DropMix is a game that grabs your attention. Like the club atmosphere it emulates, it pulses bright lights, blasts various catchy beats and is surrounded by a group of people slightly bopping their heads to the music, overly conscious of looking awkward to those around them.
I found myself glancing over every time I walked past Dropmix at the Gamesforum conference — you couldn’t miss the only source of music in the long hall, nor the grotto of neon LED strips and TV pulsating bright colours which accompanied the crowd gathered around it. Finally, after reluctantly finishing my fourth coffee of the day and before lunch had reared its judgmental maw, I drifted over to it like a caffeine addled moth to a light bulb overtly stuffed with super-bright LEDs.
At first glance of DropMix, I had absolutely no idea what I was looking at; not dissimilar to most of my club experiences. A deck with various coloured stripes flanking each pad was surrounded by what appeared to be nearly one hundred playing cards, all haphazardly carpeting the small table which the game was residing on. My furrowed expression and under-breath muttering of ‘oh my god what?’ was noticed by the girl hovering nearby. As it happened, she turned out to be a helpful Hasbro representative keen to demystify the enigma of colours and noise that lay before me.
Swiping and prodding the tablet mounted at the end of the deck akin to a monarch at a banquet, she put DropMix into “Party Mode” and explained how the cards and the deck related and interacted. I should’ve figured it out on my initial glance, but I was surprised and extremely impressed when she tossed a blue card down into the blue-striped spot and the tablet acknowledged this NFC contact with a satisfying explosion of sound and colour – the digital representation of the card then started pumping out a bass line familiar to anyone who has listened to BBC Radio 1 in the last two years or walked past a nightclub after 10pm.
The deck has slots for each card type which corresponds to an audio stream: Vocals (yellow), instruments (red), backing track (green) and bass line (blue), with the idea being that you place a card of the respective colour in the correct slot when prompted. The result is is a blended track of your own composition and a few points added to your score, which —initially— I didn’t really care about as I ignored the game and threw cards about feeling like a club DJ whilst the Hasbro girl wore an expression of resigned indignation at my antics.
I was forced back to the “game” part of it when one of my blue cards on the blue slot resulted in an angry noise and a boo from the digital crowd. It turns out that not only do you have to match the colour, but also the “power” of each sample represented by a signal icon from 1 to 3; I’m still not sure what these relate to in each track (if anything) or whether they are just an arbitrary part of the “puzzle” mechanic, but at least there was more to the game than just an expensive high-tech version of “Snap”.
DropMix also features a “Versus” mode, which appeared to be the same as “Party”, but instead allows just two teams to do the compulsive bidding of the Almighty Tablet Which Sits Upon Its Throne: put down a blue card and make sure it is power 2. Okay well done, have a point. Okay now you.. uh, you do a red one. Yes, good. The Versus mode didn’t appeal much to myself or those who were playing at the time I was there, but judging by the game’s marketing, it probably seems like a great idea to the good-looking group of 20-somethings having a party in a stylish bare-brick apartment, so maybe it is just me.
Ultimately, DropMix is a clever DJ simulator in the vibe of simple music games; its use of NFC-infused physical cards is a wonderful blend of physical and digital game spaces —something rarely combined— and the dopamine rush of imagining you just expertly mixed a bass line with a lead instrument every time you place a card down is an addictive and wonderful feeling. Harking to that time you messed around with a music generator online and felt like an artist when you got a decent sounding backing track going, DropMix is a fun way to share that feeling with some friends or to just enjoy yourself, as you bop your head at the Ibizan beach party in your living room.