On the surface, Zero D Beat Drop (quite the mouthful) is another Tetris / Columns clone. Clumps of randomly coloured objects drop from the top of the screen and you must group them up in like colours in order to clear them from the stage before they get to the top of the screen, thus ending your game.
After about a minute's play, however, it becomes quite clear that there's a lot more going on here than first meets the eye. For a start, things don't automatically clear when you match a group of (at least three) the coloured symbols. Clearing the icons / gems / coloured blocks is achieved by performing a beat drop - pressing X to cause the current cluster of blocks to fall instantly to the playfield and cause the blocks they match to detonate. From there, other matching blocks will detonate in a series of chains - the more chains, the more score you get and the more blocks appear on your opponent's playfield.
There are a heap of different modes available, most of which center around a battle between you and another player (or, more likely, a computer controlled AI opponent). Much like most other multiplayer puzzlers, the key to these modes is sending as many random blocks to the other player's playfield (by scoring as impressively as possible) while simultaneously ensuring your playfield is flexible enough to handle some random blocks sent over from your opponent.
In Beat Drop, this combination of motivations is the very core of the experience; when you clear out your playfield is entirely in your hands so the temptation to hold on as long as possible to deliver a killing blow of chains to your opponent frequently results in your full playfield getting tipped into the game-over zone by some random bricks from your friend. Exactly when and what you do is the real guts of the strategy and adapting your strategy to suit your opponent will strongly influence your chance of winning.
In addition to the default one-on-one mode, there are four-player free-for-alls and even four-player co-operative matches. The good news is that these modes are all available both on and off-line. The bad news is that, looking at the leaderboards, it seems very few people (around 1,000 registered scores) have bought the game (which came out on the 11th of November, a month ago at time of writing) - so the chances of finding someone online to play against seem very unlikely indeed.
Other modes include time-based score attack modes (a good, no-pressure way to explore the mechanics of the beat-drop gameplay, where no AI player is going to dump random blocks on you) and even a fun twist on the standard game where the visuals and music are themed like Japanese synth-pop group Sweet Vacation.
Speaking of the music... the standard stuff is cool poppy electro / techno stuff, which gets you into the music-driven experience. What is a lot cooler, though, is the fact that Beat Drop allows you to import your own music - either from the Xbox itself or any connected music player. It analyses whatever music you hook it up to and ensures the game matches the beat of your music. This feature is a phenomenal inclusion - Beat Dropping to J-Pop is awesome but Beat-Dropping to your favorite music is even better.
Visually Beat Drop is pretty much how you'd imagine Sega's Columns would look if it was tackled by the Geometry Wars team when they got back from a three week trip to Tokyo. The 2D fireworks vector look is carried off well throughout the title and really works with the source material and default music scape.
Beat Drop is a superb puzzle game with loads of depth, excellent accessibility and more modes and options than you can shake a stick at. If you're in any way interested in this style of game, you owe it to yourself to check it out. At 800 points, Beat Drop is a bargain and a game any gamer should be proud to have in their collection. Highly recommended.