Simogo is one of mobile’s most respected game developers, and it’s earned the acclaim it receives. Mysterious, thoughtful games like Device 6 treat phones and tablets like respectable gaming devices instead of digital piggy banks that should be milked for every last nickel.
But despite the respect I have for Simogo, it’s hard to look at its latest title, SPL-T, without thinking “Wait, what?” Its graphics are lines and numbers on a black screen. Its audio only offers up bleeps and bloops that’d sound sad in an Atari 2600 game. Simogo, what are you playing at?
The acclaimed studio even adds to the mystery of SPL-T by selling it short in its trailer — at first. “We know. It doesn’t look like much. And this video is probably not going to sell you on it. But we promise that it’s really good.”
SPL-T is the most addictive puzzle game you’ll pick up this month. Possibly this year.
It’s probably also the simplest one you’ll play. Each time you tap the screen in SPL-T, you make a line. Your first line is horizontal. Then the next is vertical. Then horizontal, and so on.
These lines divide the screen into neat boxes. When you make four boxes of the same size, they become number boxes, which can’t be split. These number boxes are branded with the same number of splits currently on-screen. The only way to clear those boxes — and the only way to make room for more splits — is to keep making lines until the number ticks down to zero and the number box slides off-screen.
Thing is, the number boxes leave behind a white void unless the area above is split in such a way that the black background can slide in to fill it. If the playing field is a dog’s breakfast of poorly thought-out moves, you may run out of real estate to make splits on.
If you jab at the screen without much forethought while playing SPL-T, you’re going to wind up with a bunch of number blocks that have a count of 50 or higher. Granted, you get points for clearing them away, but that doesn’t do you a lot of good if you don’t have any more useable area to work with.
But if you move carefully, a game of SPL-T can technically last for hours. Simogo whipped up a beautiful balance between simplicity and depth here. Once you know what you’re doing, you fall in face-first, and you have to remember to surface for air. At the same time, it’s the kind of game that only gets better if you give it a small rest and return to it a bit later with a clear mind and fresh eyes.
Even the simplistic sound effects are a perfect accompaniment to the experience. Each line you make rewards you with a satisfying two-tone sound. It’s the audio equivalent of popping bubble wrap.
Simple though it is, SPL-T proves we can count on Simogo to give us its very best regardless of whether its games are interactive puzzle-novels, or white lines on a black screen.