In this sticky and fun puzzle-platform-adventure, EmergeWorlds brings us into the colorful and intricate world of Dros. Where two unlikely heroes will have to team up to face adversity and reach the top of the Tower.
At first glance Dros strongly recalls some classics of the genre. It manages to borrow and make its own some stylistic features that have made puzzle-adventures great. The first few levels are enough to understand the inspiration for the Zelda of the SNES era and puzzles like Captain Toad Treasure Tracker. The 4 zones with different biomes, interaction with NPCs, exploration and secrets are a clear legacy and passion for Nintendo classics.
Let’s start the review of Dros starting from the story, and then talk about the structure and the technical aspects.
Dros: Adventure Incipit
Dros has two protagonists and therefore two incipits. A bounty hunter calling himself Captain approaches the Alchemist’s tower. An enormous bounty hangs over him and his flute. With the intention of collecting the reward, the bounty hunter enters the tower. At the same time, in a laboratory inside the tower, a slime breaks free from its confinement. We discover that it is not the only slime inside the laboratory, moreover these creatures are sentient and can communicate. As soon as we emerge from our prison we are told to find a shelter or else we will be doomed to certain death. Aware of this we throw ourselves towards the base of the tower.
Fate isn’t so kind to the bounty hunter. As soon as he enters, he immediately meets the Alchemist who mutilates him with a blow, leaving him to die.
Here the meeting between the two unlikely heroes takes place. The slime decides to use the Captain as his shelter, so as to restore his life at the cost of a symbiotic relationship.
Dros and Lore
During the adventure we will meet several characters, some fundamental for the development of the story and others only as a side dish. A subtle humor permeates the dialogues, creating funny situations and interludes, especially between the two protagonists. Regardless of their importance, all characters, even those in the background, have a characterization. The dialogues are important and it is better not to skip them, otherwise you will lose both information and clues to get bonuses or secrets. The most important characters will also appear in a diary.
Every time we have an interaction with one of them or complete certain events, the diary pages will fill up with more information. The same will happen if we analyze some of the level’s details or find special collectibles. In this way we will also know the origins and secrets of this world, discovering a non-trivial narrative as it seems.
A gem is the language and writing of this world. The slimes have their own language and during the journey in the tower we will find some incomprehensible writings. When we check with the slime, however, we can read them and understand their meaning.
The adventure starts from the base of the Alchemist‘s tower. With his flute he manages to keep the creatures (the Dros) subjugated and uses them as slaves.
In addition to the chapters that act as a prologue and epilogue, the tower is divided into 4 zones. Each of them has 9 levels where our goal is to reach the elevator that will take us to the next area. The last level will have always a boss fight against a Drognaught, a titanic construct that always has the same gimmick to be defeated.
The real difference is made by the level design, which with the different mechanics it offers makes the approach to the gimmick different and never boring.
Each part of the tower has its own biome and narrative theme that offers different mechanics. Besides reaching the elevator there are 4 more optional missions to complete. Collect a certain number of Prima (energy source of the game), collect the Bloodrocks, find the pieces of Moderat (machinery that is part of a sub-quest) and finish the level within a maximum time.
Once we beat the boss of each area we will find ourselves in a hub with all the NPCs, there we can rearrange our ideas and go to the next area.
Completionism and End game
Of course, to make completionism we should repeat the levels more than once.
Finding secrets will also complete the diary. After beaten the game you can access a challenge mode. We can repeat any level adding malus and limitations to increase the challenge.
Level Design and Mechanics
Dros’ level design and the puzzle component are certainly the most successful aspects of the entire work. The desire to explore, to find secrets and clues are never frustrating but push the player to spend time finding them. The levels develop in all three dimensions and the amount of mechanics and choices to make are many and original. Precisely for this reason the level design resembles that of Captain Toad Treasure Tracker, especially for the movement of the Captain‘s character and the basic mechanics. The gameplay, however simple, is elevated by the level design making it clear that the most important thing about the adventure is not the point of arrival, but the way in which you get there. In fact, it is possible to both finish a level in a few minutes rather than lingering and finding secrets and completing secondary objectives.
The Odd Couple – The Captain
As mentioned before, the level design serves to highlight the characteristics of our protagonists. We specify that we can only use one character at a time, so we will play either as the Captain or as the slime.
The bounty hunter wears heavy armor that restricts movement and weighs him down. He cannot jump but his weight and strength can operate heavier levers and buttons in the ground. Under water, it can only stay on the bottom. The Captain is also armed with a sword and can defend himself against the Dros sent by the Alchemist. He can swing and parry from opponents’ blows as well as use a slight dash.
A note on the opponents: they are quite diversified even if the action part is a little poorer. While there are some interesting Zeldian-flavored mid-boss fights, it’s the weakest part of the whole game.
The Odd Couple – Dros
The little slime is the real MVP of the game. It can detach itself from its partner leaving it helpless and vulnerable. Thanks to his speed and ability to double jump he can reach places inaccessible to the Captain. Furthermore, he can enter inaccessible tunnels and crevices, controlling mechanisms to pave the way for his partner. The slime pays for its mobility with great fragility. He can only operate buttons or small levers, he doesn’t have the strength to open chests and if he is spotted by an enemy he is neutralized with a single blow. In this case it will return from its shelter without consequences. Its light body allows it to float on water surfaces.
In addition to this, the slime manages to channel and use the energy of the Prima, giving its partner various benefits and abilities. Considering that the action part is the weakest one, the skills connected to them are of little use and difficult to maneuver. You can go on in the adventure without using them. Otherwise three of his skills are critical. Healing, a skill that allows you to zoom in on the map to find objectives and secrets and allow your partner to breathe underwater.
The audio and sound sector are really successful and describe very well both the situations and the environments where we are playing. The character design and setting are another strong point of Dros. Don’t be fooled by the Chibi style of the characters and the setting, especially in the ending you may have a rude awakening.
Sore points are some problems with the camera and bugs that forced me to restart the level or even the game itself over and over again. Often the slime can arrive in less than perfect geodata and freeze the game completely. Imagine it happens after completing subquests and finding secrets.
However, these errors can be corrected with corrective patches.
My Two Cents
Dros is a title with a beautiful narrative and really well done, which cleverly quotes the great classics of the great N. Its excellent graphic style is combined with an articulated and stimulating level design. A layered game that can be both lightly approached and delved into completing all of its side objectives.
It is not without flaws, the action part and the skills connected to them are weak compared to the puzzle and platform ones. Moreover, the bugs, even if they can be fixed with a patch, currently compromise the good design work done by the developers.
The fact remains that we are facing a truly great title. A nice surprise that I recommend to try. You will not regret it.
- great level and game design
- Attractive graphic style
- Entertaining and never boring storytelling
- Good puzzle and platforming stages
- Weak action part
- Bugs that can ruin the experience
- Some framing issues