one of Cipher Prime’s co-founders, Dain Saint. Unlike most video game soundtracks, Saint’s music does not amp up the player but instead provides an ambient atmosphere, perfect for focus.
One quaint musical touch coincides with a key puzzle mechanic. Players may undo or redo moves at any time without consequence. This expedites the solving process by eliminating the need to start from scratch after a failed attempt. Each time a re/undo action is performed, the music momentarily scrambles, like a cassette tape, for those old enough to remember. Details like this, while not integral to actual gameplay, showcase the care that was put into the project. Well done.
Splice is easily the most original puzzle game I’ve seen in ages. It’s a fantastic title, especially for newer players, as it doesn’t apply too much pressure right away. Despite the high degree of difficulty at the end, Splice can still be completed in a fairly short amount of time. That being said, brevity is always preferable to a bloated mess. Hopefully, a sequel will bring even more puzzle-y goodness. Buy this game before the developers realize how good it is.