On the surface, Dreii might not look like much. Although its minimalist aesthetic is easy on the eye, there’s not an awful lot going on from screen to screen, with each one inhabited by nothing more than a handful of blocks.
Your objective, as you might have already guessed, is to stack these shapes by following some kind of blueprint. In reality, the rules at play are far less stringent – as long as your imperfect tower of blocks can cover a floating orb for a few seconds, you’ll move onto the next puzzle.
As you go along, Dreii sprinkles a few advanced mechanics here and there to change things up. For example, some stages make use of magnetised or fragile blocks, while others have environmental effects such as wind and water. These little twists help to breath some variety into each physics-based trial.
It’s fun, fast, and rewarding. However, where Dreii really shines is its online multiplayer. Where most games clearly signpost any online features, Etter Studio has craftily tucked them away. That said, as hidden as it is, multiplayer is perhaps the most essential aspect of Dreii, transforming a fairly robust puzzler into a kind of social experiment.
How it actually works is a little vague. With no clearly defined servers or lobbies, your only way of bumping in other players is by stopping to look at the levels select menu and picking out those marked by one or more floating dots. With the simple press of a button, you’ll be dropped into their session, allowing you to work collaboratively towards the same goal. Likewise, when riding solo, you’ll often have random players injected into your own little bubble.
The majority of Dreii’s puzzles can beaten alone, but more hands make lighter work. Then there are a few isolated stage peppered throughout that demand two or more players in order to be completed.
It’s hard to explain, yet there’s something truly magical in the way that players interact when working together. Dreii’s avatars are nothing more than vividly-coloured piñatas, yet they somehow take on a real sense of character as they awkwardly jostle in mid-air. Of course, that character reflects the mindset of whoever is sat on the other end with a controller in-hand.
You’ll get pranksters who love to demolish your carefully-crafted constructions. You’ll get bossy so and sos who float around barking orders. You’ll get impressive puzzle masters who can stack blocks deftly in a matter of seconds. You’ll get those who are extremely apologetic whenever something wrong happens.
It’s important to remember that Dreii does not enable any sort of voice chat. Every emotion is conveyed using a pool of universally translated words. Whether you’re playing someone in Pakistan or Poland, saying hello and goodbye, as well as more contextual words, will make sense in whichever language you select.
As the puzzles grow more challenging, the level of coordination required is bumped up a notch. Although this will occasionally lead to moments of frustration, these are completely outweighed by that sense of achievement when working with strangers in what is essentially an anonymous team-building exercise. The fact that some objects require two or more players to lift and lower them into position makes this feeling even more tangible.
Of course, once you’ve experienced Dreii’s multiplayer, going back to being alone is a bitter pill to swallow. Sadly, what this means is that Dreii will ultimately live or die depending on how sustainable its online community is. If most players decide to move on after a couple of months, newcomers will be left with a lifeless shell of a game. It may be competent as a solo puzzler but in reality Dreii was always meant to be played collaboratively. That’s it’s very soul and essence.
The only other traceable downside is pricing. On PlayStation 4, Dreii costs close to a tenner, which is more than double the asking price on phone or tablet. As unique and fulfilling as the game may be, it quickly becomes much harder to recommend on the console. There’s a decent slab of replayable content to get through, yet the entry fee will undoubtedly ward off a sizeable number of prospective buyers.
Dreii really is a one-of-a-kind experience, ranking among my favourite puzzle games of all time. Although remarkably basic in premise, it makes use of simple tools and mechanics to glorious effect. If you’re particularly price sensitive then we would strongly advise waiting for it to go on sale, but for those who want to immerse themselves in something truly unique, you may find plenty of value in its current asking price.
Version Tested: PS4