Droplitz Micro-Review: Dripping With StrategyS

From the creators of the Burger King promotional Xbox 360 titles comes Droplitz, a pipe-connecting puzzle game for Xbox Live Arcade and the PlayStation Network.

Best known for filling GameStop locations around North America with countless used copies of Pocket Bike Racer, Sneak King, and Big Bumpin', Blitz Arcade has left the King behind to bring us Droplitz. Rearranging hexagonal pipe segments to facilitate the journey of water droplets from the top of the screen to the bottom might is a simple enough task, but just skirting by won't earn you the big points. Building multiple connections earns you a score multiplier, and keeping the combo going once the screen resets with each wave is the key to making your way onto the leaderboards and unlocking all the game has to offer.

What lies beneath the surface of Droplitz's deceptively still waters?

Loved
Simply Complicated: Droplitz is an excellent example of a puzzle game with a simple premise that belies the complicated strategies required to truly excel at it. Connecting pipes so that water flows from point A to point B is easy enough, but stringing together combinations is where you start racking up the big points. The more connections you make, the more the score multiplies. After you've made as many connections as you can, the tiles disappear, and in order to keep the combo going you've got to quickly make a new connection or lose everything. It's about the shapes...not only knowing when to turn them, but which direction to turn them in.

Oddly Relaxing: Leaky faucets are generally something associated with the slow descent into madness, but I found Droplitz to be strangely soothing. I think it's a combination of the generic-yet-pleasing ambient music, the minimalistic presentation, and the sedate level themes unlocked as you play numbing what otherwise could have been a tense, frustrating game. The overall effect is that when your game ends, rather than wanting to throw the controller, I found myself acknowledging my defeat with a serene nod and starting over again.

Hated
Steep Learning Curve: While I adore the deceptively complicated nature of Droplitz, being deceptively complicated generally works better if you include some sort of active tutorial in the game, to assist players in the learn-by-playing process. It's a game of subtle strategy and skill, which should have warranted more than a slideshow instruction manual under the help section of the menu. With all game modes and levels locked save for one when you first download the title, it's easy to imagine someone quickly becoming frustrated. When you need 95,000 points to unlock the game mode with the lowest requirements and your average score is 6,000, it's easy to become discouraged.

Droplitz is the sort of puzzle game that I consider numbingly addictive. Like Tetris, Bejeweled, Hexic, or any successful game in the genre, it foregoes a flashy presentation, fixing your attention to its particular game play mechanic and lulling you into a sort of fugue state in which the only thing that makes sense is playing more. At one point during my time with Droplitz I closed my eyes between rounds and found I was still playing it in my head. That's the sign of a successful (and possibly dangerous) puzzle game.

Droplitz requires a bit of patience and understanding starting out, but once you've gone in deep you'll find it extremely difficult to flush out of your system.

Droplitz was developed by Blitz Arcade and published by Atlus for the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade. Additional versions exist for the iPod Touch and iPhone. Retails for $9.99 USD/800 Microsoft points. Played Xbox Live Arcade version for upwards of 12 hours, unlocking multiple levels and bonus modes in the process.

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