Despite her father’s protests, a determined Mimi travels to the scenic French Dordogne countryside to find a missing piece of herself. She awaits her recently deceased grandmother’s quaint home, which will soon be sold, as well as treasured childhood memories that Mimi inexplicably has no memory of. How could she forget something so precious, as well as the circumstances behind the difficult relationship between her father and her grandparents? It was the hooks that propelled me through this enjoyable and beautifully animated adventure game. Although not mechanically dense or close to challenging, I enjoyed this relaxing French getaway.
As Mimi inspects her grandmother Nora’s house and the surrounding grounds for clues, I engage in quirky interactions that add a playful twist to otherwise mundane actions. Instead of pointing and clicking at objects, I insert and rotate keys to open doors, tilt a box to pour cereal into a bowl (and all over the kitchen table), and wave my hands in shape puppet above silverware to retrieve them from a river bed. One of the most creative sequences involved throwing greeting bubbles over a cliff to convey shouts to a distant friend. I love that the Dordogne regularly finds small but fresh spins on how you engage with its world. Using the small, mouse-style cursor to perform these actions naturally feels more awkward with a controller, and it easily gets lost among colorful, busy backgrounds, but it gets the job done.
Almost all of these unique interactions are performed by a 12-year-old Mimi, who players control during numerous flashback sequences weaving the story of her summer vacation with Nora. She documents her stay by taking photos, capturing sound effects using a tape recorder, and collecting stickers, tapes, and giant dream words scattered throughout the levels. The endgame to complete these tasks is to fill the pages of a scrapbook by forming simple poems from collected words and arranging photos and stickers. Other than satisfying an innate desire to clean chapters of their allotted collectibles (and, sadly, you can’t replay chapters to find the missing ones), making these scrap pages offers no tangible rewards other than small pleasure to express myself in a way.
Playing the Dordogne is good, but watching it is even better. With beautiful watercolor art direction, each scene feels like an interactive tour of an artist’s gallery; you can actually see the brush strokes. The framing of some scenes makes them look great as static images, but odd angles sometimes make it hard to discern footpaths; expect to bump into bushes and stairs until you find the way forward. The character models have similar visual appeal, and combined with the beautiful soundtrack, Dordogne is like a charming French indie art film come to life.
As a coming-of-age story set mostly in the early 80s (Mimi’s adult sequences occur in 2002), Dordogne hits the right notes of being whimsical enough for kids but with enough overtones. dark and mature discussions to give it bite for adults. I felt warm and fuzzy watching Mimi and Nora bond over simple pleasures like fixing a broken kayak or having a picnic by the river. The darker backstory edges involving Mimi’s family add intrigue that feels decently rewarded in the end. However, more clarification on vague topics, such as the cause of Mimi’s father’s lifelong resentment towards her parents, would have been nice. The story also relies heavily on players locating easy-to-miss collectible letters that provide crucial context and backstory to critical events.
As someone who takes real pleasure in admiring beautiful paintings, the Dordogne ups the ante by letting me creatively interact with her magnificent art. Even better, it layers a largely enjoyable story. Like Mimi and Nora’s relationship, there are obstacles to overcome, but good times await those who are willing to overcome them.