Developer: aeuio Kompany
Publisher: Sekai Project
# of Players: 1
ESRB Rating: N/A
Score: A- 90%
While it starts out somewhat slowly, Sound of Drop: – fall into poison – ends up a strong cup of horror thanks to some unsettling imagery and about 30 endings to uncover, most of them bad. When junior high schoolgirls Mayu and Himeno decide to find out if Manten Aquarium is indeed hiding a ghastly urban legend, they get more that they bargained for when they decide to investigate something fishy during a full moon. In true visual novel fashion, the plot is a few wordy hours of text packed to the gills with exposition and splashes of humor. Once it dives into horror, things take a successful turn for the weird and creepy, working quite well enough to keep you hooked in for the long haul.
Thankfully, the game shies away from some of the common trappings of many mature visual novels such as “romance” angles and gratuitous underwear shots. The game’s dive into horror comes off much better without those fan service distractions and with close to 30 bad endings and four “good” ones to discover, the replay value is off the scales. Even if you manage to get every possible ending, the experience of playing the story out and seeing all the horrific fates that befall poor Mayu and some of the people she meets will cling to your brain like an ancient barnacle.
As noted, the game unfolds slowly at the start with Mayu and Himeno doing a bunch of silly to serious chatting as they plan their ill-fated excursion to Manten. While you can skip through entire dialog sections early on, letting the mundane elements of the plot settle in makes the coming terror all the more powerful. As you explore the aquarium, you’ll come across a few visitors that you interact with via dialog choice options. Some characters can’t be interacted with the first time you meet them while others offer the choice soon after you start talking with them. Your choices here and elsewhere affect the game in a few ways. Decide to get an escort around the aquarium and the game heads in a different direction for a short time. Decide to not get that escort and the two girls are on their own for a bit and the game continues without missing a beat.
That big slide into horror mode is excellently written and like the other leads into the bad endings you’ll discover, does an excellent job of freezing your blood up good. The first time the game offers you up the choice of whether to go back through a door you just walked through rather than press on into what seems to be certain death is probably the moment where a lot of players will get their first taste of well-written death. But there’s certainly more where that came from no matter how far your footsteps take you. Thankfully, you have 150 save slots to make use of plus an auto-save function. Saving before any decision is a good thing unless you don’t mind replaying the game from the beginning or an earlier save. For my purposes, I went through the gamer once as if I was reading a book (not saving before choices) and a second time as if playing a choose your own adventure novel, saving at key moments in order to replay and choose another path.
The manga art is quite good as is the game’s soundtrack and of course, there’s an option to remove the minimal interface just to pore over every detail in the art. While there are some very mildly disgusting images to peruse, the game relies a lot more on the writing to describe the gory details and your brain to fill in the rest. That said, the description of a drowning here, a melting character there and other fates better left unsaid will really get under your skin. At least the BAD END still screens offer a slight bit of comic relief to the proceedings. The relentless sense of dread that the game takes on after a certain point almost makes one too freaked out to go on. But there’s also a curiousness that floods the room because you just have to see what happens to poor Mayu as she takes one step closer to another awful demise.
If you’re new to the visual novel scene and love horror-related tales, don’t let the initially cute look and mostly teenage cast fool you. Sound of Drop -fall into poison- ends up as a fantastic and unsettling game that’s one of the better pure horror titles of 2015. Take a trip to Manten Aquarium where the human-faced fish and other freakish attractions await. You may or may not survive, but what’s a little BAD END among friends if you can come up for air in the real world afterward unscathed?