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Double Fine is a studio known (and beloved) for incredibly eccentric affairs, like Psychonauts, Costume Quest, and Stacking, but by contrast, Dropchord seems remarkably straightforward. It's an arcade-style high-score game released under the guise of a music game – which makes sense given its fantastic electronic dance soundtrack and visualizer-inspired look – but the beats and gameplay feel disconnected. So it's not a rhythm game; that's not a problem. However, the game approach itself never provides as strong of a hook as the presentation, feeling more like something to occupy you while you watch and listen rather than a central pull of the experience.
With a thumb placed firmly on either side of the central circle, you'll create a line used to clear icons that appear within. Every few seconds, a new set of icons will show up, and clearing them all before the next set emerges extends your multiplier and boosts your score. But hurtful "scratches" also appear in the frame, and hitting one of those zaps your health and kills your chain. In the standard mode, you'll progress through 10 distinct tracks that blend well together and toss in additional play mechanics (like beat pads to tap and notes to hold the line over), while the Full Mix mode provides a leaderboard-centric endless experience that progressively ramps up in difficulty as it unfolds.
Visually and aurally, Dropchord is an absolute wonder to take in. The beat-heavy instrumental tracks are memorable, thumping affairs, while the ever-changing graphical filters deliver dizzying results. It's truly enough to make the game a worthwhile affair, but it's a shame that the gameplay never makes quite the same impression. Clearing circles with the line feels routine before long, especially with repeated patterns and no strong connection between what's happening on the screen and what's pumping through the speaker or headphones, and scratches appearing immediately below the current line placement irritate, as do two-fingered beat taps that frequently are not recognized.
The bottom line. Dropchord dazzles with its presentation, but doesn't make a lasting impact with its interactivity.
iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch running iOS 5.0 or later
Excellent original electronic dance soundtrack. Graphical filters are frantic and eye-catching. Control scheme is an interesting approach that suits a touch interface well.
Gameplay feels secondary to the amazing presentation and doesn't make a big impression. Irritating moments with scratches appearing in your immediate line path, plus taps not being recognized.