Split! Review (iOS)

Imagine if Army of Two was changed from the intense “bro-op” nature and placed in a hybrid strategy/puzzle world. Enter “Split!”, a new iOS title on the iPhone and iPad developed by Touchy Interactive. Trying to escape a high-security prison facility, you take control of two partners, Red and Blue. However, is this escape even worth giving a look at 99 cents?

When you start playing Split!, you will be treated to a tutorial so that you can get an understanding as to how the core mechanics work. You’ll have to draw out path lines along the map to tell Red and Blue where to go and ensure their survival. Guards are littered throughout the game’s 30 missions and all it takes is one mistake for you to be brought back to the beginning of the level. Your characters can take cover along the boxes placed throughout the map and it is here where the combat somewhat kicks in. You won’t be able to take guards head-on without actually dying in the process yourself, so you’ll need to be a bit more creative. Once one of your characters takes cover and sees an enemy within a short distance, they’ll begin shooting at each other. However, if the enemy is also near cover, then both your character and the guard will be endlessly shooting at each other back and forth. It is here where your second character comes into effect. While the guard is distracted by one of your characters, you can use the second character to flank around the enemy and take him out. The concept is simple, yet it’s the level designs that will become more complex and will force you to get much more clever with both of your characters’ actions.

Now, the game doesn’t hold your hand by any means. It is an incredibly challenging game that will require a great deal of trial-and-error at times. Should you fail a mission, it’s back to the start point all over again. Now some of the levels can take up to a minute to complete, if you know what you’re doing. However, most of the time, you will be spending upwards to six minutes trying to carefully complete a mission and it’s when you fail at that very end of the level from the slightest mistake where you’ll get infuriated with the game. Interestingly, as many times as you fail, you will find yourself coming back at another go.

Split! isn’t without its faults though. The biggest issue is the path detection in which you have to plot out for Red and Blue to follow. On numerous occassions, the path detection would get caught on a wall and resort to you having to remap your direction. While at most times you’re plotting path lines while you’re already in cover or away from danger, it is still an annoyance that can cause some unnecessary frustration. The other issue is that the camera can’t be zoomed out while in action, forcing you to stick with a closed-in camera. While you can definitely function with the camera in place, being able to zoom it out a bit to work within your confines would’ve been more convenient than to have to pause the game to zoom out the camera. Each mission also has three “starred” boxes that can be collected to earn badges. While the game has this extra incentive to replay levels, there’s really no “reward” to this. The game isn’t even connected to Game Center, which feels like a wasted opportunity to try and compete with friends, seeing who perfected which mission.

Visually, Split! looks a bit like an old Metal Gear game (the MSX, NES or GBC editions, not the PS1 and beyond era) and is pretty pleasing on the eyes. While it’s not meant to be a graphic powerhouse, it certainly works well and runs smoothly in action. The audio was the main draw for me personally. While there’s only a handful of songs in the game, they work incredibly well in conveying the sense of intensity. The sound effects are pretty simple and work effectively.

Overall, Split! is a pretty solid game. Aside from some spotty touch screen controls where precision is absolutely integral in this game, the concept is neat and provides a nice challenge. The visuals are clean and the soundtrack is pretty good, capturing the setting of the game. Any fan of strategy and/or puzzle games should definitely give it a go, especially at its incredibly reasonable asking price of $0.99.

Final Score: 7.5 out of 10 = BUY IT!

A special thanks to Freeform Communications for providing us with a review copy of Split!