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North American Nintendo 64 cover art
|Developer(s)||Zed Two (now Zee-3 Digital Publishing)|
|Publisher(s)||Nintendo 64 and PC|
|Designer(s)||Ste and John Pickford|
|Platform(s)||Nintendo 64, Microsoft Windows, Game Boy Color, Dreamcast|
|Mode(s)||Single player, multiplayer|
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 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).
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 2 dB).
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 for 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. Messages relating to the network mode can be found in the "messages.txt" file used by the game.
Game Boy Color
The Game Boy Color version was released in Japan in 1999 and Europe in 2000. It 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 Sega Dreamcast version, Wetrix+ (sometimes referred to as Wetrix Plus), was released in 2000 as 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.
The multiplayer section of the manual mysteriously states that "there is also a special technique for stealing energy from the opposing player's energy bar". The special technique is to time your placement of an upper piece at the same time as the opposing player's placement of a fireball piece.
Next Generation reviewed the Nintendo 64 version of the game, rating it three stars out of five, and stated that "It's unusual and fun, then it wears thin. There's nothing else like Wetrix on any other system, but that's just barely good enough."
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