DropMix review: Merry Mixmas
>Hasbro's latest toy is bound to liven up any boozy holiday celebration this year.
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Harmonix is no stranger to creating rhythm-based video games. From Amplitude to Guitar Hero to Rock Band, the musically-minded has a lot of success in the space, releasing some of the most popular rhythm games of all time. In the same stroke, Hasbro is no stranger to turning a profit on pricey hunks of plastic.
While these two companies both dominate in their respective fields, they might not seem like the most obvious coupling at first it's but one that makes immediate sense when you see their love child, the card/board/video game hybrid, DropMix.
Harmonix' foray into the (semi)physical space has always sounded good on paper, but now it's here and it's just as good in reality.
What you pay for with DropMix is the NFC-enabled playing board and the playable NFC cards but the game itself is played in tandem with the DropMix app and preferably a portable speaker.
Each player picks a set of cards which feature a mix of samples from licensed tracks then throws down whatever matching colours or levels they have in their draw. The card game itself is quite simple and is best compared to Uno with a point system, but there a few unique bonuses, like having a run of 5 cards, that give you extra points. There are also opportunities to lose points and clear the board, thanks to the game's roulette-style DropMix function. There are also modifier cards and wild cards that fit wherever, not unlike Uno's own wild cards.
But that's just the card game component. Dropping a card onto the board also lays a track into the mix. Throwdown one card to add the vocals from Childish Gambino's Heartbeats and another to lay the synthesised strings from Carly Rae Jepsen's Call Me Maybe over the top and so on and so on.
Upsides: Why you might want the DropMix
- Heart-beats: From Guitar Hero to Dance Central, Harmonix has never had any trouble nabbing licensed music and DropMix is no different. DropMix's set list features tracks like Closer by The Chainsmokers as fresh as 2016 alongside classics like Jackson 5's I Want You Back. The licensed songs cross a wide variety of genres and decades of music history. Not every mix works, but when it does you'll be tapping your toes to the beat while throwing down cards with growing intensity.
- Boost your game: When you've had just about all of Sia's Chandelier you can possibly take, you can mix up your game by purchasing extra "discover" packs (booster packs) and "playlist" packs (themed decks). $9.99 will score you five extra cards in a discover pack, and $24.99 will score you 16 in a playlist pack. The playlist pack is not only better value card-for-card but it's also better to know what you're purchasing - our first additional playlist was the Hip Hop pack "Mirrors" which came with tracks from Outkast, Ginuwine, and Salt-N-Pepa. It was a much-needed change from the four playlists that come with the DropMix. Being able to constantly update your deck and keep the game fresh comes at a fair price. My only gripe here is that there are still duplicate songs in playlist packs. More on that in a moment.
- Portable play: While Harmonix has dabbled with portable games before, with Rock Band Mobile for iOS and Android, and Rock Band Unplugged for PSP back in 2009 (Vicarious Visions is to blame for Guitar Hero: On Tour for 3DS and its hideous Guitar Grip peripheral), none have taken off in quite the same way as Guitar Hero and Rock Band's core titles. That's for one simple reason. Part of Rock Band and Guitar Hero's appeal is the fast-paced, electric rhythm-based gameplay but they are just as much a "party game" – an opportunity to show off in front of friends. While DropMix is not so much a rhythm game as it is a collectable card game with a musical twist, it's still a joy to be able to take a party Harmonix game on the go. Just pack a smart device, the DropMix cards and board and you're set.
Downsides: Why you might not want the DropMix
- Clash is where it's at: DropMix plays up with up to four players in teams of two but conveniently scales down to two player matches using the exact same setup and amount of cards. Harmonix has generously offered two cores modes of play, Clash (vs) and Party (co-op), and one freestyle mode where you're free to create whatever mix you please. However, this is a game created very clearly with Clash in mind and Party as an afterthought. By necessity, Party mode strips away some of the game's more competitive elements but fails to replace them with anything substantial. This results in a lot of downtime for the co-op players. When you've got no cards to play, your only option is to sit and watch the timers go down, which puts the brakes on the otherwise cracking gameplay. In Clash, these moments would prompt a DropMix (which clears some cards from the board, allowing to start fresh) but there's no such option in Party.
- Dupes for days: As mentioned earlier, I like DropMix's additional playlist packs. They're entirely optional and reasonably priced in my opinion. But it's a little cheap how packs pad out a few fresh tracks with recycled tracks from the pack-in setlist to fit the theme. Sure they offer different parts of the track (cards are categorised into vocals, keys, guitar, strings and drums) but it's still not enough. With only 16 cards to a pack, what you're actually paying for is roughly 4 new tracks.
Where can you buy DropMix in Australia?
DropMix is on sale in most places you can find toys and board games. However, it's also offered by other online retailers like Kogan and Dick Smith.
Here's a list of DropMix prices in Australia.
Prices were last checked on 22 Dec 2017 and may be subject to change. Prices include any discounts but exclude potential shipping charges.
DropMix Music Gaming System
DropMix Playlist Pack
DropMix Discover Pack
Verdict: What we think of DropMix
At $179.00, the DropMix is a pricey chunk of plastic, especially considering it's your smartphone pulling most of the weight here. But the game can't be played without it. It's important to note that the starter kit comes with four Playlist packs (each valued at $24.99) so you're paying roughly $79 for the game board, which is a little easier to swallow.
With all that said, everyone I've played DropMix with has left grinning from ear to ear. A casual game of Clash usually ends with the players toying around with the cards and creating their own mixes, blown away by the concept. While the co-op mode isn't exactly the life of the party, you'll have a riot clashing with friends to some solid tunes of your own creation.
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