Publisher Atlus is famous for their flagship franchise Shin Megami Tensei and the various quirky RPGs they pick up from other developers for release in North America. Droplitz, their first-ever downloadable Arcade title, is quite the deviation from their usual releases. So, the question begs, is Droplitz the start of a new branch of releases for the company, or should they stick to their RPG roots?
The core gameplay involves rotating pipes (represented by circular icons on the gameboard) by using the A and B buttons on the Xbox 360 controller. This enables water droplets (aka Droplitz) to fall and collect in bins at the bottom, as well as specialized pipes that also act as collectors. It sounds like a very simple premise, but that isn't necessarily the case. Instead of using a timer like some puzzle games, it's game over then a player runs out of Droplitz. This is possible, because if a Droplit isn't collected, it will disappear should it run into a dead end. Getting a set number of Droplitz into the collectors replenishes the supply (which can be seen on the left-hand side of the screen) and removes the old pipes and places new ones on the board, allowing for more paths to be opened. As the player progresses, the Droplitz begin to move faster, so the game becomes a frantic race to rotate the pipes to open up a path to the collectors.
That may all sound hectic, but the game's atmosphere is anything but. The developer, Blitz Entertainment, wanted the title to be a relaxing and meditative experience, which the title does extremely well. For those who have played other puzzle games such as Lumines, in which the music was an integral part of the game, the music in Droplitz provides a foil to the frantic and sometimes hectic speed of the game. The backgrounds change to tie in with progression through the game and the music changes along with it, with a calming fading effect. One can easily relax in their couch spending hours flipping the pipes without realizing it.
Classic mode (the mode referenced above) is the meat of the game, with nine different boards, each increasing in size and difficulty. There are also other modes, such as one that gives power-ups to use, as well as a mode that lets players pick the stage they want and allows them to keep playing until they run out of Droplitz. Sadly, there is no multiplayer mode (split-screen or online), but the single-player experience is fleshed out enough that it isn't as detrimental as one would think. The replayability of the game is quite high due to the fact that many of the unlockables require insanely high scores in each of the modes, which requires that players will have to spend quite a bit of time to learn the secrets of the game to rack up enough points to unlock them.
There are some issues with the game that prevent it from being in the same echelon as classics like Tetris and the like, however. Some of the pipes, namely the cross-shaped ones, only work in conjunction with the other pipes in a specific way, leading to issues when Droplitz are lost because it was not rotated just the right way, even though it seemed like it before hand, since both of the sides look almost identical. Additionally, the graphics, while impressive, are missing the polished flair of a game like Lumines. The game is not bland by any means, but some areas seemed like they could have used some more polish before the game was sent to retail.
Any good puzzle game should display two key aspects: keep it simple and be insanely addictive. Droplitz does both. While there are some minor gripes, such as a lack of multiplayer, Droplitz is an insanely enjoyable game that is well worth the money spent to buy it on your platform of choice. If Droplitz is any indication, Atlus has a viable chance to make a name for themselves outside of their established RPG heritage, especially if the issues mentioned above are rectified in a future sequel.