You should never judge a book by its cover or, in this medium, write off a video game before you’ve even played it. I must admit, when I first laid eyes on Dreii my initial thoughts were “this isn’t something I’m going to like” and “here comes another mobile port”. But then I started to play Dreii, and quickly realised that Etter Studio’s simple-looking puzzle game has more to offer than initially meets the eye.
The premise is simple (which is lucky given that the game throws you in at the deep end with no tutorial), you need to rearrange the white blocks on the screen in such a way that they cover a glowing, circular goal for a few seconds. Although this appears to be rather straightforward during the first few levels, the difficulty starts to ramp up as the game adds new mechanics to provide you with a challenge.
You control a colourful being that floats around the stage, which you can move using either the touchscreen or a combination of the left analogue stick and the X button. Pressing X on one of the shapes that litter the levels will see your character pick up the shape via a dotted line – allowing for you to manoeuvre the shape so that you can build whatever structure you fancy in a bid to cover that goal.
Of course, in a structure building game such as this, the physics in Dreii are perfect. You will find yourself holding your breath as your precariously balanced tower tilts to one side, praying that it holds in place for a few more seconds until the level is beat. The more you play, the more complex the levels get. You will find levels that have multiple goals to them – once you have covered one circular goal for a few seconds, another one will appear in a harder-to-reach-place alongside some more shapes for you to utilise to reach the target. Later levels will also feature wind that will blow your structures over, water that will cause shapes to float and shapes with a magnetic pull – causing other shapes to orbit around these central points.
I found myself getting annoyed at times with certain stages. Imagine building a perfect sand castle and then seconds later someone runs along the beach and kicks it down – that’s how Dreii makes you feel when it snatches victory away from you as a gust of wind topples your tower just before you can place the final piece. This will make you question your approach to some stages, do you take your time and move with caution or do you move quickly in order to complete the stage before your tower topples?
One thing that I did like about Dreii’s approach to levels is the way it lets you decide your own path through the game. If you find yourself stuck at any point, chances are you can follow another path and avoid the level that is causing you grief – coming back to it at a later point if you so wish. There are multiple paths to go down in Dreii, and later on you will find that different paths feature different gameplay mechanics in a way that encourages you to play through each route.
As a single player experience, Dreii is a good physics-based puzzler. It comes into its own, however, when played with other players. You can drop into other players’ games and vice-versa at any time. A small circle orbiting one of the levels on the level select screen indicates another player is currently tackling that puzzle. They say that two heads are better than one and, in Dreii, this saying certainly rings true. Some stages are so tough to complete that two players (or more) are needed to beat the stage. With no voicechat, you and your companion communicate via pre-set text options that you can select using the right analogue stick. Etter Studio have, cleverly, built a word-wheel from which you can select a single word to say to your companion. The reason these set words are the only way to communicate is so that you can play with anyone in the world without a language barrier causing problems. Dreii drip feeds these words to you, so the more you play with others the more options become available for you to communicate.
I really enjoyed playing Dreii with others, and returning to the game to play on my own left an empty space. You encounter all sorts of players in Dreii, bossy people who like to run proceedings, people that keep saying the same thing (usually “hello” or “sorry”) or those that can work a puzzle out in seconds. It really is interesting and makes the game a lot more fun to play. The big problem with this is that not only is the entry to multiplayer a little fiddly (it doesn’t help when nothing is explained to you) but there doesn’t seem to be many people playing Dreii – even the Cross-Play functionality with the PS4 version can help here.
This means that those later levels that require teamwork can become nigh on impossible, which isn’t exactly great if you’re a completionist. I found myself getting frustrated with some of these stages and felt a little cheated that there was no way for me to complete it on my own. There is one stage where the blocks that you need to move cannot be lifted by a single player, heck, even with two players it was a struggle and right at the end a gust of wind came along to blow the tower down. Luckily, Etter didn’t include swear words in their word wheel or else the screen would have been filled with multi-lingual colourful bubbles of colourful words.
Still, Dreii is a game that I would recommend as an experience, but I would suggest that you wait for a sale before you pick it up. At £9.49/$11.99 the price is a little steep, especially when you may not get the most out of it with the unfortunate lack of people playing it. A great physics-based puzzle game it may be, but when it is a game that relies on collaboration but lacks numbers – it seems that those that did buy this game soon forgot about Dreii…