This first entry in my Objective Game Review series is a tough one. Not only was I an IndieGoGo backer of Dominique Pamplemousse in “It’s All Over Once The Fat Lady Sings!”, but I consider Deirdra “Squinky” Kiai, the designer, a dear friend. We have attended cons together - both consumerist and professional. Deirdra has stayed at my house upon multiple occasions. We have shared meals, watched movies and many, many episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer together. If none of that were enough, my wife and my poodles adore Deirdra as well, which is certinaly impacting my ability to subjectively consume her work.
Furthermore, from a professional standpoint, Deirdra has designed one of my all time favorite dialog-driven games, Pigeons in the Park (which can be downloaded for free from Deirdra’s site).
However, all this personal bias aside, I will do my best to fairly and objectively assess the merits and faults of Dominique Pamplemousse in “It’s All Over Once The Fat Lady Sings!”, which I will now abbreviate as Pamplemousse for the remainder of the review.
Pamplemousse can be purchased for Windows or Mac via the game’s website or its Humble Bundle storefront. It costs $4.99 USD, which includes a direct download of the game and a Steam key. The game site also hosts an online Flash demo of the game and a link to the Apple App Store so you can purchase it for iOS, also for $4.99.
Due to my IndieGoGo patronage, I have access to both the iOS and the OSX versions of Pamplemousse. The game takes up 86 MB of space on my OS X hard drive via a Steam install. The iOS download is 57.8 MB.
According to the official website, Pamplemousse was an IGF Grand Prize Nominee in the Seumas McNally Grand Prize, Nuovo, Narrative, and Audio categories. It also claims to have been an IndieCade 2013 Selection. Both of these claims are substantiated by the most casual of inspections of the IGF and IndieCade websites.
Deirdra describes the games as, “is a unique and offbeat stop motion animated detective adventure game about gender and the economy. Also, all the characters frequently burst into song.”
It should be noted that unique and offbeat are words used to describe a subjective experience of a person or media and therefore should be regarded with the utmost skepticism. The above screenshot, however, seems to uphold the contention that the game is stop motion animated and at least references gender once. I am able to inform you that this is not a doctored screen shot, but I have seen it first-hand within the game itself. To say more about my experience of the game’s themes would, of course, stray into the realm of subjectivity, so I will refrain.
Deirdra also claims to have modeled, rigged, and animated all of the game’s characters, as well as written and performed all of the music. I was not present during the game’s creation and have no means of verifying whether this is true. Perhaps if the truly-objective style of game review catches on, I will be able to afford to pay people close to developers for information in order to better ascertain the veracity of their development claims.
Unfortunately, I have played Pamplemousse and will therefore be unable to write about the quality of the animation, music, performances, or gameplay, as I have strong and highly subjective opinions about them. I have based these opinions on over 30 years of playing video games across numerous platforms including OSX and iOS (the most relevant to my experience of Pamplemousse), 44 years of reading, including mysteries and texts about gender and the economy, as well as nearly 47 years of listening to music including show tunes and opera, and 44 years or so of watching animated films, including the stop motion works of Rankin/Bass and The Brother’s Quay.
It is important to note that even my selection of comparative examples above is on thin ice, objectively speaking. By drawing comparisons between playing Pamplemousse to past media experiences - even when doing so to prove I am unable to be objective - I am leading you to make certain conclusions about the game that are ultimately based on my own subjectivity.
I know it must be tedious to read disclaimers containing such obvious statements as the above paragraph contains, but this is a new form of critique and we must therefore be as clear as possible.
In an effort to better communicate the quality of Pamplemousse, I reached out to the designer for further information. It should be noted that - due to the inherently subjective nature of human beings - my questions may have been open to some interpretations and therefore Deirdra’s responses to my questions should be regarded with a healthy amount of suspicion. However, according to Deirdra, here are some objective facts about Pamplemousse:
- 5,926 lines of code
- 10,266 words in the script
- 211 art assets
- 385MB of art (uncompressed)
- 3.63GB of music (uncompressed)
- 1.73GB of spoken dialogue (uncompressed)
- 1MB of miscellaneous SFX (uncompressed)
- 42 minutes of “Director’s Cut” soundtrack
It is difficult to assess much about this without comparison data from similar games - which I have not yet acquired due to the newness of this review format - but some things appear to be quite clear. For example, the size of the (uncompressed) music files is significantly larger than the size of the (uncompressed) miscellaneous SFX files. What is not clear, however, is what method of compression these files have been treated to before inclusion with the game. Was the quality of the music compromised due to the compression of a lossy and inferior file format, or were the files themselves merely compressed for distribution? What was the original sample rate of the music? What sort of equipment was used to record the live performances? The answers to all of these questions would go a long way to objectively assessing the quality of the game’s audio, at least as far as an objective review can take us.
Sadly, without more exhaustive information than I - a humble and underpaid games journalist - am able to take the time to acquire, we are simply unable to objectively asses the relative merits of this game’s audio, graphics, or code. And so, I come to the end of my review. It is - by necessity - hopelessly incomplete. Should another journalist - perhaps one being paid to do true investigative journalism - wish to take up the torch and launch a deeper investigation into the design and development of this game, I welcome them to do so.
And because nothing says “objective” like a reductive numeric rating, I am including my rating of the game. Please keep in mind that all scores have been corrected to compensate for my inherent subjectivity.
- Graphics: 0 out of 5 stars
- Audio: 0 out of 5 stars
- Gameplay: 0 out of 5 stars
- Story: 0 out of 5 stars
- Overall: 0 out of 5 stars