Splice: Tree of Life, a microbiological puzzler from Cipher Prime Studios, is now available from the app store. Featuring gorgeous art design, smooth controls, and heady puzzles, Splice is a bit of a head-scratcher that ultimately satisfies.
Splice: Tree of Life Pros:
- Gorgeous art design and deviously clever puzzles
- Soundtrack is relaxing and responds to touch input
- Tap and drag controls are easy to use
- Pure puzzling experience without timers or points
- GameCenter integration for achievements
Splice: Tree of Life Cons:
- Limited replay value
- Steep difficulty curve with no hint/skip options
Splice tosses you into its first puzzle with little fanfare or direction, simply presenting a strand-of-sausage type of object with positional outlines around it. The goal of each puzzle is to rearrange the organic structure to fit within the outlines. You do this by dragging on any one of the strand’s cells, which will have an effect on the position of all of the rest as you move them around the board. Shadows indicate where cells will go, giving you visual feedback as you try to determine which move to make. If a move is invalid for one reason or another, the cells snap back into place. Early puzzles aren’t too difficult, though it’s not always evident why cells react the way they do. There appears to be some symmetrical balance at play, but there’s a good deal of trial-and-error necessary. Before too long, you’ll encounter special cells that can extend or split into multiple pieces when the anchor cell is tapped. Any cell on the strand can only ever have two “children” forking off of it, a limiting factor that plays into the strategy of figuring out each solution. It’s easy to get bogged down in a puzzle that doesn’t seem to have a logical answer, but keep pressing and thinking outside of the box and you’ll eventually stumble onto the answer. We would have been more comfortable with some rudimentary explanation or tips & tricks up front, even a hint function would have been nice, but Splice feels more tuned to hardcore puzzlers who probably bypass that type of help anyway.
The graphic design reminds us of delving into a microscope slide with intricate bacterial formations within. The backdrop has a liquid-like feel to it, and the smooth animations of the structures further reinforce that feeling. A scroll bar on the screen’s right side allows you to undo moves or start over, and your limited number of remaining splices is indicated on-screen, as well. The piano-based musical accompaniment has a relaxing feel, matching its laidback style that doesn’t incorporate any type of timer or point system. The controls are drag-based, offering a natural feel to interacting with the on-screen objects.
Replay value is low, as the lack of quantifiable data doesn’t lend itself to improvements upon additional playthroughs. However, the experience itself may be worth tackling some of the puzzles again. There are more than a dozen GameCenter achievements to snag, too. It should be noted that owners of the original iPad will likely have issues with crashing and sluggish performance, though iPad 2 and current iPad owners should be fine. An iPad-only offering for $3.99, Splice: Tree of Life is an enjoyable 4-Dimple brain-bender.
Splice: Tree of Life Review,