I want to thank Dispatch Games and City Connections for sending us a copy of this game.We wish them a good launch and hope this game is a success for them.
The Switch certainly isn’t short on puzzle games. Heck, I think Source Gaming has reviewed at least three in the last month and a half, and there are certainly more to come. Because of this, being able to stand out from the crowd is important, and at first glance that is definitely a problem Soldam: Drop, Connect, Erase has. If I just showed you a picture of the game’s two heroes I wouldn’t be surprised if you thought they were characters from the far more well-known Puyo Puyo Tetris. Yet don’t be fooled, there may be visual similarities but Soldam is a fairly different puzzle game from SEGA, but the question is, can this difference make for a good experience, or will it just leave you puzzled people thought this was a good idea? Let’s find out.
Story in a puzzle game is a lot like the story in a fighting game, often just a lot of flavour text to help the presentation. Rit and Tam are two fairies who want to help cover the world in flowers. They achieve this by feeding peaches to these magical creatures called Plums who create flowers, and that is the plot. There is no story mode involved, unlike Puyo Puyo Tetris or Panel de Pon, and the only focus it gets is the one text-scroll when you boot up the game. It’s unimpressive, but I can’t really give the game a bad rap for this because it is a puzzle game so the story doesn’t matter. If it was to help me feel connected to the characters then it would be more of an issue but the game doesn’t let you pick which fairy you use so who cares. Onto the gameplay.
Soldam looks similar to classic puzzle games in the sense that you drop blocks from the top of the screen to the bottom. This is the most common type of puzzle game since Tetris, but Soldam at least tries to do something different. It still involves matching colors like Puyo Puyo and creating lines like Tetris but the game’s biggest inspiration is the classic game of Othello. For those who don’t know, the board game is based around players place coloured stones on a board and have to cover the board in as much of their color as possible. You can take an opponent’s piece by sandwiching it between two of your colors. This is the main gimmick of Soldam as well, but you also have to do this while the pieces are falling from the ceiling in blocks of four.
When explained it is very simple to understand, although I had to check the “How to Play” section to know what I was doing, so it’s not as intuitive as other puzzle games. Once you get an understanding, though, it makes a lot of sense and actually adds a lot of depth to the game. The blocks you get are random, and while in other puzzle games you would just put them to one side to get them out of the way, you may end up getting punished for that by accidentally sandwiching two colors (which can happen horizontally, vertically, and diagonally) and ruining your setup. So it adds a unique layer of strategy and difficulty that most other puzzle games don’t have, which I like.
The game comes with four main modes. The classic mode involves playing up to 200 levels of Soldam, aiming for a high score, and trying to raise your Plums. There is the beginner mode which just allows people a chance to practice, either under a time-limit or not, to get used to the game’s mechanics. There are also fifty challenges which get surprisingly difficult and fast, and finally there is a multiplayer mode with online and local support. It is all your standard puzzle game fare and I had fun but you are looking at about 1-3 hours worth of content.
I mentioned before about raising your Plums and this, while being a fairly minor part of the game, is an attempt to motivate the player and extend game time (and I’ll admit it worked for me as I am a sucker). When you go into Classic Mode you can bring along a Plum with you. A Plum is a small creature, not the fruit, and every time you destroy a line you feed it. Depending on the color of the peaches it can evolve into a variety of different forms from a bird to a cat to a starfish and there are a lot of different options. I have no idea what they actually do and if they affect the game in any way but it is something to do in a game with otherwise the bare minimum required of a puzzle game in today’s market.
Presentation is the big issue with Soldam for two reasons. The first I already mentioned in the intro, but it looks a lot like Puyo Puyo Tetris yet lacks a lot of that game’s charm. I feel cynical in thinking that the only reason the title looks like this is to cash in on that game but the first game in the series (released only in Japan in 1993) has its own unique flair that is lacking here. All the characters and plums are static, as well as the peaches, which stops them from standing out and being memorable. There is some voice work from the characters but it only consists of one-off lines like ‘Nice!
The visual stiffness of the game isn’t helped by the lack of any extra environments. The background is always the same and your character only changes depending on which mode you choose, beginner or classic. There are only three musical choices as well which eventually causes things to get samey. This might not always be an issue as the game gets quite difficult and all your focus will be on the falling peaches but during the slow segments it feels boring.
What baffles me about all this are the loading and sound test rooms. These change the style up from the moe-anime look to a more hand-drawn crayon look which I think would’ve made this game stand out more. The loading screen, in particular, is pretty cute and I think if they got these to animate and expanded on that style I would’ve been a bit more interested. Overall, the presentation just feels too safe, and it ends up not being very memorable.
This is actually pretty tough. Despite my complaints I did enjoy Soldam: Drop, Connect, Erase as a unique take on the classic puzzle formula, and I found myself playing the game both alone and with friends and having a blast both ways. But it has very little content in the long run and doesn’t stand out in the story and presentation. This would be ok if the game cost around $10, but on Gamestop this is going for $40. This is probably due to it being a physical game but that is way too much for what you get. I don’t like to let the price of a game impact my view, especially as I got the game for free, but that is a big investment. If you think everything I told you here is worth the price tag, and it is on the better end of puzzle games, then I would recommend giving it a try. Otherwise, this may be one to wait on and hope the price goes down or for a sale.