Sawbuck Gamer

Neon String Theory

Dropchord lets your fingers do the dancing.

By Derrick Sanskrit • August 6, 2013

Sawbuck Gamer is our daily review of a free or cheap game ($10 or less).

I grew up a bit too late for rave culture. My grade-school friends and I saw a fictionalized representation in television and film, rife with glittery pacifiers and neon fuzzy boots. We were warned about the need to stay hydrated while on ecstasy in our junior high health class, but the scene had come and gone by the time we’d figured out which clubs we could sneak into. Later, as an adult, I’d hear stories about foam parties and glow-stick aerobics from older coworkers. It never felt like I’d “missed out,” but it was hard not to pine for the experience. Now that I’ve played Dropchord, I think I’ve got it.

Dropchord is a rhythm game from Double Fine, the latest in a charming series of bite-sized experiments from Tim Schaefer’s studio. A virtual string is suspended between the player’s fingers. The goal is to catch on-screen beats and avoid red scratches in conjunction with an endless electronic score and phosphorescent DayGlo light show that grows more obnoxious-cool as you progress through the DJ’s set. I imagine it’s what flossing the teeth of an enthusiastic stranger in the second row of a Prodigy/Crystal Method double-bill might feel like.

My secondhand understanding of raves holds true for Dropchord. Moving in sync with the music is largely unnecessary—it just feels better that way—and the bright lights interrupting your field of vision so more to disorient than to set the mood. After a few minutes, though, I found my fingers dancing loop-de-loops around each other in wondrous arcs that began to feel like genuine magic. (This isn’t true of the Ouya version, which just uses joysticks.) It’s a brief high that becomes harder and harder to chase in subsequent doses, but at least it won’t give you brain damage.

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5 Responses to “Neon String Theory”

  1. Philip Scheidemann says:

    How is the Leap Motion?

  2. George_Liquor says:

    Holy cats, it’s an Ouya game! Hopefully, it’s the first of many that show up here. 

  3. vinnybushes says:

    I can’t tell if I like the ouya version of dropchord or not. I feel like its meant to make more intuitive sense when using your fingers directly and the reason I keep failing spectacularly is that for whatever reason that just doesn’t translate to using thumb sticks. I suppose I’ll just keep at it.

    • I definitely got the vibe that, as far as control schemes for this game go, it’s Leap > touchscreen > thumb sticks. The Ouya version also sported a noticeable lack of background animation/glowing compared to the others, something I’ve noticed in a lot of Ouya titles so far, like You Don’t Know Jack. Doesn’t really affect the game, but when a title is so steeped in an aesthetic, every little bit helps.

  4. mizerock says:

    OK, be honest, who bought a Leap Motion Controller? $80 to be able to bring “Minority Report” to the present, I know you are tempted.