Developer: Blitz Arcade
Publisher: Atlus USA
Release Date: 6/24/2009
I’m two for two so far in iPhone game reviews; Knights Onrush was a good game and it looks like – so far – that the issues I had with it have been patched around. Toki Tori is actually one of my contenders for portable Game of the Year. I’ve even had some good luck with other games that I’ve purchased, with Zenonia being particularly good. Then, DJ dropped a little bomb to me: Atlus was releasing a puzzle game on the iPhone! Holy crap, Atlus was releasing for the iPhone! The same company that gave us Class of Heroes… wait that sucks… uh, Steal Princess… wait, that also sucks… hey, they also gave us the new Super Robot Taisen game… wait, that one sucks once you get into it… hey! They took Falcom’s mantle for Ys! Ah, to hell with it.
OK, so Atlus’s recent record – stalwart titles like Devil Survivor and Crimson Gem Survivor aside – hasn’t been as great as the company’s name would have you believe. They’re also not known for puzzle games. Can Droplitz be a positive first showing for the publisher on the iPhone, or is this yet another case of a game Atlus probably shouldn’t have put their name to?
Droplitz is a simple game at it’s core: balls rolls down from the top, and you have to adjust their flow so that they enter a receptor, usually at the bottom of the screen. You do this by rotating pieces so that the ball keeps flowing. If it hits a dead end, that ball is gone. If a ball hits a branch, it splits to fill both branches at no penalty. Once you have a lane to a receptor, those pieces illuminate, and a red ball starts to flow to the end. Once it gets there, points are tallied, and the pieces disappear. If you can manage to link in another lane, that’s a combo, which increases your multiplier. I’ve heard that this is a lot like Bioshock’s hacking minigame, but I can’t confirm that due to my SecuROM boycott. There are three modes: normal mode, Ultimate mode (basically, a harder version of normal mode), and Infinite mode, which is endless, stress-free action much like Zen mode in Bejewled.
Here’s the problem: the combinations needed to succeed in this game seem more based around luck than anything. There’s always a move to be had, but more often than not, I was only able to find acceptable moves by randomly moving pieces. The killer here is that there are two empty spaces near the bottom of the screen that are dead-ends, which hurts the amount of moves you can make and often times lead to balls just falling off the edge of the board. By the time you determine a way around this, half of your balls are usually gone if you’re in a normal mode of play. Even as I got better at the game, I never really felt in control of what I was doing; it would show a route, and way too often, I was unsure of how I got that far. Granted, and to the game’s credit, I was able to get better as I putzed around in Infinite mode, but the learning curve is steep, and this requires a lot of practice before you can finally look and say, “OK, I got it now”.
The good news is that infinite mode more or less saves the game. It’s a great way to kill some time, and the game comes back right where you left it if you get a call or a text message, which is important for iPhone users. Furthermore, I can say after hours of gameplay that this didn’t crash once on my phone, which is a big deal after my run-ins with Stick Wars and Knights Onrush. However, anyone moving to Normal or Ultimate modes will notice that there’s just too much to keep up with, and by the time an acceptable route is found to a receptor, chances are good that half your stock of balls are going to be gone.
In terms of aesthetics, there’s not much to the game. It’s just a matter of looking clear and using lighting effects properly, but Droplitz scores well because it has a nice vibe to it that’s easy on the eyes. There’s nice, soothing music as well, though you have the option of muting your music and listening to your own if that’s what you choose. This is not your standard Atlus game, nor is it really intended for the standard Atlus gamer. Instead, this is more meant for that gamer’s mother, as something to do while on the bus on her way to work, and the visuals and sounds of the game fit that motif well.
There are other versions of this game, but I have trouble wondering how they fare compared to this. The touch controls of rotating your pieces fit this game perfectly, much more so than cursor controls, which I assume the other versions contain. Furthermore, the price of this title ($1.99) is much more cost-effective than that of the XBLA verson ($10). If you’re interested in this game, I think this is going to be the version to own if you have a device that can play it. I do wish there was a free, demo version of this game, however.
Game Modes: Decent
Control/Gameplay: Below Average
Appeal Factor: Poor
FINAL SCORE: Decent Game
Short Attention Span Summary
Droplitz is a decent puzzler that admittedly takes a unique direction on the genre, giving us something we really haven’t seen before. It’s not for casuals because it’s very hard to learn, but those that put in the effort will likely walk away pleased. At only $2, I can at the very least say that Droplitz will easily be worth the purchase for puzzle fans.