As a fan of musicals, and a fan of video games, I’ve always been a little bit disappointed at the video game industry’s inability to really capture the magic of stage musical structure in its narratives. Saints Row: Gat out of Hell promised to be a musical spin on the series over the top open world gameplay, but that ultimately boiled down to the game containing something like two songs, one of which was in the trailer for the game itself. Epic Mickey 2 got closer to the idea, with a decent number of its cutscenes delivered as musical numbers to drive forward its plot in between gameplay, but fell short of making the musical numbers feel truly interwoven into the rest of the game. However, around six years ago an indie game really nailed the video game musical formula, and I still find myself replaying it every couple of years.
Dominique Pamplemouse in “It’s All Over Once the Fat Lady Sings”, often simply referred to as “Dominique Pamplemousse”, is a point and click noir detective game available on PC, about a financially destitute and deliberately gender avoidant detective trying to solve a high profile case before they end up evicted from their home. Players interact with the world by clicking on items to find out more about them or interact with them, click dialogue options to learn more information from NPCs, and travel back and forth between locations looking for clues, and acting on new information.
The first thing that caught my eye when playing Dominique Pamplemousse, perhaps even before the musical elements of the game, was the practical and tangible visual design of the characters and environments. The game, which is entirely presented in black and white in a 4:3 aspect ratio, features claymation characters, interacting with environments largely made from cardboard and paper. While many of the character designs are rough and unpolished, it in many ways adds to the charm of the experience. Everything feels tangible and tactile, and the limited number of frames of animation when characters move or talk very much adds to the feeling of watching a child playing with characters they threw together out of playdough.
Each in game scene is accompanied by a distinct musical track, which constantly plays in the background while characters talk and interact with the environment. Whenever exposition needs to be delivered by a character, or a dialogue choice progresses the plot, the game will pause ever so briefly, waiting for an opening in the looping background track so that a character can break into song without the game needing to start a whole track out of thin air. This smart use of backing tracks that can support lyrical sections as they are needed helps to make the sung exposition feel more a part of the world, and less forced, which does a lot to help tie the experience together. Every character also has their own specific singing style, and their own musical genre, which help to flesh out who they are as characters without requiring additional exposition.
Dominique Pamplemousse is, by point and click adventure standards, a pretty simple game. Easily comfortable within around two hours on a first playthrough, there’s fairly few puzzles to solve, and those needing solving are largely pretty simple. For the most part, if you exhaust every character’s dialogue, asking them about each topic until you stop getting new dialogue, and click on every item you see, you shouldn’t have any trouble. If you do need help, the game is also pretty generous at providing tips on what to do next. The plot is also fairly predictable, but a lack of twists isn’t necessarily a problem when the game’s execution is so strong.
Dominique Pamplemouse is a game about its journey, not its destination. Over a few short hours it tells a story that feels real and human, with the main character growing more personally involved in the events of the mystery as it unravels. The game is currently on sale for £0.79 on Steam, and is more than worth the price of admittance for a two hour long interactive musical about a gender ambiguous detective who really just wishes they could pay their bills and relax a little.