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Dominique Pamplemousse in It's All Over Once The Fat Lady Sings! (PC) artwork

Dominique Pamplemousse in It's All Over Once The Fat Lady Sings! (PC) review

"The first game in a terribly long time - maybe ever - that I've resorted to using the mute button for."

Dominique Pamplemousse feels like a very personal game. A stop motion detective story in which characters regularly burst into song, its credits feature lone developer Deirdra Kiai singing the names of every single contributor who made a donation to the title's Indiegogo campaign. Offbeat and clearly the work of one person's uncompromised vision, it addresses social subjects that are rarely touched by any other game. I respect Dominique Pamplemousse from an objective viewpoint. As a game to play, though, I found it rather painful.

The titular Dominique Pamplemousse is a down-on-their-luck private investigator, struggling to pay rent due to a lack of business. It's fortunate, then, when a music CEO swings by one day and requests help to find a missing star singer signed up to her label. It's a dialogue-heavy game, as you might expect, but rather than talk like normal people, the characters have the tendency to often belt out their rhyming lines of dialogue - which is irritating for one major reason.

Everyone who sings sounds incredibly amateurish, with no shortage of tuning issues. It's a deliberate creative decision, taking into account the rough edges surrounding the rest of the game, but that doesn't excuse the torturous (and unskippable) voices coming out of my speakers. This is compounded by the fact that it takes away any sincerity or emotion behind the lines. Listening to the music CEO's daughter admitting that she yearns to go to university against her mother's wishes perhaps at the very least should have evoked some sympathy, but I switched off and struggled to care because the delivery was distractingly off-key. Similarly, the antagonist reveal is underwhelming. The motives make sense, but the culprit is hardly assertive or intimidating when out of tune, and as a result, I felt no urgency when it came time to make my final ending-altering decision.

Being such a prominent part of the game, this issue single-handedly ruins the experience beyond redemption. It's by no means Dominique Pamplemousse's only disappointing aspect, but you'll find it nigh-impossible to salvage anything worthwhile from this title if you're not charmed by the wretched music.

As an adventure game, it's almost as basic as you can get. In the 90 minutes it took for me to see the whole story, there were only three puzzles I can recall, and even they were a breeze. The rest of the time was spent going around town and interacting with everyone involved with the mystery. It's little more than selecting dialogue topics - sometimes in a particular order! - to learn new information about the case, and eventually exhausting all options before plot developments conveniently present themselves. The case itself has a number of small twists that keep it somewhat interesting (there's more than meets the eye behind nearly every character you encounter), but the title's handcrafted vibe prevents the stakes from ever reaching that high.

Aside from the low-budget score and off-key singing, the claymation is sloppy and lacks enough frames to appear convincing or competent. You hear success stories about how popular and great-looking independent games were developed in people's bedrooms nowadays, but Dominique Pamplemousse requires polish all over. In its current state, it comes across as more of a neat school project than a Steam release that costs a few quid. Furthermore, the monochrome look is an artistic choice but one that doesn't add to the visual style in a truly meaningful way.

The sole bright spot here is the game's attempt to tackle social issues. Dominique is gender-ambiguous, refusing to openly subscribe to gender conventions and be categorised as male or female. Despite confusing numerous characters along the way, Dominique always dodges the question about his/her gender, instead wanting to be identified as a private investigator. After all, Dominique's job is to solve the mystery at hand. The topic never dominates the story nor is written with the intention of forcing an opinion on the player; Dominique Pamplemousse is Deirdra Kiai's way of making a statement on matters close to the developer's heart, be it gender identity or the economic recession.

Yet, it's simply not a good game. Struggling through the strong number of core problems just for an insight into one person's mind ultimately didn't feel worth my time, especially given that it holds the undesirable honour of being the first game in a terribly long time - maybe ever - that I've resorted to using the mute button for. It's a fascinating project, but not an entirely successful one.

Rating: 3/10

Ben's avatar
Community review by Ben (April 12, 2014)

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EmP posted April 14, 2014:

This is one of those games I've always thought about picking up but never really retained enough interest to pull the trigger on. I suspected that the idea of an off-key musical was always going to be more appealing that the actual execution. Maybe you’ve saved me the effort – or maybe I’ll grab it anyway. I’m wonderfully unpredictable.

My flippancy, however, is all in my own making. You do a wonderful job in persuading normal people that the game’s flaws are greater than it’s sometimes worthwhile quirks. Keep rocking thems Indie reviews – we’ll corner the market between us!
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Ben posted April 16, 2014:

Thanks! Conceptually, it's an interesting game, and I do wish it turned out better.

It's ace to see indie games get coverage on here. They're creatively more appealing to me than standard retail titles at present, so the more reviews, the better!

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