Atlus USA, mostly known for its amazing knack of hand picking quality Japanese titles out for U.S. gamers, is looking to make a splash on the casual downloadable title scene with the Blitz-developed liquid puzzler Droplitz. While on the surface, the game may look like a copy of Pipe Dream, a number of interesting mechanics set it apart from the classic puzzler as well as many other current puzzle games on the Xbox LIVE Arcade service. Even though the title has some steep learning curves, the challenging nature of the title will keep players that can hang on addicted and coming back for more.
In Droplitz, the premise is as simple as it gets – put pipes together so that the liquid that drops from the top reaches drainage at the bottom of the playfield. The game randomly drops a number of different pipe variations on to the screen and it’s up to players to rotate them to achieve this goal and clear the playfield to make room for new tiles. Players have to act fast, though, as every drop that drizzles from the top depletes the liquid supply and if the reserves run dry, the game is over, however, connecting paths to the bottom rewards players with more liquid reserves. There is no story to speak of unless you want to pretend you are role-playing as a plumber or something, but given the nature of the title, the puzzle premise is enough on its own to garner attention.
On the other hand, though, Droplitz offers a surprising number of game play modes that unlock as players get a grasp on how to play the game. The initial mode offers different boards of varying sizes and scoring a set amount of points unlocks new boards and game modes such as the no-frills survival-based classic mode and a mode which infuses power-ups into the game play. Some of the score challenges will no doubt push players back into the game for more and for a downloadable puzzle title, Droplitz surprisingly gives players a lot to do all based on one simple premise. Unfortunately, though, Droplitz will only console the solo gamers. Some sort of multiplayer option would have taken the mode offerings a long way, but dedicated players can still hit the leaderboards while online.
Visually, everything in Droplitz is pretty simplistic – the art gets the job done, but nothing really pops out outside of the accented paths that light up when a player connects the top of the field to the bottom. Each stage can be outfitted with a chosen skin, a la Lumines, and while the designs are overly generic, they do set the relaxing mood of the game with plenty of warm and cool colors as appropriated by the skin. The menus are fairly drab as well, but the navigation is easy and the HUD doesn’t get lost in the gameplay. Aside from a few highlights here and there, there is nothing overly exciting for eyes, but, again, once a player gets engrossed in a game, leaves and snow floating around the game’s border will be the least of their concerns. Sometimes simple is good and it works for Droplitz.
Droplitz really shines in the audio department, though, thanks to its implementation with gameplay mechanics. When a player starts the game, the music is a chill ambient that encourages relaxation and the sound effects of moving the game cursor and rotating pieces is pretty low-key. However, as players start to connect paths, trumpet fanfares increase in volume as players link combos and branching paths and starting at 10X combo multiplier, bass beats kick in with the music. It’s a simple touch, but it goes a long way in driving players to perform their best and serves as an interactive sensual gateway similar to Lumines.
Sitting down and understanding Droplitz is an easy task, especially with players technically only needing the d-pad or analog stick and one button to play. However, landing chain combos and multiplayer is an entirely different story. Starting out, for most players, Droplitz will not be the easiest game in the world. There is a lot involved in knowing the behavior of how the liquid will flow in the pipes so as not to waste the liquid as well as the nature of the pipes in order to set up a chain of paths that will replenish the liquid reserves. The water never stops dripping, so even the slightest of hesitations can make your game a short one. Thankfully, though, Droplitz is a game that rewards dedicated players and will have them unconsciously hitting the replay button and through my time reviewing this title, I’ve had the infamous “one more time”Â turn into two hours.
Once you are over the learning curve hump, there is no real turning back and Droplitz offers arguably some of the most replayability in a game on the Xbox LIVE Arcade service. Not only can the game hook you into just playing it repeatedly, but there are skins, boards and game modes to unlock and the achievements for the game are fairly challenging as well. The title is a must for puzzle fans and anyone that can stand to learn the nuances of the game will definitely get their money’s worth. It might not be the flashiest or most friendly game on the Marketplace, but it’s just plain fun and dedicated gamers will lose a lot of time to Droplitz.
Appeal Factor: GOOD
Final Score: VERY GOOD GAME
Short Attention Span Summary
Sure, Droplitz might not have the flashiest graphics and features slightly harder gameplay than one might be accustomed to in a puzzler, but those that stick with it will find a time sink with a lot of modes and unlockables underneath the hood of a simple concept. If you’re a puzzle fan or just want to stretch your Microsoft Points with replayability, Droplitz is a good candidate for your Xbox LIVE Arcade library.