They say that puzzle solving is good for keeping the mind sharp, and whilst Sudoku can keep your arithmetic nimble and crosswords expand your vocabulary, neither of them are likely to have anything on World Splitter. From the premise it feels like getting through this game will mean you’ll be able to slice watermelons with your brain. A platformer that incorporates dimensional shifts as its mechanic for progression is always going to be intriguing, but one that could describe itself as a twin-stick puzzler has to be checked out (2D² is what the developers are going with). There’s even a cheeky inclusion of portals to bring on a feeling of familiarity. Does it manage to deliver on its head scratching premise though?
There’s a story at play in World Splitter, but what it is I’ve no idea. There’s something about crash landing on a planet, having a thing-a-ma-bob stolen by the local wildlife, then chasing them down through world after world as they manage to rip through the veil separating parallel dimensions… or some such fancy. Does it matter? No. It serves up a reason for the crazy mechanics and getting from left to right on a screen, and that’s as deep as it needs to be. It brings on a simple principle though – work your way from one side to the other of a level, collect as many of the little critters dotted around as you can, and walk off screen. Easy. Of course, you can’t miss the giant split down the centre that lets you shift between overlapping environments, effectively wiping pathways in and out of existence. Controlling movement with the left stick and the World Splitter with the right, it’s time to test how good your spatial reasoning is.
The split has free movement around the play space and you’re able to send it horizontally and vertically, as well as rotate it with the shoulder buttons. On one side of the line is the first dimension, and the second dimension is on the other. Positioning this line is how you move over, across and through obstacles, as well as keeping enemies at bay. If the split is interacting with an object then there will be a solid surface on the line (turns black), if it’s not then it’s just air (stays white), and this is how our character uses it to step across, or fall through, to each of the areas. For instance, walking in a straight line there might be a gap too big to jump. Wipe over the World Splitter and there could be a bridge in the alternate realm, so you’d use that to cross, then switch back to tackle the next barrier. Spinning the line around means being able to decide which dimension is in play to provide the path, but be careful as it’s as easy to wipe out solid ground as it is to create it. There’s no fall damage, but our hero doesn’t respond well to water, lava or being crushed.
Things start out fairly simply with just the split and some mild platforming to contend with. Soon enough it’s adding extra elements like jumping (yes… you have to unlock that), switches, how to climb, portals and even alternating gravity directions. Enemies feature in some levels too and avoiding them is the only way of making it past, though there are usually ways of disposing of them to make the journey easier. As more options become available, the environments get more complex and for some it feels like there are very specific solutions and this drives a trial and error approach. I’d love to say it’s easy to plan out what you’re going to do and that the routes are obvious, but with so much to factor in it would take a chess grand master to think so many moves ahead. Death means spawning instantly back at the start with the map reset, and it’s a case of trying again or figuring out a different approach. None of them are impossible, yet there are more than a few that take some real logic twisting to get through.
Fortunately, and it’s a key part of the design of World Splitter, once you’ve got a technique nailed it’s continually used. The “gimmicks” like the switches and portals are short lived, so the core idea of getting the two realms to work as one is the part to focus on. Progress gets a little quicker and movement becomes more economical, which sits nicely with the speed running elements baked in. On every results screen there’s the number of critters collected, the time taken and the amount of degrees spun though. The latter two pieces have pars set for time and movement, with medals awarded for being either frugal or fast. They’re not easy to achieve so provide a huge amount of replay value. Picking up all the creatures isn’t essential either, levels can be completed without them, though the paths typically go past them; and in a great touch there’s no need to complete all the levels to open up the next world either. With 10 levels in a world, you only need to pass the first 5 to skip ahead and find out how much more complicated things are going to get. There are 6 worlds in total too, offering up a decent amount of total puzzle time.
It’s bright, bold and striking to look at throughout, with a great distinction between the dimensions you’re manipulating, and it’s got a lovely soothing soundtrack too. Control wise it could do with a bit of fettling as jump can be a bit on the late side, and spinning the split can sometimes be so rapid you’ve dropped the explorer to his doom before you realise what’s going on. Other than that this is a solid 10-hour plus puzzle game bringing something distinct to the genre. Getting to the end at your leisure will take some mental gymnastics, but trying to beat the speedrun times will need a whole new level of co-ordination. It’ll test friendships too if you decide to enter the co-op mode. World Splitter is definitely a game for those looking for a challenge.
A PS4 review copy of World-Splitter was provided by NeoBird’s PR team, and the game is available now on PS4, Xbox One, Switch and PC.