GAME NAME: Dominique Pamplemousse in “It’s All Over Once The Fat Lady Sings!”
DEVELOPER(S): Deirdra Kiai Productions
PUBLISHER(S): Deirdra Kiai Productions
PLATFORM(S): Steam (PC, Mac)
GENRE(S): Adventure, Indie, Experimental, Musical
RELEASE DATE(S): March 11th, 2014
The use of claymation and stop motion in games is nothing new, especially in the point-n-click adventure genre. The wacky Neverhood is often considered one of the most creative games ever made, while more recently we were treated to the wonderfully sublime Dream Machine. With this in mind, can newcomer Dominique Pamplemousse bring anything new to the table?
The battle of the sexless
The game stars the titular character whose gender (despite what you may be thinking) is left ambiguous. Dominique Pamplemousse is a detective woefully behind on the rent, when a case miraculously shows up that promises to keep the landlord at bay just a little while longer. The case in question is brought to Dominique by none other than the CEO of a record company who is trying to find a missing singer. With no other choice available, our hero readily accepts and the journey begins.
From here, the game wanders into familiar point-n-click territory, though it is of the considerably more shallow variety. Players spend much of the game opening up and clicking on dialogue trees and figuring out the exact order of their statements. There is little in the way of difficulty, as often you are almost blatantly told what course of action to take next. Dissecting the environment, clicking on hidden objects and keeping an eye out for visual clues is kept to such a bare minimum that it’s almost non-existent. The ultra-simplistic lack of challenge is a bit disappointing, but this game’s intent seems focused more on being an artistic statement that fully utilizing a trusted gaming mechanic. Can that alone sustain it?
Going for a song
The title makes a few topical statements regarding gender identity, the music industry and broader acceptance. Dominique’s struggle to battle social norms and overcome the other character’s preconceptions is a frequent topic, though the story doesn’t take itself too seriously. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a political or socially-conscious game, either; it’s more along the lines of a cartoon’ish romp which goes out of its way to be as ridiculous as possible.
In addition, almost everything is black and white. The clay models are portrayed as crudely simple and grotesque, with only the most basic of animation. There is an underlying cabaret-style music theme, along with vinyl noise, that gives the game the feeling of a 1920’s puppet show. This, juxtaposed with modern topics, make for a very absurd experience indeed.
But what really sets the absurdity soaring is how the characters frequently break out into song. Musicals are a mixed bag and you either love them or hate them, but honestly, the singing in Dominique Pamplemousse is just dreadful. It’s very likely that its done deliberately, particularly when you take into account the fact that the game mentions the use of autotune, but it just ends up making the game unbearable. The whole concept of badly-constructed clay characters singing off-key about social issues is definitely amusing, at least the first time you hear it, but the laughs aren’t worth the torture your poor ears will have to endure.
Feat of clay
Running at a little over an hour and a half, this is a very short game that never quite hits the mark in the brief time you have with it. It’s easy to say that Dominique Pamplemousse is a work of art and that any criticism levelled against it is just a case of “not getting it”, but that’s not what we have here. It addresses social issues, but it’s not profound. There’s a laugh or two to be had, but it’s not a comedy. The characters have their issues, but it’s not a drama. And, most important of all, it attempts to be both a game and an artistic statement but succeeds at neither.
Does this game come recommended? I’ll have to say no. It’s so preoccupied with pointless absurdism that it never reaches its goals. I’m all for experimentation in games, but the sad truth is that not all experiments work out, and Dominique Pamplemousse is one such example. Give this one a miss, folks.