When you hear the name Atlus what usually comes to mind? That’s right quirky Japanese RPGs that are being introduced to the US market. Well I was as shocked as you are when they sent me the information on their next game. Droplitz is a puzzle game in the same vein as the classic NES cartridge Pipe Dream, or the more recent hacking mini-game in BioShock. The premise is simple; catch droplets of water into a reservoir tip by rotating pipes, rinse and repeat. The simple mechanic explodes into addictive relaxation as you slowly become more and more familiar with the way the game works. Simplicity and addictiveness are key to puzzle games, and Droplitz nails both without much hesitation.
There are four general modes in the game, and all of them branch off of the same idea. Classic is the default game type, and basically it allows you to create paths for your droplets by rotating pipes to create a path to the reservoir. You have a reserve to the left of the board that informs you how many you can let go, when a droplet hits a dead end, you lose one notch on the timer. Lose them all and it is game over. This is where the challenge comes into play. Creating paths on all sides of the board while trying to keep droplets from hitting a dead end can be extremely challenging. Classic mode increases in difficulty with each successful collection, and new levels open up as you progress giving you new backgrounds to gawk at.
The second mode is called Zendurance Challenge, and it borrows heavily from Classic. The general idea is the same but the droplets do not change in speed as they descend. This mode also does not increase the difficulty as you progress making it easier to obtain high scores. Power Up Mode is exactly what it sounds like. You can obtain a series of power-ups such as bombs that let you clear the board, or even items to slow down time to let you create intricate paths without worrying about your droplets falling. The final mode is called Infection, and is the hardest mode, both to unlock and conquer. Here all of the pipes are infected, making them harder to turn. The object is to clear the board of infected pipes before it becomes overrun. Bombs and other power-ups can be used, and the board even tilts as more and more become infected. This mode will likely not see the light of day for most gamers.
Controls are as simple as the premise of the game. You maneuver around the board with the analog stick, while you rotate the pipes with either the A or B buttons (square and circle for PS3 owners). You can also speed up the board by holding down the X button. This makes all the droplets fall faster, and gives you breathing room when your path is clear for them to fall into the reservoir. While all of this sounds simple enough it truly is challenging all around. Finding the correct path for all sides while trying to keep droplets from branching off and hitting dead ends can prove very difficult at times. You can aid yourself with a hint system from the options menu, but mastering the game will definitely take a lot of play time.
As simple as the game is there is a lot to unlock and a lot of strategy involved. For starters the game only gives you classic mode to begin with. You will have to master this mode before Zendurance Challenge is unlocked. This can be accomplished by creating chain reactions; this keeps your multiplier going after you clear a section of the board. Mastering Zendurance then unlocks Power Up and so on and so forth. There are also a multitude of skins to unlock that keep the game looking fresh among all those pipes and drops of water. Droplitz is an easy game in theory, but it will take dedication and a set amount of skill to master and unlock all that it has to offer.
Droplitz is a simple and addictive puzzle game that will keep even the most avid puzzle gamer occupied for some time. The online leaderboards are a welcome addition, but a lack of head-to-head challenges really hurts some of the replay value. As with most of their RPG releases Atlus has chose one of the quirkiest puzzle games to bring to the table in quite some time. If you are even remotely a fan of the genre then Droplitz deserves a spot in your collection. The simplicity and addictiveness alone is worth the price of admission.