Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Dropsy (PC)

Dropsy title screen
Developer:Tendershoot & A Jolly Corpse|Release Date:2015|Systems:Windows, Mac, Linux

This week the internet is going totally batshit Star Wars crazy due the upcoming release of 'The Force Awakens', so today I'm going to be playing.... another game about a clown. Didn't really think this one through did I? Next time I get ideas about planning ahead I'm going to look up some movie release dates first.

Anyway you've found your way to Super Adventures, where I'll be having a look at Dropsy, a self-proclaimed 'point and click hugventure game'. More like a drop and kick clownventure game...

It was a gift from a friend though (a friend who knows how much I like clowns), so I'll be nice and give it a fair chance. I'll even take some screenshots and write words under them so you can benefit from his cruel generosity!

I already knew beforehand that the game has something to do with folks on the Something Awful forums, but I've just done the bare minimum of research and it turns out that the character's first hugventure actually took place in a forum thread back in 2008. People would throw out suggestions for what Dropsy should do next and then the creator would pixel up the outcome in the form of a fake video game screenshot. Like a choose your own adventure story, in extreme slow motion. Three Kickstarter campaigns later and the clown's starring in his very own actual game, with clicking and animation and everything! So basically this is all the internet's fault.



The title screen didn't give me an options button, so I clicked 'play' and was dropped straight into the opening cutscene. We're at the circus!

I see they've got a bat-signal set up there just in case someone tries to assassinate the acrobats and leave their son as a vengeful young orphan. See this is why I like Batman, he's always planning two steps ahead.

Inside the acrobats are acrobating and Dropsy here is pretty hyped about the whole thing. At least I think that's his happy face.

The Dropsy character started out as a boss in a zombie platformer, which is why he looks a bit like a zombie platformer boss, but he's apparently supposed to be a nice guy in this. Not the kind of clown who'd deliberately burn the circus down to the ground for his own amusement.

Sadly not every circus-goer is so conscientious, as someone carelessly/deliberately drops a lit cigar a little too close to a suspicious trail of petrol on the floor and Dropsy’s job goes up in flames.

Man, that’s a pretty dark way to start a cartoony clown game. It’s possible everyone inside that tent just burned to death. Everyone but Dropsy that is... unless it turns out the whole story's set in his post-death hallucination. I wouldn't put it past the game, not with this music playing.

Oh that's better, now I've hit gameplay it's showing nice sharp pixels instead of a fuzzy compressed mess. Some might wish it had a TV emulation filter to put a bit of authentic fuzz back in, but personally I just want to get it out of the aspect ratio it's defaulted to. It's my own fault for using a 5:4 screen as my primary monitor in 2015 I guess.

Fortunately it seems that there's an option button in the drop down menu (next to a whole lot of mysterious empty silhouettes).

There, I’ve gotten it out of full screen and sorted out the aspect. Dunno why some PC games make you sit through a full intro before letting you fix that.

Man, this options screen is 1994 Amiga game as fuck; it's all ghetto blaster and CRT monitor icons. I guess it's very 90s DOS game too, but I don't remember many of them sticking with the floppy disk as a save icon during the dawn of the hard drive era. Oh damn, I just noticed I've got a clown shoes icon to click as well! Not clue what that could do.

Ah, it makes him honk with every step. Not really an improvement.

Okay my mouse cursor turns into an eye when I hover over certain objects in the room, so I’m going to start clicking things and see what’s in here with me.

AGH!

Holy shit Dropsy, what is up with your race car bed? Can't sleep in that, it will eat my clown.

The pictures pinned above it aren't all that cheerful either. Man, my clown's got issues. Clicking on the TV gave me the scariest image though: there's no signal so I got to see his face reflected back at him.

Seems there's nothing I can actually do here but hang around and see if he eventually burns to death, so I'll carry on to the right.

Ghosts huh? Wait, is that young Dropsy and his mother? You know, I'm starting to get this feeling this really is a nightmare level rather than a 'escape the burning circus' level. The music kind of reminds me of Hotline Miami when it was being weird, so that fits.

I tried to go over and chat to the spectral NPCs but that just made the woman vanish and young Dropsy burst into tears. So I'm doing well so far.

What the f.... step backwards you fool! Get away from the tongue!

Well now I know what clowns have nightmares about, so I can add that to the list of things I never wanted to learn. It was a well animated nightmare though; about as pretty as a proper LucasArts adventure. Okay maybe 'pretty' is the wrong word.

Oh he's woken up! Now the car’s happy, the pictures on the wall aren’t melting any more and everything’s a lot less surreal. Also we've learned that Dropsy sleeps in that outfit, so there's another fun fact about our hero.

Hang on, there's a pig sniffing my crayons! Actually I think it might be a dog in clown facepaint. Not really a fantastic combination.

I grabbed the thing next to him (which turned out to be a framed picture) and he decided to tag along and join my crew. I can’t interact with him though, he just follows me as I walk across the room.

In the waking world Dropsy's television is tuned in, so I can watch the news looping forever.

It seems that we're in a country that doesn't speak English (or any other language I recognise) but I think I get the gist of what it's saying. It's been 5 years since the incident and people still aren't sure if Dropsy's the kind hearted kind of clown or the type who'd burn down his own circus. He's not in clown jail right now though so someone out there must be on his side.

Further investigation led me to this table, which has a few hats and a birthday cake on it. One of the hats is being worn by a framed photograph though, and that's never a good sign.

I tried grabbing what I could but Dropsy's not cooperating. Doesn't feel right to be leaving so many things on tables in an adventure game. Guybrush Threepwood would've have that entire cake down his pants by now, with the candles lit and everything.

I'll keep heading to the right then and see if there's anything else in here he'll actually permit me to pocket.

Uh... what?

Oh, Dropsy can read the bird's thoughts! That’s handy. The way characters communicate with icons instead of dialogue reminds me of Curse of Enchantia though and I'm not a big fan of that game.

The bird won't let me leave the house until he's fed so I need to figure this out. Okay what icons do I have up there in my menu bar? Dropsy face, dog face, two empty slots, happy Dropsy, Dropsy's trousers, a map... oh hang on, the trousers must be his inventory! I really hope they're his inventory.

Yeah, this is definitely an adventure game inventory. I've got a box of cakes in here I found in his fridge earlier and they match the picture in the bird's thought bubble, so I think I'm in luck. I also found a broken pocket watch containing a photo of two people in red bow ties but that's not all that relevant right now.

I clicked the item in the inventory and then clicked the bird, and that got rid of him. Doesn't seem like there's any verb selection in this at all. I can either perform a context sensitive action by clicking on something or I can drop an item on it; that's the limit of my interaction with the world.

Hey there's an actual live human being outside! This guy looks like an ex-clown who was put out of work in the circus fire and moved into construction instead.

If I'm reading these symbols correctly, he's telling me that he's going to work now.

And then... to a blue haired woman's party?

A gift? I'm meant to be buying a gift for her birthday?

Wait, Dropsy just pulled the picture from his bedroom floor from out of his trousers and now he's showing it to him. Quit it man, I'm trying to follow what the boxes say!

For fuck's sake, stop showing boxes for a second, I'm trying to figure this out! Right, so there's walking... walking to the buildings... and then a gravestone. What?

Okay so it's clown, work, woman, birthday, gift, walk, buildings, grave. And that's what I need to do next! Good job I was writing it down.

You know what would be nice right about now? Dialogue.

Ah, the blue haired woman is at the graveyard. That makes more sense now.

Hang on, if she's the one I saw in a picture earlier, the one with a birthday hat on, that means she's dead isn't she? Maybe she was a victim of the fire, maybe she's his mother who died when he was a child. It's pretty sad either way.

So I'll have to go walk to the graveyard and put a birthday gift by her grave then.

Hang on, the dog's spotted a pile of mud! I don't know what he expects me to do about it though, seeing as Dropsy's diggin' hands are safely enclosed inside his stitched up sleeves.

Hey, I can control the dog directly with one of the icons from the drop down menu! With the dog's natural talent for excavation I can dig up this mound and claim the treasure... oh it's just a dirty old sock. Yay.

At least I was able to hug a squirrel while I was here, using the dedicated 'hug' button. Turns out I was wrong earlier when I said context sensitive mouse clicks and the items in my inventory were my only options for interaction. I can also choose to 'apply dog' and 'hug' them as well.

Dropsy's really into hugs, so I get this screen-filling victory animation whenever he manages it on someone new. Gotta hug 'em all I guess.

Trouble is that folks around here aren't in the hugging mood due to Dropsy being hated and feared for his alleged pyromania. Also this girl's sad about her dead flower. I tried sending the dog over to dig it up so that we could plant a new one in its place, but she made it clear that she wasn't going to let that happen.

I'll continue walking to the graveyard then.

A screen or so over I ran into these two having a smoke and phone break outside. Didn't really expect to find people smoking in the game, but I suppose I should've done seeing as that's what caused the fire in the first place.

These two have a pretty negative opinion on Dropsy due to the carnival arson incident, but unlike the flower girl I haven't the first idea what I need to do to cheer them up. It’s like they're speaking simlish and I can't decipher what they mean.

The graveyard's to the right but I decided to keep exploring in the opposite direction for a while... and found that the road just kept on going. Seems that most of the game world is open to me now and there's a lot of it. I eventually ended up in some caves outside of town with basically nothing to show for my journey and no puzzles solved, so I turned around and headed back the way I came.

Ah, so peeing on fire hydrants is the dog’s equivalent of hugs! Look at how smug he is. A lot smugger than whoever owns that smashed up car, that's for sure.

From the look of the phones, cars and stereos it seems that the game takes place in the late 80s/early 90s. So about the same time that the classic pixel art point and click adventures came out.


A FEW SCREENS FURTHER ON, AT THE GRAVEYARD OUTSIDE OF TOWN.


I've finally reached the blue haired girl icon on the map, and yeah it's pointing to a gravestone.

I put down the picture I collected from his bedroom and it played a little ‘you did good’ kind of chime so I think I achieved what I came here to do. But now the dog won't let me leave! Every time I try to walk away it shows me that 'sock to grave' message. I’m trapped in this tiny corner of the graveyard until I give up or load my last save.

Oh, he just wants me to put the sock on her grave. Well, uh, okay then. It seems that Dropsy replaces the picture of his friends/family every year on her birthday, but there's only one sock here so that must be a new thing the dog's doing.

With our job done, the dog suggests we go back home to the circus. Sounds good to me, seeing as besides the gift placement all I've managed to do out here is accidentally knock a plant over and steal a flower. I'm hardly spreading joy throughout the townsfolk, so I could do with some further instruction.


A SHORT WALK LATER.


That damn bird's back at my house! First it took my snacks, now it's got the old clown's front tire! So that's my second quest then: get the tire back from the bird. This article's getting pretty long now so I think I'll get this done and then I'll turn the game off.

But first I'm turning this music off, because it's kind of getting on my nerves now. Don't get me wrong, the soundtrack suits the game just fine and it even changes between locations to give your ears respite from the repetitive loops, but mellow jazz really isn't my thing.

Wow, this bird is such a dick. I helped him out earlier by giving him that box of snacks from my fridge and this is what I get for my act of kindness! Though I do see its point, Dropsy is very much not a baby bird and therefore has no business being in its nest. I don't much want to be up in that weird-ass tree anyway, the roots are creeping me out.

Hang on, why is it night time all of a sudden? Is it just a dark part of the forest?


SOME POINTING AND CLICKING LATER.


Aha, there's a guy here in a chicken outfit! I know now what I must do.

Actually I've no bloody clue. Every time I talk to him I get a message that he doesn't like digging. Or maybe he doesn't like the work that's going on nearby? Or maybe he doesn't like his own job? I'm sure some players find these vague symbols endearing but they're annoying the hell out of me.

Okay I have a plan. This guy got his costume from a shop, so I just have to go inside and rent or buy my own bird outfit. Wait, I recognise the two people on the shop sign! They're the same folks I saw inside the pocket watch I've been carrying around; that's interesting.

Well that's not happening. The shopkeeper's so anti-Dropsy that he won't even let me get close to him, never mind ask him for a bird disguise. The clues next to his till are definitely pointing to the fact that he's lost someone close to him as well though, so it's no wonder he's pissed off. I've also noticed that if he wore a star-spangled waistcoat he could cosplay as a US flag, but that's not really helpful right now.

I figured I'd give him back his lost watch as a peace offering but that still requires me to be over there rather than stuck over here, so I'm a bit lost myself at the moment. I'll go back out to the street and see if I can solve the mystery of the chicken man's digging problem and get the bird outfit that way.


EVENTUALLY.


I spent so long hiking around the game world trying to find the thing to make the chicken man happy that the sun's set! I wasn't in a dark forest earlier, I was in a point and click adventure with a day/night cycle! You don't see many of them around.

Interestingly folks seem to be in different places at different times, so now there's a woman smoking on the slide and the dead flower is unguarded! I got the dog to excavate it and then replaced it with the one from the graveyard, so I think that'll be enough to earn a hug from the flower girl next morning. Doesn't help me at all though.

So I guess now I have to visit all locations both during the day and night to get all the pieces I need to figure out this bird suit puzzle. Fortunately there's a couple of beds scattered around I can use to jump ahead in time, so waiting around isn't mandatory.


LATER.


Look who I found at the graveyard! Turns out the fancy dress shop owner comes down here each night to visit his wife's grave, giving me the perfect opportunity to approach him without being yelled at. Apparently giving his watch back was all I needed to do to earn his forgiveness, and Dropsy even got a hug out of it as a bonus.

Okay I admit I used a walkthrough for this because I couldn't be bothered searching every part of the game at every time. I just want to get this bike tire back so I can finish playing and turn it off already!

The next morning I want to the fancy dress shop and the shop keeper was in a good enough mood to give me a costume for free! It was a Dracula outfit.

Right, I'm checking that guide again...

Ah, it turns out I just had to keep hugging the chicken guy over and over until he threw his head to the ground and stormed off! That would've honestly never occurred to me.

I mean yeah I've basically got 'talk to', 'hug' and 'dog' as my only actions so I could've gotten it through trial and error, but up until now I've only been able to hug people after I've helped them out and this guy doesn't look very helped out to me. Plus if it didn't work once, why would I try it again?

Anyway I put the chicken head on and used it to infiltrate the bird's nest and recover the tire, so that's done now.

Hey, the clown's bedroom wall is filling up with pictures of his friends now; all the people he's helped and hugged. I'm not sure getting this guy fired really counts as helping out, but if Dropsy thinks he's happy that's good enough for me.

So I'm turning the game off now, but first I may as well let the clown have a nap while he's here, let him rest in his own bed for once instead of in the street.

OH NO, IT'S HAPPENING AGAIN!


CONCLUSION

To be honest I've been putting off writing about Dropsy because my heart's just not in it. The game looks great and it's filled with charm and character, but I just couldn't bring myself to give a damn about any of it. But on the other hand I don't much feel like criticising the game either because, well, look at it! It's a weird-ass work of art all about being nice to people and I can't take any joy from finding the flaws in it.

But when I think back to the point and click adventures games I've enjoyed, I find it's always the dialogue that's stuck with me. The conversations I had with characters, the dumb quips the hero made after I figured something out, their increasing frustration when they couldn't use two things together; adventure games for me are about words. And Dropsy doesn't have any! They've stripped out the piece of gameplay I play these kinds of games for, and that left me kind of apathetic about the puzzle solving. Also confused, because I couldn't figure out what the speech bubble icons meant half the time. It's hard work piecing together what people actually want in this game.

Plus the overwhelming scale of it is kind of overwhelming, with a ton of locations open to you from the moment you first make it out of your tent, and multiple times of day to visit each of them. I couldn't just grab everything, talk to everyone and work through problems systematically like I usually do in adventure games because there's so much ground to cover. Well I could, but I didn't want to.

On the plus side it seems like they've gone the LucasArts route and made Dropsy unkillable, which is good because I didn't much want to see him hurt. Dropsy's a friendly kind-hearted kid stuck in the form of a monster clown, more scared of people (and birds) that they are of him, so I didn't find it hard to root for him. Then again I like every adventure game protagonist; I find proactive problem-solvers endearing, because even the total dicks like Jack Orlando and that guy from Deponia tend to ruin other people's day in an amusing way. Speaking of comedy, despite the cartoon visuals the game has been pretty melancholy so far, so if you go into it hoping for another Day of the Tentacle you'll be disappointed. It's about healing hearts not getting laughs.

Personally I was a bit bored at the start of Dropsy, but when I started to explore the world I found I was bored doing that too. Then I solved some puzzles and that bored me as well. Basically, this game and I, we don't get on. But I'm thinking that it's probably a game/player mismatch causing the problem here. I found nothing mechanically wrong with the thing, it's no Dark Seed that's for sure, so... please don't let my whining put you off the game.

If you find yourself enamoured by Dropsy and his world you can find his original forum thread adventure archived on the creator's website!


Okay next time I'm definitely going to be playing a Star Wars game. But which one could it be? It'll have to remain a mystery for the next week I'm afraid, unless someone manages to figure it out before then.

If you want to leave a carefully considered comment on any of the words or images you've seen above, then look a little bit below you and you'll see a message box down there waiting to absorb your feedback.

4 comments:

  1. On the plus side, had your review been about a Star Wars game, I'd have skipped it for the time being. There's already enough hammering about the new Star Wars movie, it's genuinely making me hate that highly overrated series... ah whoops, you'll be reviewing a Star Wars game next! Noooooohh!

    ...Let's talk about this game and forget about Star Wars.
    I'm a big fan of pixel art and of point-and-click adventure games, and this one looks pretty competent judging by the pixel art alone... so it's a shame this videogame ruins it all by looking creepy as heck (I call it the "Spongebob effect").

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    Replies
    1. Yeah, the creepy weirdness of it is definitely something that can really draw you in or totally put you off. Personally I can't stand the look of SpongeBob either so I get where your coming from, but artists gotta art, and I think Dropsy ultimately benefits from the creator going wild on it they way they did. It's a game with a lot of personality.

      But lets forget about the game and talk about Star Wars! Hold in there, the games coming up after next week will contain absolutely zero lightsabers, Millennium Falcons, Sith Lords or misunderstood clowns.

      Delete
    2. Yeah, I do respect that creepy artstyle, it's just that I don't like it personally. Then again maybe if it creeps me out it means it works so it's good.

      Aw, and who am I kidding, I know I'll end up reading your next review with or without lightsabers... your writing is just too entertaining!

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  2. "Can't sleep in that, it will eat my clown."
    Rad. :)

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