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Dreamcast Review: Wetrix +

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Wetrix+ is one of those puzzle games that you should not play if you’re attempting a drug rehabilitation program. There are Uppers. There are Downers. Stuff falls from the sky. Including bombs. Rubber duckies quack at you. And finally, just when you think everything is under control, there’s a psychedelic earthquake that shatters your frantically crafted, rainbow-filled land of happiness.

Wetrix+ is an updated version of a relatively unknown N64 puzzle game called Wetrix. For whatever reason, the original never garnered much attention, even from puzzle fans, but this Dreamcast release is one of the most intense puzzle games that you could hope to play.

As with many puzzle games, Wetrix+ involves maneuvering pieces of a puzzle that fall from the sky. Players are presented with a basic grid and are supposed to build walls in such a way as to contain the forthcoming deluge. The basic tool is the Upper that comes in a variety of shapes: T, L, hollow box, and line. The Upper raises the land thus forming a wall. Oppositely, Downers reduce land height and come in two shapes: line and square.

Additionally, there are other pieces to annoy you. The major source of water will be clouds that you can maneuver to (hopefully) enclosed spaces. Fireballs either dry up water or destroy land. But worst is the bomb that punches a hole in the landscape and destroys a significant amount of land along with it.

Of course, the player can’t control everything. In addition to the clouds, it will also start to rain, most likely at the spots where you can least afford it. Ice cubes will freeze lakes; this can be remedied by a fireball or waiting for it to thaw. Later levels introduce mines.

Nearly everything that the player does will earn points, but it quickly becomes apparent that the usage of multipliers is the true key to high scores. Multipliers come in a number of flavors: every individual lake within the playing field counts as a multiplier. Deep lakes spawn rubber duckies that prove to be a big multiplier. A rainbow multiplier will appear if a player manages to have a significant amount of water on the playing field.

The game ends when the water meter overflows; the water meter is filled slowly by whatever water manages to leak off the board. At earlier levels, this isn’t usually very fast, but in later levels, even the smallest of leaks can prove damning. There’s also another meter that slowly fills: the earthquake meter. This is filled by the amount of land on the playing field, thus a player cannot simply build high walls around the perimeter: eventually this would lead to an earthquake.

Earthquake = bad. Actually, for all intents and purposes, earthquake = instant death.

The end result is a game that is fairly easy to learn, but is incredibly difficult to master. This Dreamcast release features a number of modes. Practice teaches the basics, and classic is the normal mode of play. There’s also a challenge mode with built-in scenarios, a handicap mode as a build-your-own challenge, and a pro mode that should be avoided for the sake of sanity. Crazy gamers with crazy friends can even go multiplayer.

However, not all is good in Wetrix+ land. It is undeniably difficult to line pieces up exactly; it’s hard enough in the early stages, but when the fall rate doubles or triples, it’s more a prayer than anything. The game’s learning curve is quite steep, and players had best be prepared to lose quite a number of rounds before gaining the hang of it, much less actually starting to post respectable scores.

Graphically, Wetrix+ is certainly adequate, but not one of the best Dreamcast offerings. The playing field is a flat square, but the game pieces are rendered in full 3D glory. Aurally, the game provides a flat and unremarkable soundtrack complete with silly sound effects.

Many puzzle games can, with enough time, be played on autopilot – the phrase “in the zone” can apply to Tetris or Mr. Driller. But Wetrix+ is different. It’s hardcore. It’s intense. Even the slightest of mistakes will result in a leak that will very quickly lead to “game over.” For those willing to make the effort, Wetrix+ can lead to fun flood of Biblical proportions. Recommended for hardcore puzzle fans.

Wetrix+ is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB.


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About tylerwillis

  • Scott Butki

    Any idea if this game is going to come out on the PC?
    I used to play tetris so often I’d have tetris dreams – yes, such things have been documented by more scholarly minds than me – and have been looking for a new fix and Sodiku just doesn’t do it.

    Thanks for the review and information

  • http://www.tylerwillis.com Tyler Willis

    According to IGN’s database, the N64 version did come out on PC in 1999. The review above is for the Dreamcast, a slightly updated version, but I understand that the play is quite similar.

  • Scott Butki

    I’ll have to ask Santa or the Easter Bunny or someone to buy me a copy sometime.

    I’d buy myself a copy but then you wouldn’t see me for a month.. or a year..

    Thanks