The puzzle genre has seen its fair share of gimmicks and tweaks over several gaming generations. Going beyond the typical line completion formula of Tetris and the more popular "match three" mechanics featured in several other puzzle games, you have gimmicks like versus mode play (Puyo Pop), using other objects to create matches (Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo), object clearance (Dr. Mario), story-based puzzle gaming (Puzzle Quest), and use of rhythm (Lumines), just to name a few. It seems like just about every new puzzle game to come out has to have something to really make it stand out from the crowd. 0D Beat Drop, the new puzzle game from the makers of the Guilty Gear fighting game franchise, is no different as it tries to blend together elements from several other puzzle games into one unique experience. While those elements do work well together, it does a few things that keep it from being among the puzzle game greats.
At its core, 0D Beat Drop follows the classic "match three" formula. Pieces made of three colors or shapes in an L formation will drop from the top of the screen. Matches are made when three or more of those colors or shapes match horizontally, vertically or in an L pattern. Gameplay ends when the pieces in the center of the playfield reach the top of the screen.
The main hook is the game's reliance on rhythm. Matches that have been made on the board will not count as points and disappear from the playfield unless the final piece of the patch is counted as a beat drop. To make it count as a beat drop, the piece has to fall in tune to the rhythm of the song. According to the beat guide on the side of the playfield, pieces dropped when the meter is in the red count as beat drops, while pieces dropped when the meter is blue don't count. Successful beat drops not only clear the field but make subsequent beat drops earn more points, up to 20 times the original value. The drawback is that the red zone shrinks with more successful drops, making the process of keeping a high drop zone meter much more difficult.
0D Beat Drop has six different modes to go through, five for the single-player segment alone. Planet Quest is the single-player mode that has you fight against the CPU in 10 different levels with varying beats. This is where the concept of Shadow Blocks is introduced. The more matches and combos you make, the more blocks get sent to your opponent. These blocks must have matches made next to them before they become eligible for elimination later.
Survival mode pits you against three other AI-controlled players to see who can go on the longest without dying, while Co-op With COM has you cooperating with an AI player for 10 rounds against two other AI opponents. Time Attack has you trying to reach the target score as quickly as possible, while Task has you trying to fulfill specific tasks before the timer runs out. The modes are interesting and will get a good amount of playtime each once the player gets bored of Planet Quest.
Again, all of these modes are dependent on the beats of the music playing, and this is one area where the default tracks can quickly get old. Including the special track from the Japanese band SweetVacation, the game only comes with nine musical tracks. Since the Planet Quest mode alone contains 10 levels, the amount of repetition creeps up rather quickly with one playthrough. The developers saw that and gave players the ability to import their own tracks for play in the game, and 0D Beat Drop does a great job of analyzing the imported music and providing various levels of difficulty based on the new tunes. However, the main problem is with playing said tracks. In order to play a level you just analyzed, you have to pause the game, go to the music player, select the song that needs to be played, and then get back to the game to have that beat analysis be played. It seems all right for a song or two, but if you hope to have a whole playthrough done with your own custom songs, the process becomes more cumbersome than it should be. If more songs had been included with the game and there were an easier process to play custom songs, that would have gone a long way toward making the musical feature worthwhile.
Multiplayer can be played with up to four players, both locally and online. Standard versus rules apply but so do co-op rules with any combination of players. As with the rest of the game, multiplayer offline can be done with either the game's song selection or your own custom songs. Online play with custom songs couldn't be confirmed, though, since there seems to be no one on the player- and ranked matches. In other words, if you want any type of multiplayer action, your best bet is to skip Xbox Live and play locally.
Puzzle games don't tend to get much attention in the graphics department. As long as you can tell what's going on and the pieces move with no problem, everything should be fine. For the most part, this is certainly the case with 0D Beat Drop. The shapes and colors are easy to discern from one another, and this is also the case with the shadow blocks. What is interesting is just how busy the backgrounds can get. With constant neon shapes and circles floating in the air and a larger image if your avatar is simply standing there, things can get a bit too busy for those who get distracted easily.
Despite the negative aspects pointed out in this review, 0D Beat Drop really is a solid puzzle game. The mechanics and the gimmick make it a good alternative for puzzle fanatics who are looking for something different from their routine. It's just too bad that the implementation of some of those mechanics wasn't as polished as one would have hoped. Those curious should try the demo first before putting down the points for the game since there are other, much more polished and popular puzzle games available for the service.
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