Those indie games you might have missed: Dropsy

Feature

-Simon Vallenet

This week I’d like to introduce you to a very particular game that has a special place in my collection. Developed by Jay Tholen and A Jolly Corpse, Dropsy is a point’n click ‘hugventure’ (more on that later) that was kickstarted in October 2013 and launched on Steam in September 2015. Once again, forget the blockbusters doped with HD graphics and go back to the golden era of retro titles. This one is a reminiscent of classic LucasArt adventure games.

dropsy 2

But filled with 90% more nightmare fuel.

I had been hesitating a long time before acquiring Dropsy. I came across numerous trailers here and there but I wasn’t really interested in it for some reason. First, I’m not the biggest fan of the point and click genre. I have a few in my library and I do enjoy playing them, but it’s not the kind of game I usually go for because I have the stupid tendency to think that they’re going to be boring. Huge mistake. The other reason was probably the visual aspect of Dropsy. It looks properly old school; the graphics are rough and pixelated, the colours are flashy… I’m sure that if I was to show my friends that I’m playing this they would look at me like I’m some sort of freak. Well again, huge mistake.

The old saying “don’t judge a book by its cover” is a great way to describe the game as many players won’t go for it because of its graphics, although it offers a remarkable experience. It’s also one of the main themes developed in-game, the protagonist, Dropsy the clown, left out of society for the wrong reasons, judged by people who are scared of him.

I have to say that I’ve been overwhelmingly charmed by Dropsy and I’ve rarely felt as many emotions while playing a video game as I did throughout this one. The story, as simple as it might be, is incredibly pure, human and heartbreaking. You play as the eponymous speechless clown Dropsy who, after a gruesome circus fire that kills his mother, is being accused of all evils by the inhabitants of the town. Simple-minded and as innocent as a child, Dropsy will embark on a journey to spread love around him and regain the favours of the people. He will unintentionally uncover sinister secrets that will lead to the truth about himself and the deadly circus accident. Developer Jay Tholen doesn’t hesitate to tackle deep themes in his game such as social rejection, death, trauma, grief, family or manipulation while offering players messages of hope, kindness and love.

dropsy 4

Just your normal kind of game really.

It is difficult not to get emotionally attached to Dropsy as he appears to be a naive, clumsy and funny walking character who’s scared of his own reflection. “Sure god love him” is what my girlfriend would say. His name literally means oedema and his face is creepy as hell, but his heart is probably bigger than everyone else’s combined.

Why? The hugging feature. One of the main actions you can do in-game is having Dropsy hug other characters and objects. A simple but powerful idea that couldn’t be more appropriate today as the world we live in is slowly sinking into madness. Personally and probably even more so because I’m French, 2015 wasn’t a great year. I’m glad it’s behind us. Heck, it might be very cheesy but I don’t care, I’ll say it: we need love. Dropsy, by giving you the possibility to hug almost everything (including a tree, yes a TREE), is in that sense incredibly uplifting. Very few games can pretend to be as compelling as this one.

The atmosphere contributes a lot too as our clown evolves in a picturesque world full of colourful characters who only express themselves in pictograms and pictures. Beautiful in a poetic sense, the whole game makes you feel emotions without a single word, all thanks to its atypical animations and its cartoon-like sound-effects (or onomatopoeia).

It’s amusing for the eyes and also for the brain because all the puzzles are based on your understanding of what characters want. Basically, they are all grumpy or sad and they don’t like Dropsy’s company. It could be a little girl who has a wilted flower, a police officer looking for a thief, a homeless man who’d like some change…All you want to do is helping them to spread happiness. Once you do so, they become friendly and they allow you to hug them.

To talk more in depth about the gameplay and the mechanics of Dropsy, they are very old-school. They work on the basis of giving the right object to a key character so in return they will give you another object that will help you in your quest. The difference is that because there is no text, you have to show a good sense of reasoning. You will sometimes find yourself trying all the objects you have on one character because you can’t figure out the solution. That’s part of the joys of the point ’n click genre I suppose, just like clicking everywhere in a room hoping to unlock something. Most of the time though it’s not too difficult to understand what a character want.

There's no way this guy doesn't want all of the souls in the world.

There’s no way this guy doesn’t want all of the souls in the world.

To help you in your quest, you will also have the possibility to control a little puppy to access areas that are too small for Dropsy (and eventually pee on fire hydrants too). As an animal lover, our clown will later on rescue a rat and a bird. Both playable as well, they will be very helpful for solving more puzzles and getting new objects. It’s the kind of welcoming idea that offers players a bit of variety in the gameplay. Moreover, and I don’t want to get into too much detail, as it could spoil your experience, your little furry friends also have their own emotions and story lines.

To get to the point, the whole atmosphere developed in Dropsy is a savant mix of cuteness and dark themes. This is especially due to the dreamy, spacy soundtrack that maintains some kind of surreal ambiance throughout the whole game. Speaking of surreal, sleeping is the only way for us to save. There are a few “beds” here and there on the map allowing you to rest and every time you do so, Dropsy is having nightmares. You’re then propelled into a fantastic yet disturbing parallel world that shows how tortured our clown is. To get a better idea of the atmosphere in Dropsy check out the trailer below:

Overall, the adventure was a profoundly touching experience that I won’t forget and I strongly recommend Dropsy to everyone. Seeing comments on trailers of people being almost outraged by the graphics and who automatically classify the game as crap is simply painful. I’m really happy I got to play Dropsy and I just wish it was a longer game. If you’re looking for an uplifting, unusual point’n click, this is it.

P.S. Bug wise, I suspect the developers ran out of time to complete the game before release. When it was out, a few things weren’t working. For example, I couldn’t experience Dropsy’s nightmares and the achievements weren’t activated. Hopefully, updates and patches fixed the problems even though I would have to play again to make sure of that. Also, at the time of writing there are some parts of the map that aren’t accessible such as the beach or the airport but it’s been announced that they will come later in a DLC or a free update. A good reason to play the game again!

Hug Simon on Twitter @simonvallenet and don’t forget to follow @load_screen and like us on Facebook.

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