I saw a preview for this game a few months back and I was intrigued by the art, with its creepy 90’s look, and got even more excited when I realized it was a point-and-click adventure, cause that’s my shit. I told Richard (King Glitchslap) about this game, and that I was gonna review it, to which he replied: “You’re so weird. I love it.” Is it weird? To be into games about clowns? Yeah, that’s….pretty weird. Fair enough, Richard.
Let’s fire this baby up. The title screen comes on. It looks like a pixely mess, which is beautiful to me. This clown is hideous. He’s got a big ol’ round head, a big ol’ round belly, and a big dumb grin. Seeing this dude, looking like this, I kinda get the general disdain imparted upon clowns by the popular media.
Oh snap! Something terrible is happening at the circus! I see a cigar being dropped, and I assume it was deliberate, considering it met with the tip of a trail of combustive fluid. The flames get out of control, lil’ Dropsy freaks out, people are screaming, and the place is reduced to rubble. Mother Nature, queen of “too soon” pranks, makes it rain shortly after the flames have been contained. I understand that people don’t like clowns very much, but he was just a boy. That’s mean. Why they gotta fuck with him like that? The culprit should be ashamed! I’d call his momma if any of this was real.
After getting the backstory, I’m dropped into the game (Dropsy’d into the game? Sorry…). Everything is trippy and otherworldly looking. Dropsy has a car bed and it’s a friggin’ SWEET car bed, so that’s nice. You can check out the T.V., which features shows consisting of a few frames of animation. Wait a minute…is that MST3K? Nice! You’re stealing my heart, guys. I realize this is a dream, especially when the floor eats me. Yikes! You wake up and it’s basically the same room except it’s normal….er.
Let’s rap a bit about the controls. It’s standard adventure game movement here. You click on the floor to move his rotund buttocks around the room. Cursor to the top to access a pop down menu, featuring multiple buttons. You can choose between Dropsy or his dog companion (and even more animal friends as the game progresses!). There’s a “hug button”. Dropsy LOVES to hug. He can hug people…animals…even inanimate objects. I made him hug a tree. He’s a tree hugger! Look, he really likes hugs. It makes him happy. So, just let him hug stuff, please. He had a rough childhood and he gets shit on all over town. And make the dog piss on stuff while you’re at it. He appears to get the same level of joy that Dropsy gets from hugging. The options menu is a little tricky. Like the rest of the game, there are no English words, just symbols, so you gotta figure out what does what. There is an option to choose if Dropsy’s shoes squeak or not. I chose NOT.
My detective training (watching Columbo) has led me to deduce, that between the opening cinematic, a table set up with birthday stuff for a non-present woman, and a conversation with “dad”, that “mom” was killed in that circus fire. That sucks. I’m sure she was a cool, cool lady. Dad’s gotta go to work. He’s tasked you with going to her grave and leaving a bunch of sentimental crap on top of the dirt that covers her fleshless bones. You can see the love between Dropsy and clown dad as evidenced by their sweet embrace. He marks the map for you and you’re set off to complete your task, although you do have the freedom to move about the map as you choose. I suppose Dropsy could be considered an open ended point-and-click adventure, given the size of the map, and the fact that you can choose the order you complete most tasks, until you’re hit with a major, plot-driving obstacle. The broad scope can be a little overwhelming, but I think it’s ultimately nice.
When Dropsy has a conversation with a person (or animal), it’s conveyed by a series of pictures. I initially thought this was a style choice, but it seems that that’s how Dropsy really takes in verbal communication. To me, figuring out what people are saying is a fun mini-game. Dropsy’s alleged illiteracy is further evidenced by signs around town that contain nonsensical characters. If you get well versed on what the shit people are saying, a plot develops, although it wasn’t always clear to me what exactly was going on. I like to be a little confused. It adds to the mystery…or at least that’s what I tell myself.
In the midst of questing, you catch the attention of a pharmaceutical CEO, who is also an….amataur alien investigator? Is he a GOOD or EVIL CEO? Is that the most absurd question I’ve ever asked? Play the game and all will (possibly) be revealed to you.
The excellence of the music in this game is striking. I can’t recall being so worked up about the style and variety of a game’s music since Hotline Miami. The music was composed by Chris Schlarb and performed by Chris, along with a group of skilled musicians. This video (via Joyful Noise Recordings) gives some insight:
I thought I was gonna knock out this game over the weekend and write a review, but I shoulda known better. You don’t just knock out a point-and-click adventure. You get stuck for hours, making no progress, nothing makes sense, you wanna quit, you wanna go play some mindless shooty gun bullsht to make you feel better about yourself, an inner dialogues takes shape, you struggle with the urge to go online and look for hints, but you know if you do you’ll feel like a FOOL FOR NOT KNOWING YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO DO THAT TINY FUCKING THING, and you’ll never be able to shake that feeling. You’ll always be tainted. Even if you ace the rest of the game, when asked about the game by a friend, that guilt from looking up a hint will creep up your spine. If you can resist the urge to cheat, eventually something will click. You’ll come across something you passed dozens of times, happen to approach it differently, a chain reaction will happen, and everything will fall into place, giving you that RUSH of RELIEF. That’s fuckin’ adveture games for ya, man. You wander around…..you wander around and do random stuff that seems insignificant until you do just the right action that unlocks EVERYTHING.
Dropsy is a throwback to the 90’s. That’s cool, but nostalgia isn’t enough to hook the player anymore, with all the nostalgia fueled gaming that’s on the market these days. You gotta bring the goods. You need a killer story, tight mechanics, all that stuff. Dropsy is clearly a labor of love. Shout out to Jay Tholen and his team for making it. I love it and sure appreciate it.
Dropsy is a GOOD BOY. He has fucked up dreams, but other than that, he just wants to bring joy to the world. I don’t think he has a wicked bone in his whole body. Is this a let down? That the clown isn’t evil? I don’t think so. It’s refreshing to see a different take on clowns. It’s become way too common to see clowns be portrayed as creepy and evil and it’s grown tiresome. Let’s have a wholesome clown for a change. How you feel about clowns is your business. I don’t expect you to change your stance, but maybe you’ll find a little bit of love for THIS clown. Feel free to continue being freaked out by Tim Curry, though. I GET it.