Puzzle games have always been popular no matter what system you choose to play. It looks like the Nintendo 64 will be no different than systems past and will have its fair share of puzzle games to choose from. Sure, you will get your rehashed games but the question is can somebody come up with something new? Something different? Something fun yet simple enough for everyone to play? The answer is a resounding maybe. Wetrix fits the bill on most of these accounts but not quite all.
Wetrix really has no back story. You are not set in the future looking to save the world or anything like that. I mean, come on, this is a puzzle game for crying out loud. What you will have to do is learn to trap water while avoiding a ton of obstacles through multiple levels. You can play the game in a single player mode, a two player mode, a pro mode or even set yourself up with a handicap that makes life rough from the start. The bottom line is that this is a puzzle game and puzzle games are all about the gameplay so enough of this... Let's get to it!
The gameplay of Wetrix is both easy to explain yet not easy to explain. The game has a square chunk of floating landscape. There are a number of different pieces and objects that will fall from above and it is up to you to place these objects in the most opportune location for what you are trying to accomplish. Sounds a lot like Tetris but believe me, it is absolutely nothing like it.
I mentioned above that the object is to place the falling pieces in the most opportune location. What this means is that some of the objects that fall are called Uppers. These pieces will raise the landscape in the area that they fall. For example, if a piece that is just a straight line falls, the place that you select it to land will raise up, making a barrier or a dam. The thing is, the landscape is flat so the water will run over to the edges and fall off. So, the basic idea is to use these falling Uppers to build an enclosed area of walls or dams so that the water can't escape off the sides of the landscape. Well, where does the water come from you ask? It also falls from the sky. You see, Uppers are not the only thing that you will have to place. Large or small groups of water bubbles will also drop and you have to place them into your dams or else the water will escape off the edges of the landscape. Your little water meter on the side of the screen collects the water that spills and if it fills, you will lose. Did I mention the rain storms?
Are you with me so far? Life would be easy if building dams was all that you had to worry about, right? What happens when your lakes get full? Well, you better just hope for a fireball to drop. If you place the fireball in the lake, the water will evaporate giving you points as well as emptying out the lake so you have a place for the water again. Of course it is hard to tell when you will get a fireball so it is always important to try and build lake areas that can hold a high capacity of water. But this is not all. Actually, this is just the beginning. You will also have to worry about earthquakes if you build the dams up too high, bombs that blow holes in the landscape and ice cubes that freeze your lakes and any water that touches it. Does it still sound like Tetris to you?
The heart and soul of any puzzle game has got to be the gameplay. We all know that graphics are secondary when it comes to these types of games. I think that Wetrix does have some very solid gameplay that will keep you playing for quite some time. One complaint I did have was the game packs a pretty steep learning curve. This is not a game you can sit down and play without reading the instructions and practicing. Personally, I like the challenge and I think that this game has incredible depth (excuse the pun). My significant other, a self-proclaimed puzzle game genius, was not willing to put forth the effort to get the hang of the game so she never got a chance to get drawn into it. Why am I telling you this? Because it think it is important for the people who are looking for a game they can jump on and start playing immediately to know that this game does take some patience to play.
The main buzzword for puzzle games is "addicting". All puzzle games want to achieve that status and Wetrix is no different. The box is quoted as saying "Wetrix just might be the most addictive puzzle game of all time". That is a pretty bold statement to make. The more I played the game, the more I felt that addicting was not quite the right word for this game. I think the game was more challenging and self-pushing than addicting. When I think of addicting, I see myself wanting to squeeze in that one last game at 3:00 AM. I don't think I have the mental sharpness at 3 AM to even play Wetrix. Don't get me wrong. This is not a bad thing at all. Like I said, I like a game that makes you think and the best part is that you have to think and plan ahead longer than just the next piece or two. This alone puts Wetrix in rare company.
I do have one complaint with the game. This may just be me and it might only be my problem but I had a difficult time judging where the piece was lined up on the landscape. The falling piece does cast a shadow to help you guide it but when your landscape gets pretty full, it is difficult to tell where you are aimed. You do have the ability to adjust the camera angles and zoom in and out but the pieces fall so fast that if you don't make up your mind pretty quickly, it is too late. I just wish it were a little easier to tell where things were going to drop. I can't tell you the number of times I was off by an inch or two when I though I was lined up correctly.
Like I said above, this is a puzzle game and we all know it is gameplay over graphics. The graphics in the game are pretty good and quite colorful. I don't think there was anything that could not have been achieved on any of the next generation consoles or PC. The rainbow was very colorful and looked great but, once again, it is gameplay that brings you here.
All in all, this is a decent puzzle game. It may be a bit too complicated for some puzzle fans (like my girlfriend). Don't get me wrong. If you want to spend the time to get to understand the concepts and ideas, anybody can get the hang of it. The question is will you want to spend that time? It was nice to see somebody come up with an original game idea for a change so the developers should be commended for this. Personally, I would rent this game for the weekend and try it out first. That is the beauty of a puzzle game. If you like it and go buy it, you won't lose anything from when you rented it because the game always starts from the beginning if you lose.