Out today on the Nintendo Switch, Dry Drowning is a noir set in the not too distant future of Nova Polemos. You play ‘down on his luck’ P.I. Mordred Foley (no relation to Axel) and his pursuit of an elusive serial killer.
Johnny Public as a strange fascination with serial killers. It is not that they aspire to be one, but intrigued by the actions of someone they would (hopefully) never emulate. That doesn’t stop the countless books sold, documentaries and affiliated murder shows.
Dry Drowning caters to that niche a little as you’re on the hunt for the serial killer, Pandora, a perp you’ve had dealing with in the past, and with a name like Mordred Foley, you’re the only one for the job.
Dry Drowning Switch Review
I don’t share that same sentiment on serial killers, but I love a good story, especially a game where I get to play an incarnation of Rick Deckard, even if he has a penchant for smoking. Not judging, but in today’s society, he’s qualified as an anti-hero.
In case you know diddly squat about this Dry Drowning Switch review, it’s a visual novel. So, despite drawing comparisons with Deckard, this isn’t a spiritual successor to Westwood Studio’s Blade Runner.
This gritty dystopian noir from Studio V and VLG Publishing shares that same bleak future where the powers that be have far too much power. They watch every move of their citizens and shape them however they see fit.
It’s a little like the concepts in Liberated Enhanced Edition, notably the surveillance, but these corrupt figures tap that much further into the psyche with a dedicated platform called AquaOS – the intermediary network that everybody in the future city of Nova Polemos uses.
When we join Foley, he’s scraping the barrel a little. In the devastation caused, he managed to get two innocent people sentenced for the murders and recently been acquitted of planting evidence. Because of this, he’s not held in high regard with the city, notably the police. But they never like P.I.s.
With his own agency and a partner to accompany him on the non-existing cases, a high profile job suddenly hits his desk where a politician is being pinned for murder. In short, the murders they are being accused of are connected to the same serial killer that put Foley in this predicament: Pandora.
Though a visual novel, you do have a bit of say in how the game is played out, and it’s not all on rails. The key mechanic to the game is to gather evidence and come to conclusions using interrogation techniques.
There’s a wealth of characters to meet and greet along the way. As the story in Dry Drowning gains a bit of momentum, you start to dust off the cobwebs to a rather extensive network of deceit, manipulation and general dastardliness.
Book ‘Em, Foley
But you can’t troll around town making unfounded allegations, therefore delve deep into rhetoric with whomever you encounter. There are walls of texts at times, it’s required of the storytelling, and despite a few missed beats and janky wording, it’s often engaging and projects a rather enjoyable atmosphere, if a bleak one.
It is for this reason that you have to be in the mood for Dry Drowning. That’s not a slur on the game’s quality, but it requires concentration to follow the train of thought. If you’re the type that doesn’t like reading in a game, you’ll be barking up the wrong tree on this one. For everyone else, it’s often a rewarding experience.
Take, for example, the interactions with the NPCs. Foley has this uncanny ability to see right through people and the masks they wear. Here, quite literally, as when the dialogue opens up and unlock further clues, characters will don an animal mask/characteristic that only Foley sees. There’s also a nice use of Greek mythology woven into the story.
Additionally, through these conversations, anything of importance related to your investigations will be represented with an exclamation mark, meaning you need to go down that rabbit hole for some resolutions. Still, I encourage you to exhaust all options as it’s the nature of the game and offers more depth.
Point And Tap
As hinted at, there’s a bit more on offer regarding interactivity compared to the typical visual novel. Due to Foley’s vocational choice, you do indeed inspect multiple scenes looking for clues and items. It’s not too tricky to locate points of interest on the Switch’s screen real estate due to the on-screen indicators when near an object.
Like a traditional point and click, you can draw upon your inventory to inspect items, gather evidence, then use this against an NPC to accuse them of something – even if it’s hiding some details. You aren’t trying to send everyone down. This isn’t The Bill. Ask your nan.
Foley’s partner, Hera Kairis, is a good companion, not just for the banter, but as a moral compass too. I’m pleased to say that there will be consequences with some of your actions, and Kairis will share those same insecurities you may experience when throwing the odd person under the bus. Figuratively.
These, while not affecting the outcome massively, were a good addition. Dry Drowning does lose its way a little towards the end. It’s not that it feels like a rushed conclusion, but a few too many M. Night Shyamalan obvious twists chucked in. Regardless, it’s an engaging experience if you can disregard a few gameplay decisions along the way.
Dry Drowning Switch Review Summary
Undoubtedly the key ingredient for a decent visual novel is the story and/or the characters. Dry Drowning has those hallmarks for an engaging experience, complemented by the excellent soundtrack and subtle art style. Sure, there’s quite a bit of ambiguity, but I liked that it was open to interpretation.