Gaming

Simogo's surprise minimalist puzzler is more than meets the eye

Year Walk and Device 6 developer Simogo has released SPL-T, a somewhat confusing, but nevertheless engrossing, puzzler.

It doesn't look like much... but there's more to it than Simogo is letting on. Simogo

I don't know what I'm doing. This is a familiar feeling.

I read the tutorial, but, as I've come to expect from Swedish developer Simogo, you don't really know what you're in for until you actually start doing it... and even then, you can expect to stay puzzled for a little while.

SPL-T is a minimalist puzzle game about dividing up your screen, splitting it into smaller and smaller units. It's a little hard to explain beyond that, and there's not much currency in doing so, since the only way to really understand it is by doing.

Superficially, it doesn't much resemble the developer's previous titles, which came in thematic trilogies: Kosmo Spin, Bumpy Road and Beat Sneak Bandit, three cutesy little arcade titles, followed by Year Walk, Device 6 and The Sailor's Dream, artistic and atmospheric meandering experiences.

SPL-T, at a glance, seems to have more in common with the very first computer games, like Pong and Galaga: a blippy chiptune soundscape and simple black and white graphics, with the blocky numerals associated with LED displays and a small stick-person whose purpose is unclear (but it does have one).

Like Simogo says in the game's description, "We know. It doesn't look like much." It then goes on to say, "But we promise that it's a very good puzzle game. Like, really good." And I agree with that assessment on a number of levels.

Once you start playing, the Simogo DNA becomes clear: The (surface) game is a lot deeper than it looks, and requires a lot of strategic planning. Moreover, Simogo doesn't, as it has never done, hold your hand. The tutorial explains the basics, but it takes a few plays before you really know what you're doing and are able to start doing it effectively.

That's because there's a fine balance between clearing blocks too quickly and too slowly. Create too many too quickly without clearing any, and you'll find yourself unable to clear any at all. Clear too many too quickly and you'll find yourself unable to create any more splits, effectively ending the game.

While it's complex to master, each game is a quick, arcade-style play, so you never end up bogged down in it, and never feel like a game is too deep an investment to lose. As you continue to play, you get a better handle on how it all works, which results in a lovely feeling of satisfaction.

And, because it's Simogo, there are some Easter eggs to be found by physically interacting with the device... or letting the game idle on various screens (not to give too much away). I've not played it for very long yet, but there's something, some story, hidden beneath the screen-splitting game on SPL-T's surface that's very intriguing indeed.

I hope SPL-T presages another two arcade-style games in Simogo's third thematic trilogy. But even as an anomalous stand-alone, it's a delight, and it definitely has a lot more to offer than it's letting on.

You can pick it up for iOS for $2.99 (AU$3.79, £2.29) from the iTunes app store.