|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.
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.
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.
Fortunately it seems that there's an option button in the drop down menu (next to a whole lot of mysterious empty silhouettes).
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.
Holy shit Dropsy, what is up with your race car bed? Can't sleep in that, it will eat my clown.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If I'm reading these symbols correctly, he's telling me that he's going to work now.
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!
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.
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.
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.
I'll continue walking to the graveyard then.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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