In Dros, a delightful upcoming game by Brisbane-based studio emergeWorlds, you play as an armour-clad bounty hunter and his helpful slime creature parasite to solve puzzles and defeat an evil alchemist. It’s a cool little game which gets a lot of mileage from solid mechanics, charming writing and adorable and colourful art design, and is definitely one to keep an eye on when it launches.
The game starts you off as Captain, a materialistic bounty hunter determined to take down the villainous Alchemist. Within his tower, the Alchemist is constructing a mysterious superweapon alongside his army of brainwashed slime creatures called Dros. After almost dying and losing an arm in his initial assault on the tower, Captain is saved by Little Dros, a rebellious Dros who chooses Captain as her “shell”. With Captain and Little Dros relying on each other to survive, they must team up to ascend the tower and thwart the Alchemist’s scheme.
Each stage requires you to use both Captain’s and Little Dros’ abilities to progress. Captain is heavily armoured and can fight off foes and break things with his sword, but cannot jump or fit through tight spaces. Little Dros, however, can jump, squeeze through pipes and metal grates as well as track things with her enhanced senses, but also dies in one hit and must hide from enemies. As Captain requires Little Dros possessing him in order to move, you can only control one character at a time, with Captain going immobile when his companion goes off on her own. Each stage has a number of sub-objectives which can be attempted, such as finding a certain number of hidden collectables or reaching the exit under a certain time limit, which may incentivise reattempting previous stages for those of a completionist mindset.
The actual combat doesn’t have that much depth to it; Captain’s sword swings don’t combo into one another and have an awkward pause after each swing, making the combat feel a little clunky. Captain also automatically faces the nearest enemy without any way of locking onto a different foe, which can make some fights against multiple opponents somewhat frustrating. That said, the game definitely focuses more on the puzzles and platforming than the fighting, and those are the elements which work a lot better. The game is mercifully forgiving when it comes to its platforming challenges, respawning Little Dros on safe ground if you fall into a bottomless pit. Little Dros can also warp back to Captain at any time, which ensures you aren’t having to trek all the way back to your shell after triggering a switch to open a door or extend a bridge.
There is a tonne of effort and attention put into many of the small details. From the quirky writing of many of the side characters that the heroic duo can encounter, to fun little features such as the Dros writing going from random squiggles to legible English depending on whether you’re controlling Captain or Little Dros, there are charming features to be found in every corner. The art design overall is delightful to behold, not to mention the gorgeously elaborate character portraits during cutscenes.
As far as indie puzzle-platformers go, Dros is a really enjoyable and innovative one. Its fun writing, charming visuals and clever gameplay (combat aside) definitely make it one to check out.
Dros will be getting its full release on PC on the 20th of July 2023. Ports on Nintendo Switch, PS5 and Xbox Series X/S are planned for later dates.