Developer & Publisher: MDNA Games
Released: January 1, 2024
Requirements: Windows 7 or newer; Mac OS 10.12 or newer
Any remotely newer computer with 4 GB RAM and 1.7 GB available space
will run the game.
January 1 is a date that Carol Reed fans look forward to, as it means the Swedish sleuth has a new set of conundrums to solve as she gets to the bottom of whatever it is that she is currently looking into.
The last year has seen electricity prices soar, and power outages are common. One is happening right now, so there is not a whole lot that can be done until its back on, so it’s a good time to kick off her latest request for help. Erik works at a government agency and has been gathering seemingly trivial information and passing it onto an anonymous ‘client.’ He likes the money, but has started getting cold feet as the requests get more complex and start bordering on the illegal. He has turned to Carol for assistance, and a visit seems in order.
If you are one of Carol’s fans I doubt you need this review. Suffice to say that with one embellishment (Carol’s bike now indicates the exit point to most locations) it looks and feels and plays like the others. There are some puzzles utilising colour, one with musical tones, and the usual back and forth hunting and gathering, sprinkled with codes, locks and conundrums, along with some brainpower and bit of lateral thinking. You will feel at home, and I can’t imagine you won’t be pleased. Feel free to read on but what follows borrows from earlier reviews and is primarily for newbies.
Dead Drop is first person point and click, utilising photos of real people and places in and around Norrkoping in Sweden to create the game world. Click your way through the static ‘snapshots,’ moving point to point looking for items and clues in order to move on. At each point you can turn left and right, and perhaps also move forward or occasionally look/move in another direction.
It's a static though not lifeless environment, explored with the mouse. Explore carefully to find hotspots, each of which will generate a relevant icon indicating what you can do there. Often it will be to examine the item or area more closely, which might lead to you collecting the item or doing some else at that place. The directions you can turn/move will also be indicated by arrow icons. It is all very straightforward.
You will find quite a few items, and those you collect will be in the ribbon which will appear top of screen in response to the mouse. Right click to examine more closely, left click to use in the game world or to use with other items in the ribbon. Your phone and notebook (more about that in a moment) are there also.
Be prepared for items in the game to behave differently at different times, and different to other items. Let me explain.
Early on you will find an item you can pick up and take with you, just because you can. Other items behave like this, but sometimes you will get a response from Carol saying something like “not yet” and you will have to wait until you have a reason to collect that item. Other items you might be able to pick up and examine, with no indication that you might need it later, but a subsequent trigger will render it ‘live’ for collecting. And other items just look like any other piece of background detail, until a trigger renders them collectable.
Whether you consider this to be a plus or a minus will be up to you. I have tended to ebb and flow in how I feel about it across the various games. It is though part of the tapestry that is Carol’s world.
You should also be prepared to go back and forth between the various locations, by both design and in search of things you might have missed. Things you need (and don’t know you need) can be lying around almost anywhere (e.g., under a bush, on a bench, in a garbage bin and in one very strange place indeed or at least so I thought till I Googled), so it pays to explore all parts of a location thoroughly.
The space bar can assist, as it will show hotspots in the photo-scene you are currently looking at. It will also highlight the directions you can go from that particular point, and both these aspects can assist your exploration.
So too can the notebook, which is really a two-part hint system. Accessing it will give you your current objective, which will often be the location you need to be exploring. If that doesn’t get you what you need, the available hint (which is more of an answer) will further assist; it might be the code you need (generally with an explanation of the reasoning), the fact that you need an item in this location that you don’t have (e.g., you will need something from location x) or the particular location of an item (e.g., its on a bench at the end of the area). Some are a little more opaque (e.g., find the painting), but I thought it worked well.
You can ignore it completely if you want, and rely on your own capacity to search meticulously, or dip into it as required to provide appropriate direction. I tended to use it to keep things moving. I don’t like aimlessly wandering and searching, so knowing where to go next when that had eluded me was welcomed.
That meticulousness might also be assisted by the map. When you exit one location you activate the map and choose where to go next. New locations appear all the time (a large icon top left of screen will appear in the game world when one is added) and old ones get dropped, but you will generally have multiple locations available to you. Choosing one might take you there, or it might elicit a comment from Carol along the lines of “not now” or “I don’t have time,” reducing the number of places you might search at that time for a way forward. It was feedback that encouraged me at times to resist the notebook.
The same sort of feedback can also assist when you have to e.g., measure all the screens in a location for one particular individual. If you try and return to that character without having found and measured them all, Carol will say “not yet," and so your measuring continues.
An additional piece of feedback involving the map is the aforementioned bike. One of the things I found slightly frustrating at times in the earlier games was finding the exit point for each location in order to get back to the map. Keep in mind that when you access a location, the arrival scene will be what you can see in front of you; if you don’t turn around before setting off, you won’t know what that location looks like when viewed from the other direction. There were times when I darted about looking for the way out, cursing my own inability to have paid sufficient attention at the start.
Now in the majority of scenes we have Carol’s bike. She leaves it where she arrives, so the exit point is immediately discernible. It might even be seen from a number of screens away, giving you something to head towards. It’s a nice touch.
Navigation did get me a bit muddled from time to time (I have though finally got the hang of Carol’s house!), but like everything, be thorough. Check whether e.g., turning to your left will indicate a new path forward, or enable you to see something new. Even big things might not be visible until you turn in that particular direction, and the hotspots only occur in the screen you are looking at. So even if you can “see” something relevant in your peripheral vision, it won’t be active until you are looking directly at it.
As the website says, this game (like all Carol’s adventures) contains no swearing or graphic violence. You can’t die, you can save at will, and it is entirely mouse driven except for the spacebar should you use that aspect. It is in English, and you can play with subtitles or without, and tweak the volume settings for speech, music and effects. I tend to turn music down low so didn’t really notice it, and the speech and sound effects are limited but perfectly fine.
When conversing with another character you don’t hear Carol speak, rather you read her side of the conversation but hear the other character’s response. You do hear Carol in voiceovers from time to time, as well as hearing her in-game feedback.
When you’re done, Carol will have achieved way more than seemed apparent when she started, including finding a missing painting and recovering a pilfered necklace. She will also have visited parts of Norrkoping not previously seen (who knew there was a giant yellow pepper on a hill?).
No doubt we will see her again next year.
I played on:
OS: Windows 10, 64 Bit
Processor: Intel i7-9700K 3.7GHz
RAM: Corsair Dominator Platinum RGB DDR4 32GB
Video card: AMD Radeon RX 580 8192MB