Splice is an elegant, minimalist new puzzle game, created by Cipher Prime and available for the iPad and on Steam. Each level presents you with a small number of genes, which you must organize into a precise shape. (Actually, I am not sure if these are “genes” or “microbes” or what, but only “genes” lets me use the headline pun. So it shall be.) Genes can be moved around — spliced — as long as you follow a couple of very simple rules: You only get a certain number of splices on each level, and each gene can have no more than two other genes connected to it. That’s pretty much it.
Sounds straightforward enough, but it is not always easy to predict what will happen as a result of a given splice, and making those predictions is the key to solving advanced levels. Be prepared to restart certain puzzles a few times, especially as special genes are introduced, making things even more complicated: There are genes that will mutate into two new ones, other genes that will destroy themselves and anything connected to them, and so on.
The puzzles, of course, grow increasingly devious, but it’s hard to feel tense about it when the game is this beautiful. Each level is simply presented, on a spacy mono-color background and with a calming piano soundtrack. iPad games have of late been following several tired trends — I downloaded one recently that was an exact duplicate of something I played months ago, but with different art — so it is always nice when something truly original comes along. Splice is not only original; it’s delightful, brain-crunching fun as well.