March 11, 2015 7:00 AM | Joel Couture
Many point-and-click games boil down to being about helping people, but for selfish reasons. You'll have to get X to help Y so they'll give you Z, but you're really only helping these people so they'll give you what you need to progress. Dropsy feels like a departure from that, where helping people and bringing some happiness to their lives is the end goal in and of itself. Dropsy just wants to hug people and make them feel better, and the game injects so much joy into the genre that I can't imagine playing the game without a smile on your face. I had one permanently plastered on mine as I played the game at Pax East, enjoying every moment spent hugging people.
Well, maybe not permanently. Dropsy had a terrible nightmare at the beginning of the demo I tried, one that has me seriously worried about the world he lives in. Dropsy has endured something terrible in his life, but he never lets it get him down, though. He's still just out to make people's lives better, point-and-click style, and he doesn't let the fact that people are terrified of him stop that. That horror mixed with such honest, earnest desire to do kindness to others creates some powerful conflicting emotions as you play, and Dropsy's story seems so much more compelling because of it.
Having a constant Hug command sold this game for me. Seriously, try to hug anything and everything in the game. There's no telling what will happen. Who can't use a hug, anyway? I didn't know you could hug the toilet, and my life is lesser for not having done it. This hug is often your way of knowing you've helped someone enough, as unhappy people won't let you hug them until you've aided them with their problems. Once you've fixed things and hugged the problems out, a symbol of a super-excited Dropsy fills the screen. In case you couldn't tell how happy he is to help, this symbol drives that home, and soon I was just as excited as Dropsy was when that picture showed up.
None of this is communicated with words, though. The people of the world speak in pictures and non-verbal sounds, using tone and images to let you know how they're feeling. Speaking with developer Jay Tholen, he told me it was meant to help people from all over the world to understand the game - a delightful endeavor to spread happy hugs to the globe. I found it extremely effective, getting a clear impression from some angry grunts and a few pictures. I was impressed at how easily Tholen could communicate a character's mood and needs with only two or three pictures, and the simple charm of these communications fits in well with the game's colorful world.
Having played my share of point-and-click adventures, I found the puzzles were pretty straightforward when tied in with the picture dialogue. Often, you'd see a picture of the exact thing the character wanted, so you knew what to look for in the environment. How you needed to get that item was up to you to figure out, but the items all seemed to have straightforward uses, something I'm unused to seeing in the genre. In Dropsy, to get a flower you need a trowel. That's it. In many other point-and-click games, you'd need to get that trowel by going through about fifteen trades with people all over the world, and the trowel would be broken when you finally got it. Dropsy felt simple, giving me a handful of quicker puzzles spread out over the world rather than interweaving dozens of them that all tied together after hours of work.
Having smaller puzzles meant quicker solutions and more hugs, but that doesn't mean the game was shorter. Instead, Tholen has populated the world with many people who have problems, not all of whom are needed to complete the game's storyline. There are many people you can help just for the sake of helping them. You can burn your way to the end if you like, but there is a world of people to help. Given the non-verbal style and Dropsy's honest desire to help, it's hard not to want to aid everyone, too.
Not everyone will be easy to find, as the game features a day/night cycle where some people either aren't around or are in different places depending on the time of day. This is where the game gets a bit more challenging, as you have to learn people's habits to know where to find them. It never got super complex during the demo, but it did provide a little more depth to the story and characters by giving them their own lives within the game world.
Dropsy's happiness is infectious, and I found myself wishing there were more people to help when I walked away from the game's demo. I found myself wishing there were more games out there that focused on helping people and making it such a joy to do. It's an incredibly positive experience that, given the non-verbal style, anyone should be able to appreciate and love.
For more information on Dropsy, you can head to the game's site or follow it on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. For more information on Jay Tholen, you can head to his site or follow him on Facebook, YouTube, Tumblr, and Twitter.