|System: X360, PS3, PC, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Blitz Arcade||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Atlus||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: June 25, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
One of the great things about the puzzle genre is the games don't always need to have a presentation packed with tons of glitz and glamour in order to spur you to drop hours upon hours into playing them. Some of the best puzzle games ever created are incredibly simple in their design. Developers can often do a lot with a limited, bare-bones setup as long as the underlying gameplay is fun and challenging. Blitz Arcade's new puzzler Droplitz contains both elements in ample supply, though the latter crops up a bit more readily.
If you've ever had to deal with leaky pipes causing drop-by-drop water damage in several different areas of your ceiling all at once, then the concept of Droplitz should be a familiar one. Playing the role of impromptu virtual puzzle-plumber and re-routing the heinous flow of a mysterious substance to where you want it to go is bound to wind up leading to moments of frustration - at least until you've polished your skills. But sticking with the drippy mess long enough eventually yields a puzzle nirvana that makes the steep challenge worth the effort.
An array of disarmingly pleasant and colorful background themes temporarily masks the more sadistic elements of Droplitz's gameplay. Bubbly pink hearts, sandy sea shells and palm trees, earthy leaves and acorns, and other skins complement the soothing hues of the game's minimalistic visuals. The unobtrusive electronica slinks around in the background, lending another layer of laid back mellowness. What the game lacks in visual and audio complexity it makes up for in difficulty. Don't get lulled into a false sense of complacency, because Droplitz will quickly dropkick you back into reality.
The grid-based playing field is made up of interlocking stacks of round pieces that can be individually rotated to the left or the right. Each piece has a different set of pipe-like markings on it that can be used to form branching networks of tunnels. In each round, nozzles located at the top of the board gradually release liquid droplitz that flows downward. When they hit sharp edges and forking paths, the droplitz divide and branch off. Any drops that run into a dead-end pipe that's not connected properly are lost. The objective is to speedily twist together enough fully connected pipelines to lock-in lit pathways that ensure each precious drop of the substance makes it into a proper collecting bin. You're awarded bonus points for connecting combos in one shot and saving the maximum amount of the drippy goop possible. Conserving the stuff is of the utmost importance, since you're only given a finite amount of droplitz (tracked by a small meter) that can only be replenished when you pull of combos and score. Run out of droplitz and the game ends immediately, forcing you to start over from scratch.
Droplitz's functional controls aren't the easiest to get used to. Moving your cursor around the game board is done with the D-pad. This occasionally feels clunky when quickly moving across larger boards, and it's easy to visually lose track of where the cursor is located when things get really hectic. Rotating the pieces clockwise or counterclockwise are done with the circle and X buttons respectively, while the square button temporarily speeds up the board and the triangle button triggers special powers. Properly using the two-directional twist controls takes some time to learn, but it greatly helps your accuracy and saves time once it's mastered. Generally, the controls aren't much of a bother until you reach those inevitable moments where everything is on the brink of completely falling apart.
It initially takes your brain a little time to get used to having to frantically scan the board and twist together pathways for the goop to follow. The game's intensity momentarily subsides each time you properly form a successful pipeline - securing some measure of limited safety until the next round begins - though it greatly increases once again when the droplitz meter runs low and you've yet to complete the necessary paths. Any pieces that have been formed into pathways are cleared at the end of each round and new ones drop into their place. The difficulty scales upward every few rounds, as more complex pieces fall into place and the speed of the droplitz descent increases. The entire progress system is based on keeping things flowing to continually boost your score.