Review: SPLIT!

Even the most traditional gamer would be hard pressed to deny the growth of mobile devices as competent gaming devices, and Apple’s iOS devices are the front runner in this department. Not only have the devices become more capable of running games with improved hardware, but an increasing amount of developers are turning to mobile development rather than traditional AAA development as costs continue to soar.

One consistent downfall for iOS games, however, is the touch controls and how they’re implemented in a way that emphasises their strengths while limiting their weaknesses. It’s a fine line that developers have to contend with and one that the recently released SPLIT! has to consider. Does it successfully avoid the pitfall of so many other promising titles, or does it join the ranks of those held back by poorly implemented controls?

SPLIT!SPLIT!
System: Apple iOS (iPhone 4)
Developer: Touchy Interactive
Publisher: E-One Studio Sdn Bhd
Release Date: June 14, 2012
MSRP: $0.99

SPLIT! sees players take control of two characters, Red and Blue, as they attempt to escape a prison from a top-down view in a cover-shooter-action title in thirty levels, although more are promised to be released in upcoming updates. After a short but direct comic styled cutscene detailing their escape from their prison, players are right away able to participate in a brief tutorial or jump right into one of three difficulties, each with ten levels and with the next becoming available after successfully completing the one before it. Frankly, the story isn’t all that deep, but then again, it doesn’t need to be because the gameplay does more than enough talking on its own.

Characters enter cover immediately, and they fire automatically once they stop moving. Players simply touch on the character they wish to control and draw a path to dictate where they’ll go next. The goal is to eliminate all enemies in the level. Levels can take anywhere from a minute to five to complete and is perfect for the type of game one can play briefly for a few minutes while waiting in line or on public transport. But don’t be surprised if you find yourself saying “just one more try” as the difficulty quickly picks up. That’s right, the game can be quite difficult, and I’d expect gamers to curse under their breath a number of times but never to the point of pure annoyance. Rather, players will notice that most of the time their failure is directly related to what they did wrong, although a few times one of my characters would pop out from cover while under fire, dying immediately. This is a rare occurrence, thankfully, and with such short levels, it doesn’t take too long to get back to the point where you died.

Each level has three stars and a number of enemies to dispatch, along with a scoring system in place based on time, amount of stars collected, and whether enemies were dealt with by the traditional fire arm or by melee, earning extra points. The scoring system is a welcome addition that surely doesn’t hurt the over all product, but I personally didn’t find any desire to return to a previous level to achieve a better score. This could be rectified with the promise of new features coming later on; for example, the the ability to post scores on a leader board, a feature that may get me to redo a level again in the hopes of beating a friend.

Levels have a fair amount of variation in their design, but the environments and enemies all look the same aesthetically. Although that makes sense as it all takes in place within a prison, I would’ve appreciated a more varied environment, but that’s a rather nit picky aspect of the entire package. The two characters, Red and Blue, are essentially clones with the exact same abilities and are controlled the same way. Sometimes this can be seen as a draw back, but I don’t mind this. Rather, I see it as two guys working together seamlessly under complete control of the players, and all team work seen on screen, which there will be plenty of, is all because of the player. Timing the two player-controlled characters to work in perfect unison is a gratifying experience, especially after figuring out a certain section you’ve been stuck on for a few minutes.

screenshotIt’s not often that generic advice such as “relax” can be seen as useful, but in the case of SPLIT!, oftentimes when I found myself stuck on a particular level, I was able to pass it with ease only after I had taken a break and relaxed. SPLIT! is much more dependent on slow, methodical thinking rather than straight up action, which is a welcome change to my usual diet of fast-paced action games.

One thing I do wish had been implemented is the ability to change the path of one of my minions without their stopping in their tracks. This often led to many deaths as I almost always picked the worst possible time to alter my path. Generally, the game is able to read the path you draw out quite well, with only a handful of times where my character doubled back on a path I didn’t draw, again leading to a quick death. The only other issue I had was that, sometimes, my characters would enter a stand still of sorts, where they both would shoot at an enemy behind cover whist another freely roamed with neither taking aim and killing the easier target. These events, however, are far and few in between, and they barely detract from the over all experience.

The music is also worth noting as it features an exclusive dub step soundtrack from DJ Producer Syko-G. Although I’m not a gigantic fan of the genre, I do enjoy the rare dub step track. For the most part, the music in SPLIT! is quite good, although it can quickly become repetitive and annoying in a short amount of time. Unless one particularly loves the genre, I’d see many turning the music off entirely.

Really, the game comes in both paid and free versions, and I don’t see why one wouldn’t at least give the free version a try. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the game, and despite a few issues I had, I kept coming back to it for well over two hours. It was hard to believe that this was the first title released by Malaysian indie developer Touchy Interactive, and the game shows the developer has a promising future.

PROS
* Addictive action
* Challenging but not cheap
* Great value
* Perfect pick-up-and-play-on-the-go gameplay
* Mostly accurate reading of touch controls

CONS
* Repetitive soundtrack
* Bland environments
* Sometimes questionable AI

FINAL SCORE: B

Disclosure: At the time of press, the reviewer had completed all the Simple and Tricky levels and half of the Complex levels.

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Nathan Wood

About Nathan Wood

When he picked up a controller on that fateful day at the age of 6, Nathan had no idea how quickly it would captivate him. Enjoying a wide range of games, he is up for anything as long as it is of good quality, interesting or laughably bad. When not playing or writing about video games, he enjoys music, film, basketball and art. He is currently completing his last year of his IB diploma before mastering the great land known only as: University.