There are few games on this planet that make me feel like a genius. I say this because I know, in fact, I am not a genius. But experiences like Splice trick me into thinking maybe I am. The problem, though, is that puzzle games are the never-ending staircase of games. Their satisfaction is short-lived. One puzzle is completed and another is presented. Just like that, right back to square one. And there’ll always be more puzzles to solve that will stump me, leave me dumbfounded. But with Splice I felt brilliant, much like the game itself.
In a boundless environment, similar to Transcripted and tonally reminiscent of the House opening - replete with a comforting piano twinkling in the background – Splice rolls out its stylish mood without stress. According to developer Cipher Prime, the game is set in the “microbial miniverse” wherein pieces of a DNA strand must be manipulated and aligned. There are portions of the strand missing that need to be filled with a limited amount of provided pieces. Moving the pieces requires splices, of which there are few. When I would begin a puzzle, I’d use my splices in moments. The game’s rewind/reset made my impatience tolerable. Rage quits were nonexistent.
Each strand puzzle is part of a larger whole, called a Sequence. When a Sequence is finished, another is begun with its own set of puzzles. “Sorry, your DNA strand is in another castle,” and all the jazz. And when moving onto the next Sequence (just replace it with “World” if that helps), the game reconstructs itself like a body fighting off a virus. It comes back stronger, with more defenses and complexities to adapt. DNA pieces develop extra elements, like splitting from one to two or the ability to destroy other pieces on the level, which then causes a chain reaction on the rest of strand. Cause and effect. Change and evolution.
Splice’s atmosphere is serene. Its single-instrument soundtrack enveloped me. I felt part of the world, microscopic, a mere blip shifting and crafting. The puzzles are alive, like some small bit of marine life hidden off some spit of land. It all added to my cooled logic. Each new strand became a medical mystery I was asked to cure. It all moved and glowed. I have a tendency to assume the worst with puzzle games if I can’t solve them within three minutes. I also have a tendency to quit and come back after a few days rest (re: pouting). Here, I plowed through and completed the game in one sitting.
I’ve heard and read about Portal’s “eureka” moments, the moments when everything clicks and the sun comes out and your life feels like a Mentos commercial; Splice is no different. Here, the solution was always a few steps ahead of me. And when I’d brush away the nonsense, sit down and really think, I’d see it off in the distance. And I’d dance. I would dance when I played Splice because I knew how to solve its puzzles. It invited me in and I never wanted to leave its tiny, maddening, beautiful world.