Cipher Prime has made a name for itself for making beautiful, sensual games, focussed on sound design and simplicity. If you have ever played Auditorium, you will know what I mean. Splice is the game company’s latest venture, and doesn’t buck this trend. It offers yet another soothing puzzle title, fit to join the ranks of those before it.
In Splice, you work at a microbial level, reconstructing cells to meet their required formation. You can drag and drop cells or groups of cells to different locations on a strand (a level). Each cell can only be linked to two ‘children’. As you play through the game’s 5 sequences, special cells are introduced that divide, destroy and duplicate its children. For a puzzle mechanic that is totally original, the gameplay is surprisingly intuitive and natural. It’s simple yet challenging, and that’s probably one of the best traits a puzzle game can have.
This emphasis on simplicity is carried through to the game’s aesthetic design. The whole game is quite literally submerged in a blissful underwater existence. Navigating the in-game menu involves swooping from screen to screen in a muted 3D seascape. The smooth classic piano soundtrack instills a sense of calm, allowing you to concentrate on the puzzle in front of you.
Splice’s first few levels are ridiculously easy. But by Sequence 5, the difficulty starts to kick in, with multiple branches and special cells. It gets complicated. Thankfully, to avoid frustration, you can freely rewind a level at any point. This allows you to experiment with ideas, without having to start the whole level again. It’s a slick mechanic that makes the puzzle solving so much more enjoyable, rather than head banging.
From the start of the game, you aren’t given that much guidance. There’s no initial instructions panel, or tutorial, and the game leaves you to work out what to do. This approach of letting the player explore the game mechanics by themselves is a clever one, and has been used by other successful indie games like Super Meat Boy. But some concepts can be accidentally left undiscovered, such as the ability to turn back time, which I only stumbled upon halfway through the game.
Initially, Splice includes 7 sequences, each containing 7 strands. But once you ‘complete the game’, an Epilogue is unlocked. This includes 4 more sequences that have been designed to be insanely hard. If you are prepared to up your status to ‘Puzzle God’, then you may want to attempt these.
Splice submerges you in this heavenly microbial world that you just can’t pull yourself away from. As you navigate its levels like a spiritual waterborne creature, a sense of relaxation and tranquility washes over you, lapping against your real world worries and doubts.
Publisher: Cipher Prime
Genre: Cipher Prime’s Best Puzzler Yet
Pros: Gorgeous visuals; original, natural puzzle gameplay; excellent calming soundtrack; gets devilishly hard.