Developer: Tendershoot, A Jolly Corpse
Unlike previous years of Sleepy Toadstool reviews, I've spent much of this year focusing primarily on current releases and trying to review games shortly after they release. However, now that the year's almost over and I've published my list of top 2022 games I decided to relax play some older games on my backlog. I've had Dropsy on my list for a while, and I didn't realize it was already a 7-year-old game at this point. Dropsy is a point and click adventure game about a friendly, misunderstood clown helping out and hugging those he meets. Dropsy's story, animation, and tone is incredibly unique and captivating, but yet it can sometimes feel unintuitive in its seemingly endless item quest line.
When you start the story as Dropsy the clown, he is having a nightmare and reliving a terrible moment. He lived and worked in a circus, and one day a cigarette was dropped on oil and lit up the entire circus tent. His mother died in this accident, and just to top it off, Dropsy was blamed for the disaster and was made to look like a monster. After the nightmare, Dropsy wakes up in his home, inside a dingy circus tent, where he lives with his dad and his little dog. Dropsy's dad reminds him that today is his mom's birthday, and Dropsy heads off to deliver flowers to her grave. On this journey, Dropsy will meet many people who dislike him and others who need help in various ways. With the help of his little dog, Dropsy starts to help everyone, handing out hugs and changing minds about who he really is.
Dropsy’s art side-scrolling pixel art style is colorful and cartoony but also raw and grim at the same time. Even though Dropsy himself is a positive and bubbly, we see this world’s characters in a very realistic light - from unhoused people living on the street to greedy, judgmental church leaders. The animation really stood out to me from this game, as Dropsy and other characters’ movements and reactions were so detailed and thorough. I really enjoy the use of detailed, complicated animations in pixel-art games, and this is especially good for a game made in 2015. Dropsy also brings a catchy and varied soundtrack, with a lot of upbeat jazzy sounds to it. I had a specific song stuck in my head for days after playing this game (the one the karaoke girl sings). It's an excellent soundtrack that can be listened to on its own.
My biggest gripe with Dropsy is its lack of direction in its questing. Like many point and click games, you have to find hidden items in the maps and use them to solve various quests. Often times, it was easy to miss hidden items because of the way the pixelated environments would hide a tiny detail. Also, the communication style used in Dropsy was really innovative and ambitious, but despite that it has some flaws. Instead of using written words, the characters communicate using image icons that indicate what they’re thinking or saying. Sometimes this can be as simple as Dropsy’s face with a cross over it (which means they do not like you) or it can be as complicated as telling you where to go to find a specific item, who to talk to, and what to do with it. The second type of interaction I described was really difficult to get the right information from. The symbols aren’t always clear and can be misinterpreted. For that reason, I often had the right items with me but didn’t realize which characters could use that item. About halfway through the game, I ended up looking for answers in a guide – it’s possible I could’ve figured these things out with a lot of pixel-hunting and more detailed exploring, but I’m a little too impatient for this as I already felt I spent a lot of time exploring the very large world. I actually think there’s some really fun twists and secret story bits, but I probably would’ve missed a lot of them had I not been looking at the guide. Sometimes it's also unclear what some items are, since there's no name given to them. I found what was apparently a set of keys for a church, but they way it looked in my inventory I was completely sure it was a rosary or bracelet of some sort.
As I mentioned earlier, the characters in Dropsy feel multi-dimensional, like real people. They grow and change through the different parts of the story. They don’t like you at first, because Dropsy’s got a bad reputation and, let’s face it, he looks a little scary. However, you help them out, and you get to see what you’re really like – and you get to give them a hug. Once you learn more about the people here, you realize that a big corporation (unknown name so let's call them S-corp) seems to be causing a lot of the problems around here. You help people who don't have any food to eat, you help families reunite, you help a band get an audience, and many other things. Dropsy's also a friend to animals, having some join his party alongside him and his dog.
Dropsy is a really human story with a lot of heart, and it shows the best and worst parts of how humans treat each other. Dropsy knows what it's like to be an outcast and to be misjudged, but he willingly gives out love and friendship anyway. Something kind of amazing about this game is how universal it is - not only because of its word-less communication system, but because of its message. I recommend this game, but just keep in mind you'll either have to use a guide or be really patient and meticulous about your gameplay. If this isn't something you mind, I think Dropsy is an excellent game that feels different from other point and click adventures.
Dropsy is available on PC, Switch, and iOS
Played on: PC (Steam Deck)
Playtime: 8.5 hrs