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Dreii

Score: 93%
ESRB: Not Rated
Publisher: bitforge Ltd.
Developer: Etter Studio
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - 3
Genre: Puzzle

Graphics & Sound:

Dreii is pretty much the type of game where you see a screenshot and you instantly know the style. Itís minimal, sleek, and colorful. Your character is one of several bell-shaped things or creatures or whatevers and your goal is to build towers. Towers are mostly built out of white geometric blocks, though there are a few special blocks too.

Really, just donít expect life-like characters voiced by celebrities to suddenly jump out and reveal the secrets of Dreii to you. Dreii is about minimal, quiet, and simple.

The sound is also appropriately minimal, with some simple chimes and subtle bells here and there. There isnít much in the way of music, but there are some melodic tones every now and then. I have a single complaint here: the tone that ends each level. Itís a high-pitched tone that gets louder for several seconds and eventually fades. Maybe itís just me, but it grated on my ears to the point where I turned the volume down every time I beat a level.


Gameplay:

Dreii is a game where you pick up blocks and try to build towers. You control a little floaty, er... thing. Iím not sure what it is. But you use your little avatar to pick up blocks and stack them. The tower build projects get more and more complicated, with spheres, ramps, water, and even wind coming by to mess things up. The game is also multiplayer, but with little warning. Other avatars just show up in your levels.

The results of people just dropping into your game can be the source of endless comedy. If youíre taking a serious stance on this game, you can easily get frustrated by people coming in and pulling blocks out or unbalancing something youíve been working on. If youíre the type that finds comedy in tragedy, this can be pretty hilarious. After an endless stream of failures and sabotage, you sometimes just give in to the chaos and start wrecking your own tower. Well, I do anyway.

Dreii is a minimalist game in almost every way, which means it cleverly hides the tutorial levels. Like a set of instructions for an Ikea cabinet, Dreii shows you through visual cues, not words. It starts simple, teaches you the rules, then builds complexity on those simple rules later. I admire this sort of design for a number of reasons, one being that the experience needs little to no translation. For example, I could write a few sentences to describe a particular level where you encounter a block you cannot pull. It turns out you need to pull another block over the top of it, using the friction between the two blocks to make the first one turn over. Thatís a whole lot of writing for what Dreii can show you by just placing a couple of blocks next to each other in a very specific way. For that, itís quite a brilliant teaching system.

Certainly itís not the first game to do it, but Dreii also supports a seamless multi-lingual communication system. You communicate in your language in a small set of phrases and your words will be translated into whatever language the other player speaks. I remember Phantasy Star Online doing this way back in the Dreamcast days, and I always thought that it was a pretty smart way to handle (and corral) communication between a diverse player set. Well, for Dreii it could be a smart way to communicate, but youíre limited to a lot of convivial language, rather than words that could help you give directions or receive them. For example, you can say "Hello" or "Huh?" but you canít really tell someone "take that block and put it on the left" if you need to. There are more phrases, to be fair, but even "slowly" or "drop" can be difficult to convey when you have to select your words from a menu, one by one.


Difficulty:

As mentioned before, other people are your greatest asset and your greatest enemy in Dreii. Happen upon a set of players that know what theyíre doing, and you can make short work of a level. Happen upon worshipers of chaos, and you can be trapped in a layer of hell called Dreii that was apparently edited out of Danteís Inferno.

Some levels require cooperation to finish. There may be a tower that needs to be stabilized while youíre building it; That requires another person to take on the role of tower protector while the rest of the group works on other tasks. If this sounds difficult to do with only a bunch of "hello" and "wait" phrases, it is. But then, thatís part of the unique challenge of this game, which does make things enjoyable.


Game Mechanics:

Dreii operates with simple drag-and-drop mechanics. It works nicely, though on small touchscreens such as my Samsung Galaxy S5, it can be difficult when your finger gets near the top of the screen; It would probably be beneficial to use a stylus so you can reach all areas and see what youíre doing as well. On non-touchscreen interfaces, you can simply click your character or your block and drag them around.

The compatibility between different platforms in Dreii is especially nice. You can play on PC, Mac, Linux, Android, PlayStation 4, PS Vita, iOS, and Wii U. Though the game advertises that you can play across platforms, itís unclear who is playing online with you, at any given time. Due to the extreme minimalist design of the game, nothing about the other players is apparent at all (really, it seems possible that you're just playing with some clever A.I.). If there is a way to enlist the help of a specific person, I have not found that either. It seems to be strangers only in Dreii, which is unfortunate when you just want to be able to play with a friend sometimes.

The multiplayer aspect of the game is always on, which could be good or bad. The bad part is you need to be connected to the internet at all times. The good thing is, Dreii is constantly searching for people to help you. I should also say, I am not quite sure on the maximum number of players. The most I saw was 3 players, but due to the esoteric nature of the game, I could be wrong on that as well.

Dreii is a fun little game that makes you exercise your brain in a lot of ways. Itís not just about solving puzzles, but itís also about trying to communicate in a mostly non-verbal way. That can be frustrating when you just want to say something, anything, to the person playing with you. If more features were added to help out with the communication, however, it just wouldnít be Dreii. Itís sort of fitting, because Dreii is one of those lovely games that gets better as you play it more and talk about it less.


-Fights with Fire, GameVortex Communications
AKA Christin Deville

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