In the past, I’ve written about iPad games that, in my opinion, are helping bring about an era of high-quality, in-depth and complex mobile games — including Infinity Blade II, Chaos Rings II and Lume, among others.
Despite these games’ successes in helping redefine the mobile platform, I’ve always found certain problems with their execution. These games often result in “style over substance,” with beautiful graphics sometimes hiding subpar stories, simple gameplay or overly convoluted concepts that muddle the game’s artistry.
But for the first time, that’s not the case here. I can say with confidence that I’ve found an iPad game with equal amounts of style and substance. A game that will help revolutionize the way we think about mobile games and what they can accomplish. It is a game that is, essentially, flawless — and believe it or not, it’s a puzzle game.
Splice : Tree of Life is the latest creation from unique game company Cipher Prime, also responsible for other iPad puzzle releases like Pulse and Auditorium. Cipher Prime is known for using sights and sounds to create beautiful puzzle games, and their efforts are especially apparent in this game.
The puzzles in Splice : Tree of Life are modeled after microbial organisms that shift, alter and mutate to evolve into larger, more complex strands of D.N.A.-like structures. The player is given a strand to complete with a specific number of pill-shaped pieces, as well as a limited numbers of attempts to put them together in the correct form. The controls are touch-based with just the right amount of sensitivity and response time.
Gameplay sounds simple, but it’s actually incredibly complex. All the pieces are interconnected and will react to one another. By moving one piece, the player can end up moving all of them — meaning a simple rearrangement scheme isn’t going to work. In addition, some pieces can multiply at a moment’s notice. The player has to think ahead in order to ensure success.
In case the player does make too many mistakes, the game includes time-shifting abilities that allow the player to retrace his or her steps, similar in style to fellow indie game Braid.
Now what do I love about this game? To start, it’s gorgeous, pure and simple. There’s no other way to put it. Visually, it looks like a stylish mix of monster evolution game Spore and cake-loving puzzle masterpiece Portal. The screen is an ever-shifting pool of organisms that tilts with the player’s iPad, giving gameplay a realistic and immersive feel.
Another wonderful thing about this game is the music. A few of Cipher Prime’s prior releases use music as part of the puzzle — here it’s part of the environment. A beautiful piano-based soundtrack, written and performed by Dain Saint, is both calming and mystifying. The “Flight of Angels” music shifts and bends just like the microbial organisms the player is manipulating. I found myself playing longer just so I could keep listening to the music. The album is available here to listen for free or purchase for $4.99.
The game features a successfully executed rewards system, with a wide variety of achievements to accomplish. The only thing I would say is negative about this game was I couldn’t find a way to access my achievements without leaving the game and going into Game Center, something I found a little annoying. Then again, this was a small flaw in what I otherwise consider a perfect game.
Splice : Tree of Life is an absolute must-buy. I cannot stress this enough. If you enjoy games that are beautiful, unique and challenging enough to keep you engaged, you cannot pass this one up. Splice : Tree of Life is, by far, the best game I have reviewed for this website and it will be staying on my iPad’s dock for awhile.
Here’s an App Store link for Splice : Tree of Life; it’s currently priced at $3.99.
Disclosure: A promo code for this game was provided by Cipher Prime. For further information regarding our site’s review policies, please see the “About” page.