- Developer: Studio V
- Publisher: Vigamus Leonardo
- Release Date: 22/02/2021
- Price: £22.49 / $24.99
- Review code provided by Vigamus Leonardo
Introducing: Dry Drowning Switch Review
I dove into the perpetual grey of Nova Polemos with Mordred Foley, a cynical and unscrupulous private detective, on the hunt for a – frankly terrifying – mythology-obsessed serial killer. I normally stick to the more sweet-and-fluffy side of video games, but Dry Drowning looked far too interesting to dodge.
Many Shades of Grey
We all know that life isn’t a case of black-and-white, but Dry Drowning takes the range of greys to a whole new level. I started off the game knowing that Foley had done something bad a few years previously, but no idea what – a quick delve into the game’s documents gave me an idea of just how grey an area I was going to be operating in. The true joy of Dry Drowning is in exploring the story as you go, so I don’t want to delve too far into it, but I was hooked from the moment the menu screen loaded.
Nova Polemos is a murky, dark, dystopian future where immigration is allowed based on people’s merits, ruled by an iron-fisted political party called the Black Bands. Corruption, violence, and elitism are the norm in this world where money and social standing equate to power, and undesirables are mercilessly eradicated.
Mordred Foley, having recently been acquitted in court, has finally returned to his office and loyal right-hand woman, Hera. They’re aware that business may be impossible, given their damaged reputation as a result of the allegations, but aren’t going to give up entirely. Surprisingly, a case lands on their desks almost immediately: a very violent murder, a blackmail plot, secret affairs and a shady politician quickly tangle into a downward spiral that has you making decisions whose impacts can’t be felt until much further down the line.
Dry Drowning is dark, and violent, and there’s more than a little swearing involved – the Mature ESRB rating is well-deserved, so bear that in mind before playing in front of more delicate eyes!
I liked the menu being in the top left corner during the majority of play, as it made it easy to figure out what I wanted to do in a scene and think about my options for moving forwards. Controls for Dry Drowning are nice and simple – advance text with A, and the left control stick to move the cursor. Things do change slightly as you move between the different components, but it’s always easy to figure out and there are a number of button prompts available.
There are three main components: conversations, investigations, and interrogations. Conversations follow the tried-and-true visual novel format, with a series of text bubbles depicting the dialogue between two or more characters and the occasional choice of topic or response. Investigations consist of moving the cursor over a scene and highlighting sections to investigate further, using a combination of the physical scene and holographic imaging to render stored data. Interrogations play similarly to conversations, but instead of responses, you are tasked with presenting evidence to either conflict a statement or answer a question.
The graphic design of Dry Drowning truly set the mood for the game. I’ve always liked black-and-white, interlaced with just a splash of colour here and there, as an aesthetic, especially when applied to the seemingly hand-painted scenes. There’s just something about the dark and almost dingy noir style that effortlessly builds tension while adding to the unnerving feeling generated by the gruesome story.
The sound design made my hair stand on end. Literally, the hairs on my arms were stood vertically. It’s moody, melancholic, and haunting, layering with the graphics to really send a chill up the spine. I freak out easily and, while I wouldn’t call the atmosphere scary exactly, I thought it hit a perfect level of unsettling for an amazing experience.
Visual novels are always smooth on the Switch it seems, and Dry Drowning is no different in that regard. Was the text a little small on the touchscreen? Yes, but that’s nothing new. Personally, I preferred playing it in docked anyway (preferably with the lights off and headphones on) as the whole experience just felt made for a decent-sized screen and a good sound system.
Elementary, My Dear Hera
Dry Drowning isn’t a difficult game. There are a few segments that require logic or sensible thinking, but for the most part, it’s simply a matter of investigating everything and asking every question. Sometimes, you’re required to present an item to an individual to advance the story, but there’s no penalty for choosing the wrong thing.
What is difficult is making certain decisions. Whenever a decision is accompanied by extra-dramatic music and a pulsating screen, you know it’s a story-altering choice to make. This can vary from how a character perceives Foley, to whether someone lives or dies. There are a number of different endings, and which one you get is determined by the critical choices you make.
My recommendation is to always go with your gut, and see how things unfold from there. If you want to aim for a specific ending, then there are guides online, but part of the intrigue of Dry Drowning is in seeing exactly where your decisions lead you.
Drowning in Darkness
Dry Drowning is an amazing experience. Everything from the dismal city-state to the awesome soundtrack has been perfectly tailored to the target atmosphere. I’m not normally a fan of dark games, but I could definitely get behind more titles like this. It highlights and exaggerates many concerns that arise even today, and paints a grim picture of what society could become if we aren’t conscious of our actions. At roughly an hour and a half per chapter, this 4-chapter adventure is thought-provoking and mentally stimulating, with a lot of unnerving sociopolitical undertones. It’s definitely not a game for those of delicate natures!
- Amazing aesthetic
- Hair-raising soundtrack
- Gruesomely fascinating story
- Hits a little too close to home!
- Takes a long time to try for different endings
- A little expensive if you’re only going to do one run.