Indie Review: Splice
Splice plunges you into a microbial world that you can easily get lost within, provided you have a lot of patience.
- Worth The Time?Yes, but only because Splice was so beautiful and listening to the heavenly soundtrack made it worth the time.
- Things LovedIncredible soundtrack, fantastic visual design, lengthy, challenging for those who have patience, starts immediately.
- Things HatedNo tutorial or help at the beginning, puzzles border on annoying, puzzles eventually end up being lengthy trial and error exercises, lack of a menu system can sometimes lead to cumbersome navigation of levels, a lot of patience is required to fully understand the constantly changing mechanics.
- RecommendationSplice is for people who want a challenging puzzler that will keep them staring at a screen, in the hope of eventually having a "light bulb" moment. The problem is that the time between these moments could vary indefinitely from player to player, and Splice rarely tries to aid you in any way. Play the demo and come back if you liked what you saw.
- Name: Splice
- Genre: Puzzle
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: N/A
- Platforms: PC, MAC
- Developer: Cipher Prime
- Publisher: Cipher Prime
- Price: $10 (approx. R80.00)
- Reviewed On: PC
There’s a reason why developers are scared of making puzzle titles. These types of games require immaculate balance. Make a puzzle game too easy and it becomes boring, never really making you feel as though you’re being tested. Make it too hard and players are forced to guess their way through it, duplicating a feeling that you’re not actually learning as you go along. Portal and its subsequent sequel are examples of this formula being perfected, but you’d be hard pressed to find a lot of puzzle titles that are the same. Sure they’re out there, but Splice is certainly not one of them. With a learning curve that feels unfair at times and puzzles that require a lot of experimentation rather than logical thinking, Splice quickly turns from an intriguing puzzler into a monotonous series of trials and errors.
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Splice is a puzzle title that involves ‘splicing’ cells to form a pattern. For people who know anything about medicine or biology (I know nearly next to nothing in both those fields) you’ll understand exactly what Splice is about. Each stage has you moving or ‘splicing’ cells in order to fill an outline that is visible from the beginning. Each stage only allows you a certain number of splices, so every move you make must be productive and compliment your next move. Complete a stage in the required or less moves and you evolve into the next stage, eventually evolving into a whole new ‘gene’. These medical terms don’t really impact the gameplay, but they form a nice premise for the entire experience. It’s also interesting to have a game involve you on such a microscopic level. It all feels unique and fresh, so it’s such a pity that the gameplay is ultimately a letdown.
The problems start when you first start Splice up. The game starts immediately, with no menu or tutorial. Now having no menu is a rather great feature, as the game immerses you almost immediately, but the lack of a simple tutorial is a bit jarring from the get go. Once you find the well hidden help button and mess around with your first few splices you’ll eventually get the hang of things and the game will start becoming enjoyable. Problem is you’ll have to repeat these steps every time the game flings a new mechanic at you. Evolving into new levels also introduces you to new types of cells that do more than just move. These cells can split into two other cells, duplicate entire strands and more. You’re probably feeling a bit confused with all this talk of strands and multiplying cells, but that is exactly what Splice does to you. There is no introduction to these new cells or their abilities, so you’re forced to discover exactly how they work and how to manipulate them.
So I know what you’re thinking, “Isn’t that the point of a puzzle game? Experimentation?”. Well yes and no. When a puzzle game forces you to experiment in order to educate you in it’s mechanics, then it works. When a game like Splice forces you to experiment and go through various attempts just to understand how a mechanic works before you can start thinking about how to use it, then it’s doing something very wrong. But the real problem doesn’t even lie there. Splice forces you to go through various attempts to figure out how something works, only to hit you in the face with a more advanced puzzle next. If you managed to advance through pure luck (which happens very often), you could be left completely stranded on some levels. Rather than making you feel as though you’re mastering the mechanics as you goo, Splice turns into a very challenging guessing game. You’ll quickly start splicing random cells and activating different types of cells at random in the hope of achieving success. It’s not that you can’t learn the mechanics, it’s just that Splice doesn’t ever make it interesting enough for you to care.
Thankfully there are some aspects of Splice that can be commended. First is the soundtrack. Splice may not be the sound centric game that developers Cipher Prime created with Auditorium, but it’s great to hear that they haven’t let this aspect slide. The utterly beautiful soundtrack is a melodic masterpiece, with a soothing piano backtrack keeping you entertained through your entire playthrough. The music fits extremely well with the aesthetics of the game, which should be commended as well. A very simple colour scheme that changes with each stage, combined with some great cell animations make Splice a wonder to look at. The visuals and music combined are enough to justify at least downloading the demo, and the way they immerse you in Splice’s world make the journey almost worth taking.
It’s just such a shame that the game can be utterly infuriating to play at times. Granted there are a lot of people out there with enough patience to play Splice and enjoy it, but there is certainly a difference between hand holding and utter abandonment. It’s still a good puzzle title that will keep you solving puzzles for a long time, but the problem lies in whether you’ll feel addicted enough to see it through. If you’re itching for some extremely mind-bending challenges then you’ll probably love Splice, but if you’re like me you’ll ultimately end up guessing your way through various levels and become utterly annoyed by others. You’ll leave Splice feeling less relaxed than when you arrived, which is a shame because it makes all the sound work meaningless. For $10 (Approx R80.00) it’s not hard to recommend a purchase, but a quick playthrough of the demo should give you an idea of whether or not this title is for you. Either way, purchase the soundtrack. You won’t be disappointed.