Dropsy Is Both Weirder and Cuter Than Your Mom’s Point And Click Adventures
I’ll admit it; I have a real soft spot for indie games. My short campaign on the front lines of independent development gave me an appreciation for the particular brand of creativity you find in the self-made circuit, especially the weirder stuff. If there’s one thing that Dropsy is, it’s weird. Everything about Dropsy, from its Candyland-on-LSD aesthetic, to its story, to its pervasive use of symbols instead of text, is unapologetically, gleefully strange. Although it may share hashtag similarities with other current indies, it definitely won’t remind you of its peers.
Part of Dropsy’s charm is how staunchly it refuses to break character.
Dropsy is a self-described point and click “hugventure” game which revolves around the title’s namesake, a rotund and snaggletoothed clown. After a mysterious circus fire which took the lives of several townsfolk, including his own mother, Dropsy somehow ends up as the main suspect. You’ll need to make friends with all the locals in order to uncover the truth of the matter. It won’t be easy though. Earning their trust and friendship is going to take a lot of perseverance, ingenuity, and somewhat non-consensual hugging.
Part of Dropsy’s charm is how staunchly it refuses to break character. There are no words in Dropsy. Not a one. All the characters communicate with pictograms to describe what they want. Even the game’s menu is a series of symbols. The only place you’ll see actual words is in the credits, and I imagine that if the team had managed to find a reliable way to represent those in images, they absolutely would have. As an artistically-obtuse word-monger, I found the mental switch a bit difficult. Many of the images make complete sense at first glance, but others are a bit more obscure. Fortunately, just like in point and click PC titles of yore, just about every character will repeat themselves endlessly until you manage to figure out what a picture of a man digging is supposed to mean in the game’s context.
The puzzles start out straight-forward but quickly force you to sink or swim.
The most difficult part of Dropsy is entering the frame of mind that the game requires. Even though hugging is one of Dropsy’s core abilities, I found myself stumped more than once, simply because I was looking for a more complicated solution than just hugging someone…or something. Dropsy has three animal friends that he makes along his journey, each with different abilities that help him solve puzzles. You will have to get in the habit of thinking with all your tricks in the forefront of your mind and combining them when necessary. The puzzles start out straight-forward but quickly force you to sink or swim. After the intro, hints become more obscure, hidden in your surroundings, context clues, and on items themselves. The devil is eternally in the details. Dropsy does do an admirable job of always showing you where you need to go and inviting you to work your way backwards through the puzzle. Most solutions elicit an internal “Oh, of course. I’m an idiot” when solved.
The only thing that I felt Dropsy really lacks is an interface for the avid collector. There are several collections in the game, some obvious, some less so. As a casual completionist, I got bit twitchy without anywhere to track the things I had collected against the things I’d missed. Even just an indication that I was done or not would have satisfied me.
#SpoilerAlert: The Ending
The ending of Dropsy, perfectly in line with the rest of the game, is a bit off the wall. It gets weird and dark all at the same time with only a little warning. My biggest complaint is how easy it is to miss some important lead-up. Among several other collections in the game, there is one that, when completed, gives the player a bit of back-story that explains the final moments of the game. Since I’d placed no particular importance on any collection for my first playthrough, I was left dazed and confused by the finale and had to consult the internet to find a synopsis explaining what I’d seen.
Dropsy, for all its bizarre, hallucinogenic-inspired flavor, is a short and sweet diversion. You won’t spend even ten hours completing it the first time, but a meticulous player may be enticed to put in a second save game just to complete the several collections available. Dropsy doesn’t bring any new game mechanics to the point-and-click genre, but its use of pictograms as a stand-in for text are a refreshing change of pace. Even though it isn’t ground-breaking in its genre, its personality and charm are reason enough to make sure you don’t miss out. Dropsy isn’t your mother’s point and click adventure — which is just what I was hoping for.