Time to rip things up
What’s this? Another mobile game brought to Switch? But with the app store (either one) awash with thousands of games – of questionable quality – it is increasingly difficult to discover those hidden gems. Therefore, the Switch offers a fantastic opportunity at providing a second chance for those games with something worth shouting about.
Upon first starting Splitter Critters you might be a little underwhelmed, ostensibly it appears like a Lemmings clone but with paper-cutout aesthetics. This façade gradually tears away, and the crux of the mechanics of the game unravels itself. As the name alludes to, albeit not quite enough, the game is all about splitting up the level to get your different Lemming-like creatures to a spaceship to carry them away.
At first moving your floating robot around to split the screen apart is simple, but it’s when you realise that you can do this up to three times simultaneously that the extent of the challenge available opens up. So much so that it immediately changes your perception of how the game works. It is here where a possible critique can be placed upon Splitter Critters. The bright pastel colours of the initial locations give the impression that this is just another basic puzzle game to entertain children whilst the world gets worse around them. But the mental agility necessary to solve the puzzles soon ramp up, and the game provides no additional instructions aside from the absolute basic elements of how to control the game.
Conversely, the benefit of this means that Splitter Critters is an unexpected challenging but fair puzzle game that gradually becomes more akin a puzzle experience not too dissimilar to that provided by the Portal series. The use of the splitting – which actually is more like ripping the screen and is visually in keeping with the paper aesthetic – uses a similar logic to portals, especially in later levels, but despite the similarity to Portal in practice is a novel idea and manages to evolve over time.
The core mechanics of the game – which is really why you would want to play it – are solid, even when one of your creatures dies and you have to restart you are completely aware of what went wrong. You might make the same type of mistake again, but this is just part of the process as you work out the best solution. Having to retry a level isn’t a sign of failure as sometimes the trial and error are almost necessary to determine how to deconstruct the problem you face. Plus, you are aided with the ability to fast forward meaning your creatures (and the environment) will quickly move instead of you having to wait around for them to get where you need them to be. This is aided by the aesthetically pleasing video-cassette fast forward motion.
Whilst it is a “mobile game” it is expansive enough to warrant the distinction of a console game; except it isn’t priced as one. There are plenty of levels to work through, which are split amongst different planets that provide different visual environments and suitably themed puzzle types. The game can be played with or without touch controls, although ironically enough you might find the non-touch controls easier to use.
Splitter Critters is a surprise to be sure, but a welcome one. An engaging puzzle game that provides a challenging experience that gradually expands. This is all wrapped up in a distinctive paper constructed world that’s waiting to be ripped apart.