How do you deal with lingering feelings, dripping into your soul like poison? Do you face them, or in your attempt to swim, do you sink? Sound of Drop - fall into poison is a mystery horror VN that deals with such themes, and does it’s best to make a great experience... but is it enough?
Even though it’s being overshadowed by other VN releases, I’d say so, as it’s pretty good.
The premise is rather strong: In the beautiful Manten Aquarium, there lies something deeper under the beautiful tranquil surface that it has, a tragedy that our main character Mayumi has been avoiding for years. You see, 5 years ago, her younger sister Mari mysteriously disappeared in this aquarium, and Mayumi’s life hasn’t been since... but thanks to her best friend Himeno who is determined to learn about the rumors that are spreading, Mayumi heads back to this aquarium. What awaits Mayumi however is nothing but horror, a twisted aquarium with everything she has to face and more, with everything out for lust and logic defying feats of insanity happening all over the place.
And it does this insanity well, as it is a horror game, after all. While the horror is usually your typical the jump scare affair, isn’t really that bad for the most part and can be genuinely effective at times (but it’s no Corpse Party or Kara no Shoujo). The scenes are effectively written to create a sense of tension and really make the tone and atmosphere of this game work pretty well due to the great handling of tension and the horror of the world making the story moving and engaging.
Also, the reactions from the characters along with the insanity that comes with being in a twisted environment are great. The characters in general are pretty good too: while some (like the MC) can come off as flat at times, most of them get some really great development and are fleshed out to the point you can get rather attached to them and that they’re the high point of the story.
The story deals with it’s themes and subject matter rather well, taking it’s time to develop everything it needs to along and presenting to you in a decent fashion. It manages to get you to think about the themes it deals with like loss, making this more than just a thriller. It sets it’s premise well intrigue builds up and gets you really invested in the world.
There’s just one big problem with the story.... You see, Sound of Drop has a really bad habit of mentioning one thing then moving on haphazardly, using excuses to progress instead of explaining anything, even if what it has to explain is interesting and engaging. At times this means that the story is rushed, and at others it’s just a poor transition. You could chalk it up to the mystery aspect of the game, and I thought for a while it was because it was a mystery, but they just do a poor job at explaining nearly everything, from the surroundings around you. The explanation on the setting is uses urban myth as an excuse to the point that it’s not really believable, bad end happen extremely abruptly, there’s no real sense of flow between a lot of the scenes, etc. There’s so many examples in which it just flows poorly, doesn’t hint when it should or flat out fails to inform the player, which can potentially ruin the experience.
One of the worst offenders is how it handles transitions with endings, just kicking you back to the title screen without a word. Normally this wouldn’t be too big of a problem, but this game has a NG+ because of the steam release, and the additions is a not an insignificant part of the game. I assumed I was done with the game, so I was about to go and write up this review until I checked the endings list and saw 3 more other endings. When I started the game again to look for those endings and other elements to use for my review, it threw me into NG+ with a new opening without even telling me about the fact that there was an NG+, or if this was even an NG+. When I started the new prologue scene, I thought it was a second route from a different perspective and only learned it was an NG+ when I read online. The game never tells the players anything about this, and I only found it by dumb luck. With this game, you really never know what happens, or why it happens.
That is, until you actually go through said NG+. IF YOU GET THIS GAME, PLAY THROUGH NG+. While the regular ending is satisfying on itself, the added scenes in NG+ are REALLY GOOD and it fixes almost every flaw I had with the story. The sense of climax with a lot of the endings, including the first few routes feel rather artificial and forced, but with the NG+, such issues are gone. The story feels a lot more cohesive and it flows much better, everything is explained to the point that it’s really enjoyable, etc. Really, it’s written so well that it leaves your jaw dropped, it’s absolutely fantastic and makes the replays worth it.
So, even though while this story is an absolute mess in structure, Sound of Drop’s story isn’t a negative, with a solid story in NG+ and general that makes up for it’s flaws, proving to the world they have a good story.
When I read that the developers of this game aiueoKompany were indie, I was honestly surprised by that given the quality of the game and the visuals. Sound of Drop looks absolutely fantastic for an indie VN, and pretty much every aspect of it shines here: it has great backgrounds and absolutely beautiful artwork overall, detailed character art, CG that is varied and really adds to the experience, nice UI elements, a well done font, and the game is always a treat for the eyes. The best part about the visuals have to be how consistent and cohesive they are, helping to create an amazing atmosphere that really gets you sucked into the game. Really though, nothing but praise for the visuals of the game though, as it was done very well.
One odd thing I want to mention though is that unlike most VNs which is completely first person, this game actually shows the main character in the frame. It’s not a necessarily bad, just a bit weird because a lot of VNs avoid that and only show the main character in special occasions or to use it as a plot point.
As a game with sound in the name, one would expect a certain level of quality or amount of focus on that element. With Sound of Drop, the game continues to impress as it definitely delivers in the quality department, with one of my favorite soundtracks from a VN that i’ve heard in a long time. No seriously, Sound of Drop has a great soundtrack, with it’s extremely atmospheric and moody tracks that get you absorbed into the game and are a joy to listen to, bringing the game up to another level in enjoyment. The usage of the tracks and effects are great as well, and everything melts together to make a great package that compliments every element of the game. That being said, some people may be bummed that there is no voice acting, but I wasn’t bothered by it and the music experience was still great regardless.
As you can tell from this review, the experience has it’s ups and downs. Yes, the work is extremely flawed, with a story that frustrates and suffers because of it’s poor flow, but it’s not that bad of an experience because it nails the atmosphere, with it’s writing and presentation, keeping you engaged with the game. Even with it’s flaws, playing this game, and being in this world is really a pleasurable experience: Tension is high, the world is beautiful, everything blends together to make this a believable world, etc, I quite enjoyed my time with it.
It also does a lot of the little things right to keep the player enjoying the work. Take for example, this bad end screen:
How can you say no to this adorable Bad End screen? I love the bad end screens in this game, as it makes running into bad ends satisfying at times even though the act of doing so can be rather frustrating. There’s a lot of small things like this keep the game enjoyable, and all of this helps to make the experience great.
Also, the changes with NG+ were absolutely amazing, being touching, tense, engaging and made for a great experience. Just for that I’d recommend the game as it makes the experience worthwhile.
Sound of Drop - fall into poison is a flawed game that has traits that are normally game breakers, but manages to do other things like having a great sense of tension in it’s atmosphere to keep it an engaging and enjoyable experience. Even with it’s flaws though, I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone as it’s a horror game that’s moving and engaging, one that is definitely worthwhile to play and doesn’t deserve being overshadowed by others like it is.
Overall - 8/10, Polarization +.5, -1
Disclaimer: This copy of the game was provided by Sekai Project for the purpose of review. Also, Under Title 17, Section 107 of United States Copyright law, reviews are protected under fair use. This is a review, and as such, all media used in this review is used for the sole purpose of review and commentary under the terms of fair use. All footage, music and images belong to the respective companies.