I typically enjoy puzzle games. I like their nature. Boot it up, solve some puzzles, force your brain to work things out. But inevitably they fail to hold interest, and I move on to something more engrossing. This is the case for most puzzle games I have played. I really like the mechanics and enjoy the wrapping, but they fail to keep attention long enough for me to conquer the game. Splice has become one of the few exceptions to this rule.
This week on the show we talked briefly about the game Splice, by Cipher Prime. The game at a glance seems to be pulling its style from cellular biology and electron microscopes. The experience of playing the game feels like real science. Russ commented during the show that it reminded him of Folding at Home. Hopefully somehow each puzzle I solve is going to help map some genome.
The mechanics go like this: You have a template of how the cells should be arranged. The cells are all attached in a string like a beaded necklace. Each cell can only have a maximum of two cells attached to it. You can take one cell, and the chain that follows it, and splice or move it. As you progress through the several stages, you are introduced to new cells with special properties. Some cells split and double all cells after it in the chain. Some cells simply extend themselves one more space and push the chain further. And other cells will destroy themselves and all cells after it on the chain. All the basic ingredients for a solid puzzler.
Splice does what most puzzle games fail to do. It enthralls. The mechanics are intuitive and polished. The atmosphere created is at times overwhelming, and powerful. The music and mechanics coalesce to form an ethereal narrative. Frustration is set aside for inquisition. And your mind is able to alter to match the puzzles.
Some of the puzzles have a special requirement to unlock the “angelic” solution. This is referring to completing the puzzle with a move left over. Normally, I would pass by this, but I found myself slowly and methodically working it out. The minimalistic design and soaring piano strides keep frustrations low.
The soundtrack is terrific. I fell in love with it immediately. It has a quality of composition that is akin to feature film composers like Yann Tiersen, who composed both Amelie and Good Bye Lenin! At times generating an atmosphere of melancholy, elation, and understanding. The piano soundscapes added with the intuitive and simplistic game design has created an extremely compelling puzzler.
A previous title from the developers is Fractal: Make Blooms Not War, a hex grid based puzzler that requires you to push blocks around to form clusters. It also has a very minimalistic game interface and a excellent soundtrack to boot. I picked it up several months ago and have been playing it casually here and there.
Splice is a simpler game than Fractal, but I don’t feel that is a detriment. Fractal was an excellent puzzler on its own. Splice, feels like a more refined experience. I wasn’t surprised to find that Cipher Prime developed both of these games. Fractal was the last puzzle game to grab my attention in a real way. With Splice I feel that Cipher Prime has truly outdone themselves.