Splot is the first mobile-focused release from developer Frozenbyte, best known for their action-puzzle series, Trine. Although more condensed in scale than its character-swapping epic older brother, Splot brings plenty of clever ideas to the touch screen, presented through bite-sized bursts of platforming challenges that utterly ooze charm.
Splot begins after your eponymous alien creature crashes into the spaceship of the “Blob Kings,” marooning both sets of aliens on a planet populated by Birdlings. The Blob Kings decide to make the most of a bad situation and eat the succulent baby Birdlings. The Splots, feeling largely responsible for the imminent demise and protection of the young duck-likes, begin rounding them up before the Blob Kings can devour them.
Each stage is built on this premise, pitting the player-controlled Splot against a rampaging Blob King as you each try to reach the Birdlings first. The small bubble-bound birds are scattered about levels the way coins would be in most platformers, with a large batch of birds at the end of the stage acting as the goal and primary victory condition.
The Blob King has no effect on Splot and performs almost like a race ghost during each run, passing by without harming or interrupting your one-eyed alien’s trajectory. Meanwhile, Splot can use a variety of power-ups to interfere with the King, such as temporarily freezing him or using a vacuum to steal birds back that the King snatched first.
This head-to-head competition creates a fast-paced rush to the finish (and all of the birds along the way) without the added annoyance of having to protect your Splot from impending doom. Even if the Blob King passes you by and snags some birds first, you can still win the level by beating him to the finish line. The format is reminiscent of the Gourmet Race from Kirby Super Star, although your control of Splot is vastly different.
That control is critical to making Splot an enjoyable mobile experience. In lieu of any virtual controls, Splot utilizes single-tap movement and an entirely jump-based action economy. Tapping on the left side of the screen will make Splot jump left, and tapping on the right makes him jump right. Holding your finger in place after a jump will extend his range or increase falling speed if he sticks to a wall. Levels are built almost entirely around constant jumps and slides, making Splot just as much a wall-jumping platformer as a standard runner.
Most levels are organized so you merely have to jump the correct direction and distance to collect birds and progress. Timing your wall jumps tightly is important, but lower difficulties offer a large window of forgiveness before the Blob King catches up. The exception to this rule is in open areas where Splot is free-gliding, such as underwater or mid-air after hitting a trampoline.
In these instances, you have to guide Splot by dragging your finger along the middle of the screen, but his movement is floaty and often unpredictable. It’s at strong odds with the precise controls of the jump sequences throughout the rest of the level and interrupts game flow every time you have to switch to the drag control scheme. Unfortunately, mastering the awkward glide controls is critical to not only three-starring many levels, but simply completing others, such as the space station where Splot is trapped between deadly lasers within zero gravity.
Thankfully, even with such patience-trying moments, Splot is fairly forgiving. Its three difficulty levels—Bronze, Silver, and Gold—offer a nice scale in challenge. While stages’ layouts remain the same across all three, other changes affect the difficulty: the Blob King moves faster, Birdlings are positioned in slightly different (and harder-to-reach) locations, and Splot-slaying hazards such as spikes are more prevalent.
All stages are extremely short, with longer levels taking no more than a minute to complete, which means even complete failure won’t set you back much. The power-ups available to Splot have a modest cool-down period of a few stages, but this can be removed by leveling up and upgrading his abilities—for instance, our freeze ability previously had a three-stage cooldown, but at max upgrade it can be used every time we play.
This simple upgrade scheme is one of many bonus treats built into Splot. Experience and levels are earned in relation to the number of stars you receive on a stage, with higher difficulties offering multiplied points. This means that going back and trying to perfect a stage for three stars provides additional rewards in the form of power-up enhancements. Every stage—and each difficulty of that stage—also contains a Splot skin that you can unlock and use in-game. Each star you receive on a stage, every time you play it, has the chance of containing a puzzle piece. Finding four puzzle pieces total on a stage will award you its Splot character. This is a fun collect-a-thon and way to personalize your Splot experience: we had a blast running levels with business suit-Splot, spaceman-Splot, and mime-Splot.
On top of all of these additions, there are also a ridiculous number of achievements to earn—which also award experience points and special Splots. The entire game is jam-packed with prizes beyond the basic gameplay, which is already a treat itself.
The biggest downside to Splot (besides its floaty controls during free-fall) is that even with over 150 types of Splots to play with, the experience is fairly repetitive. New obstacles—like poppable enemies and teleportation devices—are introduced regularly to provide some variation, but you’re still just jumping from floor to wall to wall to teleporter, and so on throughout the linear levels. The Gold difficulty shakes things up the most by requiring you to time every jump, slide, and fall perfectly to have even a chance at besting the Golden Blob King, but it’s still just a meticulously grueling version of what you’ve generally been doing for 100 other levels.
The result is simply that Splot is best experienced in short bursts of a few stages at a time, ideal for on-the-go mobile gaming but less fit for binge-playing. Those bursts are enticing, though, filled with fast-paced action, adorable characters, and oodles of rewards that scream “Thank you for playing. We love you,” in colorful alien gibberish.