The Fractal and Pulse: Volume One developer doesn’t disappoint in its latest dazzling puzzler Splice: Tree of Life ($3.99). Cipher Prime once again sticks to an iPad-only experience, but it only takes one look at the gorgeously large, 70+ levels to understand why the team opted for the larger touch canvas.
Players have a limited number of moves (splices) to arrange cells in a way that matches the outlined structure. The game later introduce mutator genes which cause cells to duplicate, create or destroy lower level cells. Comprehending this may sound like it requires an advanced degree in science, but Splice‘s crisp and minimal interface makes observing and learning the different mutations’ behavior simple.
While players have a limited number of moves to accomplish each puzzle, some stages have an “angelic" solution. This basically asks players to use one or less moves to complete the same structure, but rethinking a strategy can and will lead to a new, broader understanding of how all the cells work together.
Having played Splice: Tree of Life on the PC first, the most physically exhausting thing to me was how much pointing, clicking, and resetting was needed to create the target structure. The touch controls here removed that debilitating experience and allowed my fingers and mind to experiment more quickly and tirelessly. I could easily drag cells to new areas or touch once on the top root cell to activate mutations. In addition to resetting the puzzle completely, I only needed a two-finger swipe to rewind or fast-forward my moves step by step.
The music is one long, piano serenade. Those wanting more variety or intensity will be slightly unsatisfied, but for me, few instruments are as intense as the piano (or the violin). Those looking for Game Center integration and leaderboards will be similarly left wanting, but the brain-scratching puzzles are the main attraction here.
One of the coolest things about Splice: Tree of Life is that it teaches a basic but important computer science concept: binary trees. Players need not have a lick of computer science knowledge to appreciate or enjoy Cipher Prime’s latest puzzler; it’s just an enlightened touch that one almost expects now from this Philadelphia indie team.
While there is no Lite version, Windows and Mac users can try a free Steam demo to grasp the basics of the game. Considering its graphics, sound, and gameplay, few apps offer the elegance that is Splice: Tree of Life. Four dollars is a small price to pay to expand one’s way of thinking.