When you look at your typical visual novels you’ll almost always find yourself in a position where you’ll have to woe a number of characters through a series of choices. There are some very good ones out there with some deep and engaging stories yes, but there’s always that romance scenario buried deep within it. That’s why Sound of Drop – fall into poison – is such a breath of fresh air. It swaps out the typical approach and instead delivers an immensely creepy, horror story that takes place in the scariest of all places…an aquarium.
After an initially creepy ghost story we find ourselves in a typical VN environment; High school. It’s here that we’re introduced to our two main characters: our meek protagonist Mayu and her more outgoing best friend Himeno. Ghost stories are the hot topic the two are discussing. To be more precise the stories are rumours and urban myths surrounding Manten Aquarium. Rumours in which nights with full moons ghosts wander the halls, people go missing and a once closed off exhibit mysteriously reappears. With a full moon just around the corner how can the supernatural obsessed Himeno possibly resist investigating? But she’ll have to persuade our reluctant protagonist who appears to know more than she’s saying. Initially the story is slow to get going but once you hit the key turning point of the game everything moves at a good quick pace and you’ll find it hard to put down.
It’s a compelling and well written narrative creating a great sense of tension, plus it’s not afraid to delve into some really disturbing subject matter. A first playthrough of the game can last you a solid 5 hours but your chances of achieving a perfect run on the first attempt are pretty slim. There are 4 true endings to obtain only two of which are obtainable at the start. Getting the other two requires a second run where you’ll see a new prologue open up. After your first completion you may be left with some questions like what happened to a certain aquarium part-timer. These two new scenarios do well to answer those questions but as to what is considered the ‘True Ending’ that’s more open for the players to decide. No matter which final route you wind up getting the conclusions are all very satisfying and while the death scenarios are bleak they are an interesting read.
Surprisingly Sound of Drop offers the player a large amount of choices but more surprisingly is the fact there are 31 possible ending scenarios. Of course not all of these choices end very well for our protagonist, 27 endings actually result in Mayu or the surrounding cast dying a in a series of imaginative ways. While there’s no CG artwork depicting these gruesome deaths the written narrative can get very graphic at times. The description of being crushed by three Orcas is certainly something I won’t forget in a hurry. Thankfully you’re given plenty of opportunity to save your game before making your final decisions so you can go back and rectify your mistakes. No matter how in depth the killings may get you always find yourself coming back as you start to grow an attachment for the characters. Some start off a bit flat but all the cast members are gradually developed and you actively search out brighter conclusions to their dire situation.
The choices you are presented can split into two colours Blue and Red. Blue choices occasionally direct the player along a certain path like do you go with a certain character or stay put. Mostly though they appear to have very little effect outside of a few differences in dialogue. Red choices are the ones that crop up more often and they’re the ones that indicate a death scenario is listed. One of the choices for example asks if you should run or stay put when poisonous jelly fish have smashed out of their tanks and are slowly moving towards you over a wet floor. Four of the paths then are true endings but achieving one of them requires a combination of both types. With so many choices there is a great amount of replayability and you will find yourself going back for more whether you want to find all the answers, or you’re just a little curious about what could possibly go wrong in that life or death situation.
The art style is sadly a little lacking. Characters are all rather generic and besides facial expression they only have the one static pose, so it’s not much to look at. The CG artwork on the other hand looks excellent and there’s a decent amount of it. While there’s nothing gory you do get some really creepy and disturbing scenes. The soundtrack is decent enough and the perfectly setup the tone of the game with some fantastic eerie pieces. However it is disappointing that there is no voice acting whatsoever as you feel this story could really have benefited with it.
For anyone looking for a different sort of horror experience then you won’t be disappointed with Sound of Drop – fall into poison –. Using only a series of interesting artwork, an eerie soundtrack and a string of text it’s surprising just how much it can put players on edge and disturb them. It’s a shame that there’s no voice acting included as it really could have added something to the overall experience. Of course this is a choice based visual novel and not going to appeal to everyone. Avoiding the typical VN romance tropes with a unique horror approach makes this a quality product and highlight in the genre.
This review is based off a review code of Sound of Drop – fall into poison – provided by Sekai Project.
This review was originally published on the site GamersFTW which unfortunately has now been taken down. It’s been published on my personal blog, DanielVaughanReviews, out of respect for the developers/publishers that were kind enough to give me review copy of their game.