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Game Over Online ~ Drop Mania

GameOver Game Reviews - Drop Mania (c) Detonium Interactive, Reviewed by - Rhythm Scholar

Game & Publisher Drop Mania (c) Detonium Interactive
System Requirements Pentium 90, 16MB Ram
Overall Rating 52%
Date Published Wednesday, September 1st, 1999 at 07:43 PM

Divider Left By: Rhythm Scholar Divider Right

Certain types of puzzle games have always appealed to me. I'm talking about those that have been spawed from the unmeasurable success of Tetris... those ones where bricks or shapes, or colored globules descend from the top of the screen, and you have to figure out the best way to allow them to fall in order to 'clear' the screen, or achieve a certain goal...

There have been a number of puzzle games that I have spent quite a bit of time trying to get better at. From console to computer, it seems like someone is always trying to come up with some kind of a new angle or twist on the old falling objects puzzler. Even Wordtris, which dropped letters and forced you to create words at the bottom of the screen to clear those letter pieces away was enjoyable for awhile. And HATRIS, oh my God... Hatris... that has to be one of the coolest puzzle game ideas I have even seen!! (ok, i'm joking about Hatris. Maybe I never really understood it or something, but as far as I could ever tell, it bit ass). But! There have been many good games spawned from the basic Tetris style puzzle idea. Heck, on N64 now you can even get the NEW Tetris with a four player mode... that could get quite interesting. Everyone from Mario, to Dr. Robotnik... Hell, even Ms. Pac Man had a puzzle game in hopes of getting people hooked like they were during the great Tetris craze of 1956*. Some have come closer than others, with a few very forgettable titles easily being forgotten along the way.

Now Detonium Interactive is trying their hand at this genre with Drop Mania. I really had high hopes for this one. As I have stated, I'm always ready for a fun and challenging puzzle game of this type. I wouldn't even mind if some company would just basically rip off all of the elements of a great puzzle game of the past, and repackage it for me so I can have another go at it. Drop Mania is trying really hard to do this... you can see where it is doing a very good job of borrowing some of the elements of the games of the past but somewhere along the way... maybe just to be a little bit different... it makes some mistakes...

The object of Drop Mania is to try to drop colored blocks into your play area in the most efficient way possible to remove some of the blocks that are already there. You see, there are always rows of colored bricks at the bottom that slowly move up towards the top of your area. If you just sit there, eventually random bricks will fill up your entire area. If any brick makes it to the top, your game is over... so you must drop the appropriate bricks in the appropriate spots to make some of the bricks disappear so that you make it to the end of the round, which is determined by acheiving a set number of points. It's all about trying to make the right combinations to remove bricks, to clear space, to make matches, to get points, to start all over again.

The game is layed out very much like you might expect. The screen is divided in half, with one area on the left for player one, and another area on the right for player 2 if you happen to be playing against someone. In the early levels, your play area is empty, which is the case with most games of this type. At the top of your area, there is a row of colored blocks, spanning six across. You are in control of a cursor two-blocks in length which you can move either left or right, to change which two blocks you have selected. Aside from moving left and right, you only have two other moves. One of them is Drop, which sends the two chosen blocks straight down, and brings them to rest whenever they happen to land, right below where they were. The other thing you can do is hit your action button and switch the places of the two bricks you have selected. So, you are not given a lot of freedom in the moving and placing of brick. Sure, if you have the time, and patience, you can drop any of the two bricks you have to choose from, next to each other, straight down anywhere in the play area. Plus, you can drop bricks as fast as you'd like, since you are never made to wait to make another move. On the contrary, if you take two long, you will be warned, and then your drop will be forced after a time limit. That SEEMS like it might offer you enough freedom and options, since it should offer you the ability to do quite a number of different placing at any moment... which is true.. BUT, when it comes down to getting into a fast moving game in the later levels, it's a bit annoying at just how limited your moves become. Unlike a game like Dr. Mario or Tetris, you cannot control your bricks once you have dropped them. They are destined to go straight down. Theres never any situation where you can try to tuck a color into a crack somewhere where it could be really useful. In fact, with the way the game is designed, there are never even any cracks available to be skillfully filled, since all object either move straight up or straight down, with no holes to fill along the way. And, another type of movement which I feel is most annoyingly missing from this game is the ability to rotate the two bricks that you will be dropping. You can never drop two bricks one on top of the other in one move of change your mind while your pieces are falling. You must always drop two bricks side by side and straight down which is a royal pain when you really need to fill in an area that is just one brick wide. As you drop bricks, it's best to try to match them with other bricks that are the same color. Any time same-colored bricks come in contact with each other, they fuse together, and become one. So, you'll find that you are making large brick creations as you go. These can start to get in the way while also getting closer to the top, so it is your job to try to get rid of them when you get the chance.

Unlike other games, which usually remove pieces when rows are created, or enough like colors are touching each other, Drop Mania uses a different approach. Every so often, one of the brick that you are able to drop will be a special one. It appears as a normal colored brick with a special little graphic inside it so you know that its important. It is a Detoblock and it has the power to destroy any of the same-colored bricks that it comes in contact with when it lands. So, if you drop a yellow Detoblock next to a bunch of yellow brick that are all touching, they will all go away. It's nice and satisfying when you have been able to keep many same colored bricks in one area. All it takes then os one correct drop and they are all history... unfortunately... this doesnt seem to happen enough. There is a very limited number of pieces with the ability to destroy brick so it gets more frustrating than fun trying to keep like colors groups together waiting for the chance to get rid of them.

The graphics in Drop Mania are fine for what is needed for this type of game. Flashy graphics or 3D rendered objects really aren't necessary when trying to make a decent puzzle game and the graphics presented here are all done well enough to serve their purpose and not be distracting. The sound is adequate as well. You are given the option to turn the happy music on or off as you so desire and you can even mute the sound effects as well if you dont like that kind of a distraction while you play. Theres nothing especially exciting about the graphics and sound, but they do just fine in a puzzle game environment.

I was surprised at the lack of a multiplay option other that a two player split screen version. No game of this type should be without internet play. Playing the two player version of the game does make it a little more bearable, if the skill of the two players is about even. In this version, the basic threat to your carefully planned out strategic moves is randomly colored bricks that fall from the top whenever your opponenet does some good moves on their side. If you're quick enough, you can counteract this random falling by doing a fancy play of your own, sometimes sending bricks back to your opponent to put them in a bad spot. If one of the two players isn't all that good to begin with, then they will be slaughtered by their opponent who will continually be sending unneeded pieces their way with no hopes of ever recovering. Equally matched players may find some fun in the two player game, although it all seems to get old rather quickly.

Although I have always enjoyed these type of puzzle games, I can't say that I enjoy Drop Mania all that much... Your moves are too limited and restricted, and the difficulty of the game seemed to jump from boringly easy to nearly impossible in just a few short levels. I wasn't able to get a handle on any type of decent strategy to deal with the constraints placed on my block dropping. A greater number of detoblocks could have helped... at least just to clear away some odd bricks cluttering the play field. There doesn't seem to be any kind of in-game options for difficulty or type of play or anything. You are able to just either play the game, or not play the game, as far as I can tell. I was hoping for a much better game... at least one that would offer a nice puzzle game escape for a few minutes here and there, but I don't think I'll be returning to Drop Mania too often... if at all.

P.S. One fun thing has come out of playing Drop Mania. It has forced me to pull my Nintendo out of the attic to play Dr.Mario. I'm having lot's of fun with it again. Thanks, Drop Mania!!


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