Splice

Game review by
Chad Sapieha, Common Sense Media
Splice Game Poster Image
Fun but tricky puzzler provides players little guidance.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Educational Value

Kids can learn about puzzle solving, making deductions, and how to analyze information in this tricky puzzle game set inside an organism. Each level can be solved through diligent trial and error, but the most successful players will exercise their logic and reasoning abilities as they observe how cells react to their actions and apply the information they’ve learned. Splice has a theme rooted in biology, but its puzzles don’t actually teach players anything about the nature or abilities of living cells other than that they can reproduce and transform.  

Positive Messages

This game rewards players for using their minds and suggests that thoughtful, logical deduction is a necessary tool for deciphering the answers to difficult problems.

Positive Role Models & Representations

There are no characters in this game.

Ease of Play

This is a highly challenging puzzle game that offers no tutorials and virtually no guidance. The player's only help comes from an in-game manual consisting of three screens that do little more than provide an explanation of the most basic elements of play.

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What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Splice is a puzzle game with a vaguely science-y theme and no controversial content. However, this doesn't mean that it's appropriate for all ages. The puzzles -- which involve reorganizing cells into specific patterns -- can be extremely challenging, and no tutorial is offered. There is a good chance it will leave younger players -- and perhaps many older ones, too -- fairly frustrated.

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What's it about?

SPLICE is a puzzle game in which players attempt to manipulate groups of cells into specific patterns based on an evolving set of game rules in a limited number of moves. Groups of cells reconfigure themselves in specific ways when you click on them. Players need to learn the logic that governs how and why they do what they do (or simply rely on the blind luck of trial-and-error play) in order to solve each puzzle in the allotted number of moves. What's more, cells identified by special markings have specific abilities that players must work out on their own. Some might split themselves and any strands below them into two strands, while others may copy themselves by spurting out an extra cell directly below them. The entire experience is set inside a single microscopic environment, with the nebulous narrative appearing to document the evolution of cellular structures. The cell's growth corresponds to the puzzle's difficulty.

Is it any good?

Despite its simple point-and-click interface, Splice is one of the more challenging puzzle games you're likely to encounter. The rules that the cells follow can be very difficult to discern (a series of tutorials would have gone a long way toward eliminating this problem), and once you have them figured out, they can be hard to apply in your imagination as you try to predict what will happen more than one or two moves in advance. There's a good chance you'll end up solving many of the puzzles by pure luck after a lot of random clicks rather than through skill. That said, those who cue to the game’s thorny logic could find some deep satisfaction in these visual conundrums.

Regardless, it's impossible not to appreciate the game's beautiful design. Everything -- even the game menus -- exists in a single microscopic world, with previous puzzles floating in a murky, blurred background. It's a quirky and ingenious bit of presentation that’s sure to prove memorable, even if the puzzles aren't.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about using reason to solve problems. Do you experience a sense of satisfaction upon working out a problem that requires brains over brawn? What sorts of real-world conundrums have you solved simply by thinking about them?

  • They can also talk about playing puzzle games. Is this one of your favorite genres? If so, why?

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For kids who love puzzles and thinking games

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