There I was playing Dreii on my iPad, stopping every now and then between levels to jot down my thoughts. This is one of several sessions where, instead of hopping on for the odd five-minute burst, Dreii kept my bum firmly planted for almost four times as long. Filling a page in my notebook with doodles and the occasional line fit for a game review, there was one bullet point on the list I continued to circle the more I played.
What’s really endearing about Dreii, I thought to myself, is how your AI chums interact when attempting to solve one of the game’s long series of puzzles. Each one is its own self-contained scenario, though the same objective remains throughout. By grappling onto objects, you need to lift and drag them into place so that they cover a tiny orb of light. If your makeshift tower of blocks manages to stay put for a handful of seconds, you’re treated to a cool end-game screen before being transported to the next stage.
Building towers in a physics-based puzzler isn’t exactly new, and I’m sure there are more prominent examples, but I still remember how fun Move Mind Benders on PlayStation 3 was back in the day. What makes Dreii different is the companions it lumps you with when attempting to blot out those pesky little orbs.
Like you, they move around in real-time, latching onto objects and drag them into position, sometimes completing stages on their own with very little input. Other times they can prove a royal pain in the ass, purposefully snagging blocks away or clumsily toppling a tower you’ve been trying to construct for the past minute.
As annoying as these spry little blobs can be, there’s an undeniable sense of charm to them. How brilliant, I thought, that a developer could program the AI to be so endearingly dumb yet bright at the same time. Then it finally clicked. These floating buddies of mine aren’t following a script, they’re being controlled by other players.
Upon having this revelation, everything about Dreii and the buzz building up around this game started to make sense. Without reading too much about it, I had completely glossed over the fact that it is designed to be a collaborative puzzler where groups of players work towards a common goal.
After a momentary facepalm, I dove straight back in with a fresh perspective. Certain elements about Dreii’s design that had seemed superfluous to begin with now made perfect sense. For instance, the ability to tap in the bottom left of the touchscreen to blurt out one of several pre-set messages.
It turns out that this jumble of words is there for a reason, to help players communicate to each other when the game is in action. Another nifty aspect to this built-in messaging system is that every utterance gets translated in real-time across a variety of different languages.
With Dreii currently planned for release on PlayStation 4, Vita, and Wii U, we’ll hold off with our full review until it makes the bold leap to consoles. What we will say is that, for a few quid, it’s easily one of the best experimental puzzlers available on mobile. Not only is the core concept a sound one, it is surrounded by a pleasing aesthetic and a variety of elements that help to make its gameplay a seamless joy.