Splice – An indie game review of Cipher Prime’s latest gem

Splice game screenshot, green and violet
Splice – An indie game review of Cipher Prime’s latest gem

Platforms: Steam, Windows PC, Mac

Game Name: Splice

Publisher: Cipher Prime Studios

Developer: Cipher Prime Studios

Genre: Puzzle

Release Date: June 13 2012

Developer Summary

Splice is an experimental and artistic puzzler. Immerse yourself in its microbial world and start splicing! Every level (“strand”) consists of a number of cells that you will need to rearrange into a target structure in several moves (“splices”).

What We Think

Making great use of atmosphere, Splice turns a petri dish into a great place to spend the afternoon. Minimalist, yet with a highly glossy coat.

They did the Molecule Mash

Flogging Molecules

In Splice, the goal of each puzzle is to perfect a life-form by manipulating existing genetic material into a new, pre-planned shape. The game eases the player in with some basic puzzles that can be completed in one or two moves. Strands within the life-form are made up of genetic blocks that can be moved to the ends of other genetic blocks (counting as one splice) and bringing all adjoined blocks along for the ride.

Each individual block (with the exception of the first one) can serve as a “parent” to either one or two blocks. When a second “child” is introduced, both strands beneath the parent will fan out at equal angles. Blocks closer to the head block cannot be moved further down its own strand. Move a block to join a different strand, and all connected blocks are going along for the ride.

Though the structure can be manipulated an infinite number of times, the player must have created the new mapped-out organism before the maximum number of splices have been performed. The scroll wheel can cycle through the past splices (should there be any “mistakes”).

Use all the tools at your disposal

Good Golly Miss Dolly

Later genetic sequences will introduce advanced splicing techniques. These appear as regular genetic blocks, but are designated with an icon indicating the technique that block can perform. Mutation blocks, for example, extend the strand by adding an additional block. Deletion blocks will eliminate itself, and everything connected after it. Clone blocks make an exact copy of anything that is linked beneath it.

To activate powers, the player must right click the mouse. The head block will have a wave of energy that emanates out from it, sending potential energy to the blocks immediately connected to it. The subsequent wave will activate the next link in the chain, and so forth. This dictates which tool blocks will be activated, and in what order. Though deploying the function of a tool block requires no splices, moving them into the appropriate position will.

Music Soothes the Savage…Geneticist?

The piano solos that permeate the gameplay (music has always been a major feature in Cipher Prime titles) gently massage the temples; each molecular sequence (level) comes with its own striking piano melody, some soothing, while others pulse with eager anticipation. Using the fast-forward and rewind feature will disrupt the music momentarily with a discordant reverse warbling (similar to Braid) that can really shake up the overall vibe. It almost seems to suggest that on a truly microbial plane, there are no second tries.

Moving the mouse around will slightly rotate the organism, and it will flow in and out gently as time passes. It all feels incredibly natural, and the pairing of music and motion can have an almost hypnotic effect.

Is that a bunch of extra genetic material in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?

Skinny Genes

Once I got the hang of Splice, I found it highly enticing and pleasantly rewarding. Regrettably, there isn’t much else to take on other than completing the sequences in order (though completed splices can be revisited). Though the challenge of unlocking increasingly complex genomes is enticing, some additional challenges or unlockables would have certainly been welcome.

Lack of extras aside, Splice offers up a healthy dose of unique cerebral action. Dive down deep, and let Splice show you the building blocks of all puzzle games.

Splice is an official selection in PAX Prime’s PAX 10 for 2012.

Splice – The Official Page at Cipher Prime Studio

Splice is available on Steam for USD $9.99

[xrr rating=”4.5/5″]