Dropsy, a game about a terrifying clown who loves hugging

Welcome to our weekly open thread for the discussion of gaming plans, nagging questions, and whatever else we feel like talking about. No matter what the topic, we invite everyone in the comments to tell us: What Are You Playing This Weekend?

As mentioned in my 2016 gaming resolution, I’m still disappointed in myself for the number of promising, small-scale games I left unplayed in 2015. So I’ve spent the last month trying to catch up on as many of those as I can before the onslaught of new releases begins again next week, with Jonathan Blow’s The Witness, and continues unabated through May. So far, I’ve gotten thoroughly hooked on Nuclear Throne, blazed through the shockingly endearing Tales From The Borderlands, and spent some time embedded in our glorious FMV renaissance with Her Story and Contradiction: Spot The Liar. With a potential snowstorm threatening to keep me cooped up and a blizzard of new games following right behind it, this weekend is my best chance to sneak in a few more of those 2015 games I missed, and I already have a couple in mind.

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First there’s Dropsy by Jay Tholen and A Jolly Corpse. The tale of a terrifying clown who wants nothing more than to bring cheer to all the people around him, it’s undoubtedly one of last year’s strangest releases. As odd as the premise and aesthetic are, though, it’s a traditional point-and-click adventure at heart: you see people with problems, you find the right item to solve their problems, everyone’s happy, and Dropsy gets to hug them. But Dropsy twists that tried-and-true formula as well. Other than the title card, there’s no text or comprehensible dialogue anywhere. Instead, it communicates characters’ feelings through pictures. It’s a neat approach that adds to the game’s dream-like atmosphere, but in my limited experience so far, it can be as confusing as it is novel. Still, I’m looking forward to getting back in there and hugging everything in sight.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Dropsy’s stellar soundtrack. Composed by Chris Schlarb, it’s an eclectic hodgepodge of musical influences unlike anything I’ve heard in a game before. There’s a minimalist, laidback jazz that serves as the foundation, but Schlarb builds on it in a host of surprising ways, at times layering in surf rock, prickly Neil Young-style folk, and smoky dub. There are even variations on certain tracks to match the game’s time of day. Most impressive, though, is how it retains Dropsy’s complex emotional makeup through all those transformations—at once dreamy, gentle, cheerful, and just a little bit sad. It’s a beautiful and unique score, and possibly my favorite since Disasterpeace’s work on Fez.

I have way less to say about the other games I’m planning to dig into, mostly because I have yet to spend as much time with them. There’s Wheels Of Aurelia, a game from the developers of Fotonica and Mirror Moon that has you driving around Italy during the 1970s, a period in the country’s history marked by terrorism and socio-political unrest. (Its only trailer makes it seem way less dour than that sounds.) I’ve also been keen to get back to Jotun, a gorgeous hand-drawn adventure inspired by Norse mythology, and The Magic Circle, a subversive game about game development from a few members of the BioShock team. And of course, there’s a little RPG called Undertale that I’ve been trying to force myself to revisit. Maybe this’ll be the weekend.

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