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North American Nintendo 64 cover art
|Developer(s)||Zed Two (now Zee-3 Digital Publishing)|
|Publisher(s)||Ocean Software (Nintendo 64), Imagineer (N64, Game Boy Color), Xicat Interactive, Inc. / Take 2 Interactive (Dreamcast)|
|Designer(s)||Ste and John Pickford|
|Release date(s)||Nintendo 64
|Mode(s)||Single player, multiplayer|
|Distribution||Cartridge (N64, GBC)
CD-ROM (PC, Dreamcast GD-ROM)
Wetrix is a 3D puzzle game, created by Zed Two (now Zee-3 Digital Publishing) and sold to Ocean Software in 1997 for publication on the Nintendo 64 in 1998. The game was subsequently ported to personal computers running Microsoft Windows 95/98; to the Sega Dreamcast, as the enhanced remake Wetrix+; and to the Nintendo Game Boy Color, as either simply Wetrix or Wetrix GB.
History and versions
Wetrix was the first game developed by brothers Ste and John Pickford's studio Zed Two. It started out as a demo of flowing water simulating technology for a game called Vampire Circus, which the Pickfords were developing at home as they tried to get Zed Two off the ground. The brothers enjoyed this water demo so much that they decided to turn it into a game in its own right.
The original and first-released version of Wetrix was for the Nintendo 64 in 1998. Some sources have reported that the water tech demo was initially conceived to show this system's power by simulating water; however, whether or not the original tech demo was designed for the N64, or with it specifically in mind, has not been confirmed by the Pickford brothers themselves (see above).
Game Boy Color
The Game Boy Color version,[when?] inevitably, is scaled-down in all ways, with downgraded graphics and different musical themes (albeit derived from those of the N64) designed specifically for its much lower powered hardware, and with gameplay that is significantly slower and does not fully match that of the console/PC versions (e.g. the points system uses much lower base scores, Lakes in which the player wants to create Rubber Ducks must have larger areas, etc.)
The next version of Wetrix released, in 1999, was for personal computers running Microsoft Windows 95/98. Although the main gameplay is the same as that of the original version, this version differs in that it lacks the after-game ranks and the lessons included as part of Practice mode (i.e. it has only the Practice game). Also, there are small differences in the graphics, most notably that the camera no longer zooms so closely on the board or follows the active piece so closely as the player moves it. The biggest difference is that the soundtrack was completely replaced, with the PC version receiving new music by different composers (namely the composers 2dB).
Abandoned multiplayer LAN mode
Some time after the release of this version of Wetrix, the Pickfords began to write a multiplayer mode supporting up to 7 players via local area network, which they hoped to release as a free patch to the original game. However, the code was never fully debugged and the Pickfords could not justify the expense of continuing to develop the patch without any income, and therefore it was never released.
The Sega Dreamcast version, Wetrix+ (sometimes referred to as Wetrix Plus), was released in 2000 and lives up to its name in being an enhanced remake of the original N64 version of Wetrix with upgraded graphics. Its gameplay modes, menu, etc. follow those of the N64 (albeit with enhanced graphics); however, it does inherit the PC version's remade soundtrack and relatively more static camera style (albeit with options for zoom level).
The player receives a flat square of land (the Landscape) and has the goal of gaining as many points as possible, through managing a landscape of Lakes and the water therein. This is accomplished by manoeuvering different types of Pieces that fall onto the playing area, one at a time (in a similar manner to the puzzle game Tetris). Each Piece has differing effects upon the arena. The main Pieces are Uppers, several different shapes that increase the height of the land on which they fall by one tier; these can be used to sculpt walls, dams, and the perimeters of Lakes. Shortly into the game, Water Bubbles will begin to fall; these burst upon impact with the land and flow realistically like a fluid across its surface.
The main method of gathering points is by using the Fireball Piece to evaporate Lakes, the number of points depending upon the volume of water removed in this way. On the right side of the screen is a water gauge called the Drain, which fills up as water falls off the edge of the Landscape, or down holes created by Bombs. The player loses the game when the Drain fills up to the top. The only way to reduce the level of the Drain is by evaporating water with Fireballs; again, the amount it is reduced by depends upon the amount of water evaporated.
Other modes of gameplay have different starting conditions or goals for the player to meet, but the basic features described above apply to all modes.
Throughout the game, Pieces of different types fall from the sky, ultimately reaching the Landscape; the player can speed their fall if s/he wishes. The effects of each type of Piece vary and may be positive, negative, or potentially either depending upon the player's specific circumstances. The game features the following Pieces:
- Sets of red arrows, each of which increases the height of the terrain that they strike by one unit above its previous level. Uppers dropped in water still raise the land and additionally evaporate a small amount of water. There are four standard shapes: l (staight line), L (corner), T, and O (square).
- Sets of green arrows, which decrease the height of the underlying land, unless it is the flat base of the playing field. Unlike Uppers, the resulting height is uniform, with all affected land being reduced to the lowest level reached by any one of the individual arrows (this includes the potential to widen holes created by Bombs). Uppers dropped in water cause the impacted area of water to evaporate. There are two shapes: a straight one (just like the corresponding Upper) and a small square (the inverse of the O Upper).
- Water Bubbles
- Circular groups of bubbles that burst upon contact with the land, releasing water onto its surface. There are several sizes of cluster.
- If it hits a body of water, it evaporates it for points, including decreasing the contents of the Drain (if any). If it hits land, except the flat base of the playing field, the land is blasted into a crater, albeit without creating a hole as a Bomb would do.
- Blasts the land within a certain radius, creating not only a crater but also a central hole through which water can fall into the Drain. To avoid losing the game by filling the Drain, holes at risk of leaking water should be patched with Uppers; this also awards a Repair Bonus. To preclude the player easily avoiding the danger of Bombs, dropping one down an existing hole in an attempt to avoid creating another hole results in a ReBomb: the player is punished by the dropping of three more Bombs, out of their control, onto arbitrary locations across the Landscape.
The game begins at Level 1 and periodically increments (Level-Up), to a maximum of Level 10. Each succeeding Level increases the speed at which Pieces fall, and certain Levels cause new Pieces to be introduced into the gameplay. Once Level 10 is reached, it lasts indefinitely. The Pieces whose actions are dependent upon the Level are these:
- Ice Cube
- From Level 2 onwards, Ice Cubes periodically fall from the sky, preceded by an audible "Ice Cube Warning". If an Ice Cube strikes a body of water, it will be frozen for some time; frozen water reacts to Fireballs by being thawed rather than evaporated (Uppers and Downers dropped therein have the same effect as normal). If an Ice Cube strikes dry land, the Landscape is not changed and the player receives a Dry Ice Bonus.
- From Level 4 onwards, the player is at risk from falling Mines. These fall alone or in groups, after short notice from an audible alarm, into randomly chosen bodies of water on the Landscape. Mines remain in existence for some time, during which the player must avoid evaporating the affected body of water. If this precaution is not observed, the player's evaporation of the Lake causes the Mine(s) therein to explode, each with the same damaging effects as a Bomb. This can be very damaging to the Landscape.
- Smart Bomb
- Not strictly a Piece, Smart Bombs are awarded when the player has at least five Lakes at the time of a Level-Up. Once collected, they are stored and can be used at any time by the press of a button. Upon using a Smart Bomb, the entire Landscape is reduced to the flat square that forms the base of the playing field, and the Earthquake and Drain gauges are reset to zero. This effectively reinstates the conditions from the beginning of the game and gives the player a fresh start; the only exception to this is the Level and, as an result, the speed of the falling Pieces, neither of which are altered.
Rainbows and Rubber Duckys
One of the main goals of Wetrix is to earn a Rainbow and one or more Rubber Duckys, both of which aid in scoring by multiplying the number of points gained by evaporation, repairing, etc. A Rainbow is created when the total volume of water within the Landscape passes a certain limit; this effects a Rainbow Multiplier, which causes all scores obtained to be multiplied by 10. Once the total volume of water passes back below the limit, the Rainbow disappears.
Rubber Duckys [sic] appear in suitably deep bodies of water and multiply all scores by two while they exist. The effects of multiple Duckys can be stacked, which is also an advisable strategy for scoring bigger points. There is no upper limit to the size of Ducky-containing Lakes, but from a strategic point of view, smaller Ducky Lakes are preferable: they conserve space on the playing area and contribute less towards the Earthquake gauge.
As each Upper lands on and thereby builds up the playing field, the Earthquake metre on the left-hand side of the screen begins to fill up. This is a direct representation of how much extra land has been added to the Landscape. When the metre fills up completely, this causes an Earthquake, which drastically and chaotically warps and rearranges the Landscape. Generally, this leads to a Game Over, caused by the Drain filling from water leaked in the aftermath; or an extremely difficult road towards recreating the Landscape. As a result, Earthquakes are to be avoided at any cost. Prevention techniques include strategic use of Downers to remove unwanted land and 'trim' walls to minimal width; the creation of a 'junk' area for unwanted Uppers and Bombs, in which surplus land can be placed and then destroyed safely by Bombs that are otherwise useless and probably damaging; the removal of unwanted lumps of land by Fireballs; etc.
- This is the main/normal mode. The player starts at Level 1 and faces the normal environmental hazards such as rain, Ice Cubes, and Mines. Pieces fall at a rate related to each Level.
- In the original N64 version and the Dreamcast remake thereof, this mode comprises both a series of lessons and the Practice game proper. In the PC version, the lessons are absent; only the simplified Practice game is available. The lessons teach the aspiring player how everything in the game works, from the workings of different Pieces to the creation of Rainbows and Rubber Duckys. The Practice game is a lot like Classic mode, but it differs in the fact that the blocks will never fall until instructed, there are no Levels, and the player is given 9 Smart Bombs from the outset; however, Rainbows and Rubber Duckys do not appear, so the player can only practice playing to a certain point before having to hone their skills on one of the other modes.
- The player starts on Level 5, and the Pieces fall faster. Also, some Pieces have different formations or are doubled (e.g. all Bombs fall in pairs).
- The player must try to survive (and, ideally, achieve as high a score as possible) under special conditions. This mode comprises six games with specific conditions:
- 1 Minute: The player is given 1 minute. The game begins at Level 10.
- 5 Minute: The player is given 5 minutes. The game begins at Level 5.
- 100 Pieces: Only 100 Pieces fall. The game begins at Level 8.
- 500 Pieces: Only 500 Pieces will fall. The game begins at Level 4.
- Preset A: The Pieces fall according to a preset sequence. The game begins at Level 1.
- Preset B: Pieces fall according to a preset sequence but one that differs from that of Preset A. The game begins at Level 6.
- Handicap mode resembles the Classic game but with a specific handicap. The possible handicaps are the following:
- Raised Land A: The earthquake meter is already a little filled when the game begins.
- Raised Land B: The earthquake meter is filled even more than that of Raised Land A when the game begins.
- Ice Layer A: The game begins with spots of ice on the floor. At each Level-Up, all water on the board vanishes and the original ice layer reappears.
- Ice Layer B: This mode is akin to Ice Layer A but has a different ice pattern.
- Random Land: The game begins with the floor randomly raised in different areas. At each Level-Up, the surface resets to a random pattern, almost effectively starting the game over with another randomized surface.
- Random Holes: The game begins with the floor containing holes in random locations. At each Level-Up, all water on the board vanishes and holes appear in random spots; the player is also given a set of uppers, similar to those at the start of a normal game, which will help s/he to deal with the danger of the holes..
- Half-Full Drain: The game begins with the Drain half-filled. At each Level-Up, the Drain is reset to half-full.
- This mode pits two players against each other, with the goal being to survive challenges from both the environment (as always) and the other player. Each player can earn weapons with which to attack the other, by evaporating Lakes on their own field and thus filling up their Energy Bar. Weapons that can be gained in this way are, in order of the amount of Energy required and the potential damage to the opponent: a barrage of Water Bubbles, an Ice Cube, a Bomb, and an Earthquake. The PC version was originally planned to have multiplayer for up to 7 players; see the section on "Versions" above.
|This section requires expansion. (March 2012)|
Wetrix received mostly positive reviews: Metacritic lists it as having received "Generally favourable" reviews, achieving an average score of 81/100 from 11 reviewers, of whom 10 awarded positive scores and one was of mixed opinion.