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Dropsy (PC) artwork

Dropsy (PC) review

"Enter Dropsy the clown, a mentally challenged man who has to survive in a world that shuns him."

Clowns are scary.

There, I said something that is ingrained in contemporary minds of everyone on the planet. They are creepy and chronically unfunny at the same time, which kind of defeats the purpose of what a clown was supposed to be. I have been hit with the imagery of killer clowns for years, be it in literature form from the pen of Stephen King, or as the always lovable and not-at-all over-exposed musings of Joker. Hell, if you want real life scenarios, look no further than to the shenanigans of that lovable scamp, John Wayne Gacy.

So, when EmP decided to "surprise" me with this title for a horror game tourney, I expected that the titular main character, Dropsy, would be more of the sort that will convey the message to children everywhere that "everything and everyone floats" and less of the kind that makes balloon animals and manages to fit into adorably small cars with a dozen more clowns.

Dropsy (PC) image
This is how he looks. It did not help his case.

I was wrong, and I'm still not certain whether it was false marketing that made me have such misconceptions, or a clever twist against the stereotypes that most of have against the clown menace. I'm not even sure that this fits anywhere near "horror". Psychologically draining, perhaps.

Enter Dropsy the clown, a mentally challenged man who has to survive in a world that shuns him. Despite the fact that he looks like a love product between Pennywise the Clown and Sloth from Goonies, Dropsy is a kind and gentle soul that does not know how to communicate with words, instead relying on hugs as his method of communication. To earn hugs is not easy in his world, however, since most characters seem to hate him, and it will take some good old fashioned adventure game logic to bring the general population to Dropsy's side.

Dropsy (PC) image
This should not end well.

And that is the driving point of the game. Getting people to like you. Dropsy travels from his home through the town and its outskirts, meeting various characters and trying to get that much needed hug out of them, to know that he is accepted. This is usually not an easy thing, because unlike Dropsy, the people that surround him are not innocent and will require some coaxing to give in.

For example, the old lady behind the church is dying of hunger and she is in no mood to give hugs to strange men wearing make-up. If you feed her, however, she might feel differently. But to do that, first you need to get a sandwich which is located inside of the church itself, and yes, everyone hates Dropsy in there as well. So something as mundane as getting a sandwich is a quest all in itself.

Thankfully, Dropsy is not all alone in his adventure. Joining him is his loyal pet dog, Eughh, whom the player can also control to perform tasks such as digging a hole to get buried items. If you want him happy, give him a hydrant or two to take a leak on. During his adventures, Dropsy will also make friends with two other controllable characters, Mousy the mouse and Birdy, the - you guessed it- bird. Mousy is good for getting into tight spots where other characters can't go, while Birdy has the much coveted flight ability to get those hard to reach items on higher ground.

While Dropsy and his friends are controlled in the usual point-and-click manner, this title has one difference, that is not usually seen, and that is that day and night changes as time passes. It is not just a cosmetic difference, either. Some buildings like the church will only be open during the day, while the record shop works a midnight shift. Some characters will also be in different spots, depending on the time of the day.

Again, this is not a minor thing, because some parts can only be finished during a specific time of day. For instance, the grumpy costume shop owner won't give Dropsy the time of the day while on his job. However, he lost a wife. And there is a graveyard nearby where he goes to every night to mourn. There, Dropsy might have a better chance of consoling him in his childish way, only to receive a hug as his reward. The only reward he really needs.

Dropsy (PC) image

While interesting, this also proves to be a problem. The areas through which Dropsy moves are pretty big, and sometimes you simply won't be on time to get to the designated spot before your window had passed and you'll have to wait for a new one. Time passes quickly, thankfully. And even more importantly, there are beds that you can sleep in to get to the point you need in a faster manner.

There is a map that you can consult, because, otherwise, it might prove challenging to navigate through the areas. Though why they did not allow for fast travel between these points is beyond me. Was it to increase the length of the game, that sits cosily at about six-seven hours, which would be halved if you could get to the area you wanted to from the start?

The most serious gripe I have with this title is the way that Dropsy communicates with other characters. I've seen this done in other titles, and it never sat well with me, and unfortunately, Dropsy is not an exception. Because he is a simple man, he can not "talk" or "read". All texts you find are blurry and make no sense, and all the words you hear are garbled. The way communication is done is through bubbles that appear above the character's head that show what they want or mean. While as a concept it makes sense, in practice it is very frustrating, because often you will have no idea what someone wants out of you.

I remember stopping in a desert by some vendor whose speech bubbles showed me an alien and some rings. I had no idea what he meant by that. After I gave him money, he sold me something which I presumed had something to do with an alien in question, but why I needed to go after the thing was a mystery. Only later through connecting the dots… vaguely, did I get that he meant that the alien stole something from him and that the three circles were dust prints of the item that he left. This is an example, but the game is littered with them. Some are simple, but some, you will have no idea what the general idea was.

So, is Dropsy a good or bad game? I'd say it's an above average effort, all in all. What I do admire about it is that Dropsy the clown is the sweetest, kindest creature who goes around with his animal friends, doing nice stuff. The world that he inhabits though, is more cruel, and it evokes some imagery about how, if you are different, you will be shunned. Dropsy's physical appearance and mental attributes are a contrast to his nature, while the "normal" looking characters hide a much more sinister soul to them.

Dropsy has some issues, to be sure. But if you like this genre and do not expect a horror tale, but a nice psychological journey wrapped in a "cute" title, then I can imagine there are worse ways to spend your ten dollars.

Dropsy (PC) image
Dropsy murders it on the dance floor.

darketernal's avatar
Community review by darketernal (October 27, 2015)

Occasional reviewer of random stuff.

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