Split! Review (iOS)
I’ve never been in prison before, but I have imagined what it would be like to try and escape from one. I watched Shawshank Redemption in my teenage years and thought how cool it would be to outsmart the system. I’ve also played my fair share of paintball in the past and figured out the best way to ambush other players without getting shot myself. Naturally those are two things that would seem to go well together and Touchy Interactive felt the same way so they came up with a game called Split!
What You Need to Know
On the surface Split! is a single-player, co-operative, cover based, isometric shooter. You control two characters that have broken out of jail and are attempting to escape. In order to do that you must have them work together; one of them drawing fire from enemy shooters and the other working their way around to ambush them. In reality Split! is more of a puzzle game that happens to be dressed up like a cover-based shooter.
Mobile devices aren’t handheld gaming consoles in the traditional sense. You’re not going to be playing 70 hour, epic RPGs or playing precision, twitch-based platform games. You’re not going to really get a great first-person shooter experience out of the device. The thing a touch screen device does best is allow you to draw on it and that’s exactly what you do in Split! You have direct control over two characters that you move around the game’s prison-like environment by touching one and dragging a reticule to where you want to go. Not surprisingly it works very well. The characters go exactly where you want them to go when you want them to go there. You can interrupt their movements at any time by simply touching and slightly dragging in another direction. If any enemies are in the line of sight your characters begin firing their weapons. Get your character close enough to someone and they’ll automatically melee them. No need to hope that you’re actually pressing the on screen button you want to. It just does it automatically. To take cover you simply move one of the characters next to a crate or wall and they’ll hide behind it to get away from the hail of bullets that is sure to be coming their way.
One Player, Two Character Co-Op
Split! is a single player co-op game, meaning you control two characters at the same time. On the surface it would seem this would be very hard to do on a single device. However, Split! manages to do this quite well. None of the action on screen requires precision movement or two characters to move at the same time. One character patiently waits while you move the other character into position, then drag the screen to move your second character.
You’ll have to use the two characters together with one of them pulling the attention of the guards and getting them to shoot in one direction while you move the other character around behind the guards to shoot them or take them out with a melee weapon. Once a character has gained attention, the enemies focus solely on one character so you can do this. It works quite well and the puzzles are designed nicely around this concept.
Can’t See All The Action
The play field for Split! takes up a large area and the small screen on the iPod doesn’t allow you to see everything at once. That means you’ll be constantly scrolling the screen around trying to find all the paths to take and enemies to kill. This can sometimes lead to situations where you run up on an enemy you might not have known was there which results in you dying and having to restart the level. I didn’t get a chance to play the game on the iPad, but that might be a different situation due to a larger screen.
Needing to control two players at once it would be nice to have the larger real estate of the iPad, but the game is completely playable even on the iPod. Think of it as another layer of difficulty added onto the game. It doesn’t break the experience, but being able to see more at one time would be nice. There is the option to pinch the screen and pause the action so you can survey the whole prison, but you can’t do that in real time – which would be handy.
This Game Got Really Hard, Really Fast
The are two basic ways to approach most game design. One is to gradually ramp up the difficulty after players have learned the mechanics which you slowly introduce. The other is to start out insanely difficult letting the player rely solely on their skills for survival. Split! sort of goes in the middle. The first few levels increase the difficulty at a gradual pace, but even before the end of the “easy” levels, I was running into places where I failed multiple times. Ultimately, I was able to get through the easy and the “medium” difficulty levels before hitting a wall in the harder ones, but the change in difficulty was pretty sudden and got even harder from there.
Again, part of this could be due to the smaller screen I’m playing on and might have been solved by playing the game on the iPad, but I have no real way of deciding that at the time of this review.
Split! does a really good job of bringing a co-op, top-down shooting experience to iOS. The game does a good job of taxing your brain and forcing you to work out spacial puzzles in a way that’s unique and at most times a lot of fun. The premise is clever, the execution is good and I found myself enjoying the first parts of the game. The difficulty spike meant as I got further on in the game it became less fun, but for those that are willing to power through that, you’re going to find a really good “co-op” game on your phone or tablet.
Review copy of the game provided by Touchy Interactive
Played through the easy and medium levels. Made it through just a couple of the harder levels.
Total Play Time: 3 hours