By: Matthew Striplen
Imagine if aliens came to earth. You’d probably want to talk to them, right? The most important and basic facet of social interaction is communication, but how do you communicate with something that does not understand Earth-based languages? Dreii seeks to answer this question by having gamers solve puzzles that rely on cooperation with little-to-no verbal communication.
Much of Dreii‘s charm stems from its simplicity. All that’s needed to play the game is pointing, clicking and dragging with the mouse. However, if you’re using a laptop, definitely use a mouse instead of the trackpad. Although the game is still playable with just the trackpad, this method is much clunkier.
Dreii‘s minimalistic presentation is executed wonderfully. The mostly drab environments make the player characters truly pop. This almost makes it much easier to see if you’re gripping a shape, as seen in the screenshot. The designs of the aliens, or whatever they are, are wonderfully strange. Some look like bizarre geometric shapes, while others are more reminiscent of real world objects.
There’s also takes a minimalist approach to sound as no music accompanies the levels. However, each character makes a signature noise whenever they move. These sounds range from the pleasant, like wind chimes, to the ridiculous, like tuba fart noises. These sounds give the characters plenty of personality, and make simply moving around in space much more entertaining.
Dreii is an exercise in spatial awareness, teamwork and wit. The object of each puzzle is simple, cover the glowing spot with a shape, but the execution can get much more complicated. Each level comes with an assortment of shapes, and it’s up to the players to properly arrange them.
Although the puzzles are interesting enough on their own, Dreii‘s biggest draw is its multiplayer. Every level can be played with more than one person, but don’t think that more people will make the puzzle easier to solve. In fact, players are free to help or hinder as much as they please.
Multiplayer is online only and people can join at any time with communication is limited to a handful of one-word statements. Players unlock more words as they play, which greatly enhances teamwork.
These words are also available in a ton of languages, including Romansch, which is a language only spoken in the developer’s home country of Switzerland (represent!). Levels being played by other people are indicated by an orbiting dot.
Although multiplayer is easily the shining feature of this game, it’s not so easy to play with specific people. The only way to play with friends is to join the same level, but you will not always join the same room. Players become separated after a few levels without warning as well, so don’t get too attached to the people you’re with.
Levels get progressively more complicated, and the introduction of other game mechanics comes into play as well. New shapes, including those with special abilities, appear as well as environmental hazards like wind and water. These additions provide welcome depth to the game, as it would otherwise get monotonous.
Certain levels are designated as multiplayer only or have other indicators to signal that the level contains water, etc. Although the additions later in the game mix things up a bit, it’s not quite enough to prevent the formula from getting a little tired. The puzzles rely more on player interaction to make them difficult rather than inherent complexity.
Dreii is the ultimate team building and cooperation exercise. The multiplayer function, while imperfect, proves to be a ton of fun. Figuring out puzzles using a very limited vocabulary with others is something not often seen in games of any era. Plus, the visual and audio style is charming, hilarious and full of personality. Although the levels get a little repetitive over time, Dreii remains a fantastic experience.