|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Mikoishi Studios||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: THQ||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sept. 22, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
After learning the ropes in Ingrid's Curse, most players will spend the bulk of their time playing Battle Royale, and within that, Story Mode. The basic mechanic is the same, with one important change: on the left-hand screen, the pile of blocks you send over has been replaced by a computer-controlled opponent. When you break clusters of six or more, the stuffed animal you control now casts a spell, which (depending on the color of the blocks you broke) usually attacks your opponent in some way.
A spell might make some of his blocks "dead" (unbreakable for a brief period of time) or "inactive" (unbreakable until he can maneuver them next to active blocks of the same color), or it might just dump extra blocks on his screen. If you pull off a great move (breaking a whole bunch of blocks at once), you'll get a special-move block, which briefly takes over his screen with animation and casts a spell to royally mess him up. The goal with attacks, of course, it to target the opponent's highest columns, for if one reaches the top of the screen, you win.
In Story Mode you can unlock various characters with slightly different attacks. These provide a little variety, though the basic idea of getting like-colored blocks together and aiming your spells at enemies' highest columns remains the same. In total, there are eight characters and 14 achievements to unlock.
Before each match, the two stuffed warriors have a conversation. The dialogue, though well-written (provided the developers wanted the living toys to sound a little off), is childish; it sounds like something out of a Paper Mario title. The same goes for the visuals. There's a dark feel to the game, something like what director Tim Burton captures in his movies, but in that sense it's much more akin to the gentle Nightmare before Christmas than to the gory Sweeney Todd. In a word, the game looks cute. This creates a weird gap between the presentation and the game itself, because this is not a game for children. There's nothing inappropriate, of course, but the enemies in Story Mode are quite challenging from the get-go, and the strategy can tax even an adult's cognitive resources. A little more dark humor in the dialogue could have really helped bridge the gap.
Also in Battle Royale, you can take up single matches against one, two, or three CPU opponents at once (this is basically the same thing as multiplayer, through which you can host up to three other players on a single cartridge). Unfortunately, with more than one opponent, their screens are tiny, making it even harder than usual to figure out which columns of yours to break to attack their high ones. You can only attack one opponent at once, meaning that you have to kill one enemy at a time, try to figure out what opponent the others are going after and gang up on him, or somehow try to attack all the opponents at once by matching the spells you have available to their weak spots. None of these tactics is particularly fun, though ganging up on one opponent seems to be the most effective. Also, you can only play as and fight characters you've unlocked, so the options are limited until you've gotten a ways in Story Mode.
In terms of technical accomplishment, no one expects much from a $20 game, except that the graphics, controls, and sound do their jobs. Dropcast clears that bar, with characters that look equally spunky and spooky and blocks that look like, well, blocks. The stylus controls are responsive, and the sound is about what you'd expect (we're especially impressed by the way the music blends a traditional puzzle vibe with a Halloween one).
For someone who's mastered lots of puzzle games and wants a fresh challenge, Dropcast is the way to go. Casual gamers, on the other hand, will probably struggle.
CCC Freelance Writer