So I was going to write a 2015 best of and worst of. And I may yet do that. But right now I don’t feel like it, namely because every prick and his dog is doing it, but also because there was one game from 2015 that genuinely touched me, and only sort of inappropriately, so I want to talk about that instead.
Generally when someone mentions a game that really moved them in 2015, most people will think of time travelling teen lesboidal angst simulation Life is Strange, or to a lesser extent the mildly disappointing 2nd season of The Walking dead. But hey at least it’s only had one disappointing season which is more than can be said for the TV show.
There were other games that made me “feel feels”, to use some worn out and moronic internet jargon. The Witcher 3 was one, it’s Family Matters quest was quite possibly the best designed quest I’ve played in an RPG and really made me sweat over my decisions. Sadly, TW3 never manages to better Family Matters, meaning it plays it’s best hand early on and leaves you with the sort of tangible disappointment usually followed by the words “I swear this has never happened to me before”.
No, the game whose story stuck with me the most in 2015 was unlikely for a few reasons. Firstly, it’s a point and click adventure. And since sometime around 1999, point and click adventures have been about as visible to my gaming radar as a fucking Stealth Bomber. It’s also a plot that from the outset seems as groan inducing as reading “a twisted reimagining of a beloved fairy tale” as a games description.
It’s the story of an evil looking clown framed for murder/arson.
No wait, for real. Don’t leave yet.
It’s Dropsy. And it’s good.
The first thing that sucked me into the world of Dropsy was the art. It’s beautiful. It’s the most impressive pixel art and 2D animation ive seen outside of golden age Lucasarts titles. Much like JJ Abrams did a better job of being George Lucas than George Lucas, Dropsy does a better job of being a Lucasarts point and click than any Lucasarts title post Grim-fandango (if they even had any? No, Escape from Monkey Island doesn’t exist). Every scene is rendered with gorgeous detail, everything from Dropsy twerking in a club (this is a thing that happens), to a sombre moment in a graveyard is drawn with amazing detail.
The second thing that strikes you is the music. Dropsy has hands down the best soundtrack I came across in 2015. And if anything can better Chris Schlarb’s Dropsy soundtrack in 2016, then fuck me with a Pineapple but I can’t wait to hear it. A gorgeous mix of everything from jazz, to techno, to metal, to dub, it’s a soundtrack that stuck with me long after I finished playing. If I had friends, I would invite them over for a party and play it in the background, and then when asked who it is, I would smugly reply “Oh its an obscure artists obscure soundtrack to an obscure videogame. You probably haven’t heard it”, and then weep softly and hug myself because no one actually turned up to my party and I’ve been talking to myself all long and there was no party and no friends and I was just listening to the Dropsy soundtrack on youtube in my cold and lonely 1 bed apartment.
But Dropsy isn’t just an audiovisual treat. I’ll be the first to admit I bought it A) because it was on sale and B) because it looked pretty. I expected it to have a story that genuinely made me think about as much as I expect my Cat to bark at me. Yes, Dropsy is the tale of a clown that looks like a cross between the Sarlacc and and a Mime. Yes he’s framed for murder. But once you get past that you realize the game has a lot more going for it than some super wacky Five Nights at Freddies indie horror shit. Dropsy is a truly innocent, childlike character who just happens to look a bit like Sharlto Copley in Elysium when he gets his face exploded by a Grenade.
Dropsy only wants to help the citizens of his Town to be happy, so he that he can hug them (no easy task considering most of the townsfolk are disgusted at the mere sight of him). Each time he helps a citizen, be it a bag lady sleeping in an alleyway to get a hot meal, an old man reunited with a lost memento of his dead Wife, or a Punk Band getting a gig, he’s rewarded with a hug. And in turn Dropsy’s bedroom at the circus is updated with a crude childlike crayon drawing of every person/inanimate object he’s hugged. It was around about this point I realized that I might actually be playing a game with the first ever developmentally challenged main character I’d come across. Maybe he is, maybe he isn’t. Who knows. The story never makes it clear either way, so its sort of left to yourself to decide.
Personally, I was disappointed Dropsy didn’t appear on too many, if any, Best of lists for 2015. It’s a game that despite (or maybe because of) its initial premise has genuine heart, and actually has a message at its core, something most games forget while aiming to be that mythical beast of Gaming’s Citizen Kane meets Michael Bay.