Dropcast: spell slinging, Singapore style

November 26th, 2008 | by Chan Chi-Loong

Dropcast is the first DS game made in Singapore, released in Sept 2008 by Mikoishi. Unfortunately, it was released to very little fanfare here and abroad.

The curse of the indie company is that they have far less resources than the big game publishers, and often the public’s perception of indie games is that they are light on production values.

Luckily, with Dropcast, this isn’t the case. This head-to-head super collapse variant didn’t skimp in terms of art design and music. I’m not the biggest of puzzle fans, and sure, the game is a retooled variant of a popular game, but I think Dropcast is worth a look.

Storyline in a puzzle-based game is extraneous, but it does help to set the mood. In Dropcast, Ingrid, an Addams family Wednesday clone, is bored out of her brains as she can’t find any friends who would play (read: be experimented on) with her.

So she reanimates a bevy of stuffed toys, teaches them some wicked spells, and gets them to fight each other for her own warped amusement. The toys, each replete with wacky personalities, get progressively unlocked as you play the main storyline. I found the tonality of the writing uneven – the toys’ child-like prose sometimes works and at other times falls flat – but the art direction and techno music scores were quite good.

Gameplay wise, Dropcast is a variant on the popular super collapse game, where you tap blocks to make them disappear as new random blocks fill the screen from the bottom. The twist here is that they added in head-to-head competition (either via AI or up to 3 other DS players), and you can pull off attacks and counters when you collapse a big enough block.

The gameplay in this Battle Royale mode certainly is interesting, but I found it a little chaotic for my taste. The spells (especially the super power-ups) have devastating effects, which make the game potentially very swingy with big blowouts. You can counter the AI, which does quite a good job of challenging the player, but my aged reflexes are not up to it. Speaking of which, when I played with other younger friends, I got soundly thrashed as well. Figures.

Besides Battle Royale, there is another mode called Ingrid’s curse, which is an interesting fusion of ideas between super collapse and tetris. The game plays as per above, except that when you collapse a large block on your playing field, you drop a tetris-like block on the opposite playing screen (which doesn’t get any other blocks otherwise). Fill up the opposite playing screen with enough blocks to form a flushed line (ala tetris), and this line is cleared and you score points. If, at any time, either screen is filled to the brim with blocks, the game is over.

It sounds complicated, but the game does guide you well in explaining how to play. Execution, however, is a different thing — you have to be good at timing, plan which sets of blocks to collapse as it affects where the tetris-blocks falls on the other screen, and of course, your playing screen keeps popping up with new blocks.

The game is played in book mode (i.e. the vertical side of the screens face you), which is a more unusual stylus arrangement but it works quite well. I also like the relatively robust download play option, which is a great function for a portable game title to have. Your friends can try out Dropcast without needing a copy of the game, and it’s a great addition to this budget title.

Dropcast probably has the most value for puzzle fans who like a challenge. It’s not bad, though, and if you’re curious at what a Singaporean game studio can produce, it’s worth checking out.

Note: artwork taken from the Dropcast website are properties of Mikoishi Pte Ltd

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