Drop It: Block Paradise! (Wii U eShop) Review
Writing this review feels more like writing a eulogy for the Wii U than an in-depth look at a game. I like the Wii U a lot, it was an excellent idea for a console brought down by sub-par execution and the lack of third-party support. But despite its faults and failures, it was blessed with some of the greatest games I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing. Drop It: Block Paradise! is, sadly, not one of those games. It’s a boring, somewhat broken experience that tries to compete with one of Nintendo’s best games, and falls flat on its face in the least spectacular way.
Drop It starts off as your average, mobile-esque eShop puzzle game. You have a star that you need to get onto a designated “safe” block, and in order to do so, you have to tap on other blocks to remove them. This is a physics-based puzzle game, so most blocks (but not all — there’s no indicator for this) are affected by gravity. If your star touches the bottom of the screen, the level resets. The less blocks you remove, the higher your overall score (presented as up to three stars, much like Angry Birds, for example), though higher scores don’t seem to achieve anything. It’s fairly a straightforward affair.
As the game progresses through its story-like mode, you’re introduced to more types of environmental blocks. There’s a bomb block that explodes a few seconds after you tap it (more on this in a bit), a bouncy block that your star and other blocks bounce off, a buzzsaw and electrified blocks, which instantly destroy your star if it touches them, and portal blocks, which transport anything that touches them to somewhere else. This might sound like it introduces a lot of variety, and it does very briefly, but only the first time you play a level that features them. After that, they tend to become more frustration than variety. Bombs, in particular, are particularly frustrating, as they all seem to have different strengths. In one level, a bomb might fling your star across the entire stage, but in the next, it will shift it no more than a few pixels. Consistency is a necessary feature for a physics-based game, and without it, levels feel cheap and unfair.
I mentioned above that the game has a story-like mode, but even that is a stretch. There are two characters who’ll talk to you through text boxes in between levels, but they have nothing important to say, so I found myself tapping through them without ever really reading. The characters designs themselves are very late-90’s-like caricatures, seemingly using elements of skate culture and abstract, graffiti-like proportions; they strike me more as what a CEO in his late 50’s thinks young people are “in to” than any worthwhile observation of modern youth culture.
It is with sadness in my heart that I come to talk about the online side of Drop It: Block Paradise! I’ve dreaded talking about it since I first sat down to write this review, because it’s simply a sad and disappointing situation. The developer of Drop It seems to consider the game some sort of spiritual competitor to Super Mario Maker; in fact the description provided to me from the developer tries to poke fun at the shortcomings of Nintendo’s online hub of user-created Mario content. As it currently stands, I don’t feel as if they’re in any position to be pointing fingers.
Like Super Mario Maker, Drop It! Block Paradise features a way to create and upload levels for others to enjoy. You can search through the database with relative ease, filter by creator and creation date, and even assign a star rating to creators’ levels. At the time of writing, only levels created by the developers at ZeNfa Games are able to be played, and this could be for one of two reasons: either nobody has bought the game, or other players have the same problem I did: the game crashes. Hard.
After roughly 5 minutes of creating a level, the game would invariably crash. And it’s not just the software that crashed, it was my whole console. And even holding the power button on the console didn’t fix the problem, I had to physically unplug my Wii U to wrest control back from the game. The first time it happened, I was genuinely concerned that my console might be permanently bricked. Thankfully, this wasn’t the case, and thinking it might have been a one-off, I plugged my console back in and tried again to create a level. It crashed. I thought maybe there was a problem with my installation, so I uninstalled the game, reinstalled it, and tried again. It crashed. I don’t know what caused the crashes, and it may just have been my console, but it was terrifying every single time. At this point, I’m far too afraid for my Wii U to even turn the game back on, let alone try to create a level.
Right now, Drop It: Block Paradise! is not a game that should be on the Wii U. In its current state, it’s not a game that should be on any console. It’s broken, boring, and just not particularly fun. I feel there’s a glimmer of a better game inside; user generated puzzle games are few and far between, and it’s deeply disappointing to see this in its current state. Maybe a future update could fix the problems the game has, and maybe a healthy user-base could bring some more interesting levels. But right now, in its broken state, there’s little to draw your attention for more than a few minutes.
Sadly, it’s not the only game of its sort on the Wii U. Buggy games and asset flips have flooded the Wii U’s eShop in recent times, and they seem to be the only thing trying to breath life into a dying console. I fear the same might happen to the Switch if Nintendo doesn’t tighten up its approval process, but I beg of any developers reading this right now: if you want to bring a game to the Switch, make it something you can have pride in. Make it something that works. Make it something that people will want to come back to for as long as the Switch survives. Don’t let it be something that turns the console into a mockery of its former self.
To twist the words of the great poet T. S. Eliot: this is the way the Wii U ends. Not with a bang, but a whimper.
There's a glimmer of a good idea in user generated puzzles
Lack of meaningful variety
Causes hard console crashes that require the Wii U to be unplugged