About 2/3 Complete
Lately I've been diving into a bunch of games that are available for free on Steam, which has yielded some interesting and unique experiences that otherwise would not have seen the light of day. Releasing a game for free is a great way for a developer to try out an idea without annoying players if it doesn't quite hit the mark, because they didn't pay for it anyway.
That's what I thought before I played Drop Alive and realise that one commodity that will always be spent playing a game is time, and time is valuable.
Before I jump ahead though, Drop Alive is a simple 2D platformer that uses elemental reactions as its gimmick. You play a drop of water and at various times you are able to interact with elements such as heat and ice, to change your state and progress. When you touch something hot, you turn into steam and float; when you touch ice you become solid and can smash through barriers. It's a neat system that we've seen many times before.
The game has a nice aesthetic with a hand drawn style that feels like you're playing through a sketch in a notebook that someone hastily threw together. I like it because I like sketchy things, but the big downside is the lack of variation in the art, so it's impossible to tell what might be a hazard before you interact with it and find out the hard way.
The art is also inconsistent with the gameplay. There were times when I was floating about in steam form, navigating my way through paths of flames and pipes, only to die without having touched anything. There are certain elements (like fire) that have a weird hit box, so you'll find yourself dying unexpectedly because you caught the whiff of a flame from the other side of the map.
Couple this with the lack of a checkpoint system and there are frustrating times ahead. I don't care about checkpoint systems in general, unless I'm playing a game where I'm going to die a lot and have to repeat levels many times over.
The levels themselves are interesting and well thought out. There's often more than one path to the exit and the inclusion of collectibles might be enough to make you want to go everywhere before moving on. After the first couple, I didn't care about collectibles anymore as it meant repeating the same sections over and over without a checkpoint, and the levels are a little too long to repeat them so often.
Therein lies the main reason I stopped playing this neat little free game: I felt as though my time was being abused for little to no pay-off. Even though I didn't pay anything for Drop Alive, I quickly found myself thinking about all the other games I could have been playing that were more interesting and enjoyable on a moment to moment basis. So I stopped playing.
Overall Drop Alive could be taken as a polished proof of concept. The elemental gimmick works well, the art is nice although it could do with some improvements, and the level design is diverse and interesting enough, but a checkpoint system would help a lot.
It's clear that this just isn't my kind of experience and stands as a reminder that nothing is ever truly free from cost