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Score: 82%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Atlus
Developer: Blitz Games
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Puzzle

Graphics & Sound:
It's funny how Atlus works. They are a successful publisher known for two things: RPG's and truly hardcore games. Droplitz most definitely isn't an RPG, but surprisingly fits the bill for the latter.

There isn't much to say about Droplitz because it's a puzzle game. It looks simple enough. Very slick and stylish backgrounds decorate the play board and fancy visual effects spice things up a bit when the action gets frantic. It has a convincing art direction which transitions smoothly from modern to classical during play. It doesn't have a whole lot going on because it doesn't have to, it's a puzzle game! But what is there works well enough.

Oddly enough, the music has the same quirk the visuals do because it doesn't have a solid identity to stick to. The music changes with the background and fits the atmosphere nicely, but there are definitely a few songs that you will find difficult to get out of your head. The variety ranges from funky disco to evocative baroque and back again in one play session. Not much to write home about, but it is good overall.

Droplitz isn't too hard to understand. It is a clever hybrid of a pipes and tiles games. There is a board of play and at the top and bottom of each board are droplet dispensers and collectors. The droplets pour down from the top and you have to manipulate the board to create paths that catch them at the bottom which refills a droplet meter on the left. The tiles on the board contain different shaped paths and you have to rotate the tiles to create a solid path from the top to the bottom. Once a path is created, you can combo or chain your score higher by creating more branches for the droplet to travel.

Learning a single board is probably the best way to get started. The boards get wider and taller as you clear more and the most efficient way to get those astronomical scores is to play the most difficult boards. Unfortunately, this is also the only way to unlock the different modes.

There are four different modes of play in Droplitz, but they all are simple variants of the "Classic" Mode you start with. The first you unlock is called "Zendurance" and this is where most people will stop playing. Zendurance starts on the hardest board and challenges you to play until you lose. There are lots of tricks to learn that Droplitz doesn't do too much to teach you, but I will get to more on that later.

You play Zendurance to unlock "Power Up" and then play that one to unlock "Infection." Power Up (as the name implies) has power ups that aid you during playtime. There are time freezes and bombs, but honestly, I didn't use any of them too often until I was reaching the end of the round. Lastly, the "Infection" mode is only for the committed because not only do you have to unlock it with a ridiculously high score, it "rewards" you by making the tiles harder to turn and overall a much more difficult game.

If it isn't apparent by now, Droplitz has a steep learning curve that is punishing and unforgiving to any casual player or even a hardcore player without enough practice. Droplitz's biggest problem is that it doesn't do enough to show you how to play. There is a Tutorial section of the Main Menu which consists of only a few slides of text explaining the basic mechanics. A demo mode that actually shows you how to play before you start would have made a great deal of difference in alleviating some of the frustration early on. But as it stands now, the difficulty is far and away the most likely to turn people away before they really give it a fair chance and that is a shame because Droplitz is a good game and this holds it back from being much better.

Game Mechanics:
Droplitz's simple audio and visual design take after its simpler control scheme. You can only rotate tiles in clockwise or counter-clockwise direction with (X) or (O). In "Power Up," you press (Triangle) to activate the power up and that is it! You must use quick wits and quicker reflexes to master the growing complexity of a game about falling drops of liquid.

One of the biggest hints that Droplitz doesn't divulge unless you look for it is that you need hints and helpers. In the Options Menu, you can find helpful tools like highlighting any tile that hasn't made a connection yet. The best option to turn on is the path finder. Once activated, any partially completed path that branches from a collector is highlighted with yellow dots and it will make the difference between a 50,000 point score and a 500,000 point score.

When I had decided I had enough of Droplitz, I liked it. Sure, there was a brutal learning curve that beats you into submission early on, but once I took the time to learn the subtleties and nuances, I kept coming back for more. That's the catch I think Atlus must have seen; addictive, hardcore gaming hidden in a slick modern puzzler. I wouldn't call Droplitz a "great" game but it is very good. If you are the type of person that is interested enough to read a review about a puzzle game, then chances are you should give Droplitz a go because you will probably dig it.

-HanChi, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Hanchey

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