Let it not be said that I hate everything. Recently I played The Splitting – Chapter 1. It’s a free Flash browser ‘realistic fantasy’ adventure game. It’s the kind of game that nearly all of us tend to skip over, ignore, or assume it’s nothing special. However, The Splitting is actually pretty good. It’s available here.

The rather intriguing setup is that you, the player character, and your reflection have ‘split’ – the two of you now have independent lives. On the bright side you now have the ability to travel between our world and the mirror world by stepping through mirrors. Unfortunately your other self has reacted badly to the situation and has disappeared off into the wasteland of the mirror universe.

Appropriately for the first chapter of a game, The Splitting spends its time setting up a series of interesting concepts. If a room doesn’t have a mirror in it, then in the mirror world it appears as a decaying version of the real world. Furniture is broken or missing, and there are holes in the walls revealing a void. Also, the reflections of unsplit people cannot see you in the mirror world.

It's a fixer-upper

It’s a fixer-upper

This setup leads to cool puzzles. One example involves you finding only one of a pair of socks – a classic laundry day irritant, but then you can just take the mirror sock and suddenly your pair is complete. Another has you needing to use your sister’s phone, but she refuse to give you it because your phone is fine. Luckily you find that your double has smashed his phone, so you can then use it to prove to your sister that your phone has been broken. It could all perhaps be described as a gimmick, but it’s exactly the sort of thing an adventure game needs to distinguish itself.

Admittedly the puzzles can be obtuse rather than challenging. I did at one point email the developer to ask what I was supposed to do at a certain point. You collect a lot of items and figuring out what to do next can become a case of clicking everything on everything. Then again, this is kind of an expected flaw of adventure games like these. I love games like Monkey Island and Grim Fandango but even in those I had to solve through elimination at times.

The tone of the game is that of magical realism. Pretty fantastical events are happening, but the player character has a mellow reaction to it all. “How am I supposed to shave now?” kind of reaction. This means that we dodge the tedious “OH NO HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN TO ME!” extended angsting that can bore an audience. The Splitting needed to get down to business, set up future chapters and give me a fun time.

Mirrors are more fun than television

Mirrors are more fun than television

Graphically, The Splitting is nothing special, but it does what it needs to do well. Your house has a surprising amount of decorations and little details, managing to convey a fair amount of information about the player character without being too explicit. The music is simple, but enjoyable. There’s no voice acting or anything, but I’m the sort of person who thinks that voice acting is not always necessary and can be sometimes outright detrimental, so I’m happy.

I keep coming back to the same point: The Splitting is simple, but not simplistic. It works, it tells a good story and it makes me care about playing it again. The fact that it is free is a nice bonus as well. I don’t have much more to say other than a warm recommendation.

Chapter 1 is relatively short. However, the developer, at Fireberry Studios, told me that Chapter 2 will also be free and is planned for release in the summer. I look forward to it – I wanna see where this plot goes. Hopefully some of you will join me in that.

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I dislike sharing biographical information. I write reviews and occasionally rambling opinion pieces. I'm not sure why you'd want to learn about my life, it's rather dull. Erm... Is this enough for a biography?

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