DropMix Review (iOS)
There's no shortage of collectible card games on the market, whether we're talking about the physical products or the mobile versions populating so many devices today. For the most part, these games are steeped in fantasy, with strange creatures, powers, and abilities at your disposal. There aren't very many devoted to the world of music, and there are even fewer that meld both an app and physical cards in quite the same way DropMix does. By allowing players to simply play cards to make their own memorable tracks, as well as providing a surprising bit of strategy in versus modes, DropMix continues Rock Band developers Harmonix's elevated expectations of what can be accomplished when you mix video games with chart-topping hits.
Out of the box, which contains the DropMix board and 60 cards from various eras, styles and musicians, you could make a case that DropMix is a great introductory sample-making machine. It doesn't give you as many options as the machines DJs are using these days in studio sessions, but Harmonix's inspiration is very clear. Each of the five slots on the board allow players to use specific elements from a song, like the drums from Chvrches' "Mother We Share" or bass line from Meghan Trainor's "All About That Bass", and you can build a complete song of your own designs with minimal effort. Rather than relying on a hefty library of digital samples on your computer or tablet however, all of DropMix's music is built directly into the cards included and offered in separate booster packs.
All the cards work seamlessly with the DropMix app, which is a free download, though it won't let you do much if you don't also have the board and cards to go with it. The first time you slap any given card on the board there's a brief download within the app, but once you've used a card at least one time, DropMix recognizes it almost immediately every use thereafter. While that means the pacing of your freestyle or versus match might be a little off the first few rounds of play, subsequent mixes will flow together more smoothly to give you the feeling of adjusting your music on the fly.
We spent hours with DropMix just tuning and remastering tracks and beats before we even considered playing some of the more serious modes. The vocal tracks offered at the start aren't quite as plentiful as some of the other instrumental elements, but even with just the 60 cards in the box you can create a number of varied and interesting tracks that will have you grooving along in no time. Since the DropMix board connects via Bluetooth, that means you can have it connected to the app and a separate speaker too, giving you a way to project all those dope sounds you'll be making to a larger audience.
Adding more song elements through the two booster pack styles Harmonix and Hasbro are offering certainly helps, but they do add to the cost of DropMix immediately. DropMix itself runs you $100, with 15-card boosters being an additional $15 each, and five-card packs going for $5 a piece. If you want everything available to have the most complete experience possible on day one, you're looking at an investment of ~$220. That's not cheap, but those prices are in line with what Harmonix charged for Rock Band DLC and what current collectible card game boosters go for too. Music licensing isn't inexpensive, but having the songs baked into the cards themselves means you also shouldn't lose the ability to use them in a few years either, unlike some of Rock Band's digital tracks.
Once we managed to stop goofing around with mixing, we dove headfirst into Clash mode, which pits players against one another in a race to 21 points. You can play one-on-one or as two teams of two, but the rules remain largely the same either way. Each player gets a shuffled deck of 30 cards in 1v1 or 15 cards each in 2v2, and merely places cards on the board to earn points. Every card placed is worth one point, and you can only top someone's play with a card of equal or greater value to get a point on a claimed spot. All of the cards have value indicators in the upper left corner, and range from one to three in "power." Learning when and where to drop your high value cards in a match can make all the difference in securing control of the board for a turn or two, especially when bonuses are in play.
The DropMix board also has a big button on it you can press if you aren't liking the way the match is going. During one of your two moves per turn, you can hit this button to spin a wheel that will remove any of your opponent's cards that were selected. The tide of the game can turn in an instant if you're able to hit the big money board wipe, then play your hand into something to build on over the next few rounds. You also have black and white cards that aren't from any particular licensed song, but offer boosts and tricks to give you an advantage. These can be things as simple as redrawing your hand or getting a +2 point bonus for every blue card you control on the board. Like the wheel spin, knowing when to use these special cards can swing a match dramatically.
In your first few versus matches, it might not seem like there's much strategy to be had by just playing cards for points, but as you play more and more the thoughtfulness of DropMix's rules and cards becomes more obvious. Working alone has a completely different set of tactics than working with a partner, even though all the cards are still the same. Yes, a great deal of what you're able to accomplish rests heavily on the initial card draw, but that's true of just about every collectible card game. DropMix is no different in this regard, only the metas are the same for everyone as there are no specific decks to build.
With all the cards available to everyone playing all the time, there's no need to worry about character class or matching up against specific builds. That keeps DropMix on the level for people not quite as versed in CCGs or those that just want to have fun playing around. DropMix isn't a seriously competitive game, though some of our matches with friends and family got a little heated thanks to numerous board wipes. There's a strong balance of accessibility and strategy present, which is more than enough to keep players of all skill levels and music fandoms interested.
DropMix also has a Party mode, which isn't competitive, but does make for some high-score-chasing fun. You and however many friends you want to play can take the full stack of cards and place them as fast as you can in response to the game's commands. The faster you throw down a relevant card, the more points you earn. There are a limited number of turns to take, and all you're doing is setting scores for yourself, but it's a fun change of pace from the Clash battles, especially if you have more friends over than the normal versus modes can handle.
For a moderate investment, DropMix will have you feeling like a house DJ in no time, with the added benefit of being able to prove you're a better mixologist than your friends. There's an ease of play that Harmonix just knows how to put into all its efforts, and DropMix is no different. The competitive play is a lot of fun, and DropMix has plenty of legs thanks to its ability to let you put a show, whether it's for a crowd or just to give your day-to-day a fun soundtrack.
This review was completed with a DropMix starter kit and several boosters provided by the publisher.