One of the highlights of my visit at E3 this past June was checking out the game Dropmix. This is a joint project between Harmonix (who you may know best as the minds behind the Rock Band series) and Hasbro as the publisher. The game is set to be released on September 24th, but before then, Harmonix was kind enough to send me a review copy to check out and review. I headed over to the Watchtower Cafe in Salt Lake City and partnered up with four friends (special thanks to Scott, Erica, Adam, and Ryan) to put this musical face-off to the challenge.
The best way to describe Dropmix is that you are essentially competing DJ's, either one-on-one or two teams of two. The game comes with four decks of cards that are all identified by their matching set symbol in the bottom right corner. These cards come with thin RFID chips inside (so you don't want to do traditional shuffling with these) that all have samples of music on them. The track name and the artist are identified on each card, as well as what section of the song is contained by looking in the lower left corner. These sections could be guitar, drums, vocals, synth, sound effects, horns, or any other number of instruments.
A good example of the kind of content you'll get is the drum track from "No Scrubs" by TLC, or the vocals from "Bring Me To Life" by Evanescence, or the violins section from "Call Me Maybe" by Carley Rae Jepson. You're being given a section of a song which you will use with other sections of different songs to create brand new musical tracks by sampling everything together. No two songs will ever sound alike as you'll combine different genres and sections that the game will then find a beat to and make them into a unique song.
So now that you understand what's going on, here's how Dropmix works. Using the free Dropmix app on iOS or Android, you'll Bluetooth your phone or tablet to the main board and select a game to play. Each side will pick a deck of 15 song samples as their respective deck. The game will then make requests through the virtual audience in the game, lighting up one of five squares on the board and requesting a specific color(s). The game will switch between players/teams to add song sections and award points for the kind of card played or how soon it was played, depending on the mode you chose.
In the upper left corner, each card comes with a power meter to show how strong the track is from one to three, with three being the highest. Nothing can beat a three except another three, so there are times you may be stuck and will need to hit the Dropmix button at the bottom of the board to clear out a section or specific level of cards played. This adds a new challenge to the game as those points get deducted from the score of whoever loses cards and opens up sections of the board again to play new tunes and gain points. A lot of what you do will need to be calculated decisions to keep your opponents at bay while also not setting yourself up for failure.
The most intense mode by far was playing as a group and serving the audience. Every decision you make is based off what you do as a team, where you will fill requests made by the audience and be timed on how well and quickly you respond. If you drop more than one card or the wrong kind of card or the wrong level of card, you'll be penalized. So you always have to see what your teammates are doing and what they have in their hands. We got a few top scores, but it took us a while to get there as we were constantly dropping cards on each other too quickly and kept getting nailed for it by the game.
Dropmix does come with a few issues that were too outstanding to ignore. First off, the Bluetooth connection will kill your battery quickly, so we constantly had to keep my iPhone plugged in as we played so I wouldn't lose power. Second, the board itself runs on four AA batteries. So already you have two different sources of power for a single game. In my opinion, it would have been easier to jave the game run on a traditional cord that you plug into the side, and use a USB port to hook whatever device you have into it so that it automatically connects without Bluetooth and stays charged as you play. The other main issue I had was that you can buy booster packs to add more cards to your deck and build entirely new decks to play with. The Playlist packs are complete 15 song decks and a bonus song, while Discover packs are five mixed cards. So in order to get complete sets, you'll need to spend more money to get variety.
Overall, Dropmix was a lot of fun! This is, by far, one of the best party games you'll be able to play this year. If you can get past the power issues, there's a lot of potential here for you to enjoy a DJ battle with your friends. On top of all of this, if you do come across a track that you enjoy listening to, you can save it to your phone at the push of a button to play later. So if you're done fighting it out, you can listen to the music you just created. The price tag may make you flinch at a cool $100 (not including the price of Playlist packs at $15 each and Discover packs for $5 each), but you're basically paying for an interactive party game for musical entertainment, much like you would with Rock Band. If that's your jam, then this will be right up your alley.