Dordogne Review

Dordogne Header

Mimi doesn’t remember. Somewhere in the past she’s lost all memory of everything before her thirteenth birthday, but with her grandmother Nora passing away, leaving her a box of memories, she’s determined to find out what they all mean. Her father Fabrice isn’t supportive – he hated his mother – but Mimi needs to know.

Whatever I was expecting from Dordogne, it wasn’t this. The poignant family drama interlaced with mystery has a Studio Ghibli-esque feel to it, one that’s only amplified by Mimi’s arrival at her late grandmother’s home. The mysterious secluded drive might as well be the trail that Chihiro finds herself on in Spirited Away, albeit switching the countryside of Japan for rural France, and while there’s not the same fantastical elements to this story, it is one of discovery and growth.

You manually interact with the world in Dordogne. Everything has to be grasped, lifted, turned and pulled, giving your actions a realism and weight that you wouldn’t have simply by pressing a button. It’s fundamentally a point-and-click game, but it feels… different, especially if you’re playing on console. There’s some lovely moments, like rediscovering a polaroid camera and setting it up, that carry genuine sensations of touch, and it’s a remarkable feat that lends the game a tenderness and realism that’s hugely affecting.

Dordogne Mimi

Mimi, of course, does start to remember, and begins to piece together her memory of her grandmother, the house and the region in France that lends the game its name. As you remember, you’re thrust into the past, taking you to 1982 and becoming a young girl once more who’s unwillingly been left for the summer with her grandmother.

Many of the things that Mimi learns come through letters and missives, drawing in her grandparents, parents and members of the Dordogne community, all of which build a picture of this family’s lives. I’m not that much younger than the character of Mimi, and the push and pull of family arguments, friendly squabbles and desperately sad fallouts has an authenticity that’s hugely close to that of my own family. It felt like this game was talking specifically to me, stirring up my own memories alongside Mimi’s. The truth is that our older relatives are real, flawed people, and that never really settles into your mind. Dordogne has a way of making you remember that, but through a gentle lens rather than a painful one.

My own grandfather was a firm, formal and slightly frightening man, but one that had the capacity for love and gentleness. Similarly, Mimi’s grandmother Nora is painted as being an older relative that doesn’t quite know what to do with a precocious and bored young child, but who undoubtedly cares for them. One line in particular, “I could tell she was trying to be nice” really struck home for me, and Dordogne is littered with that kind of mature emotive storytelling. As they set to repairing a damaged kayak I was taken back to a summer building a tent in my grandparent’s garden, and while it’s Mimi’s memories that you’re awakening, chances are you’ll stir up some of your own.

Dordogne Polaroid Camer

Playing Dordogne is like playing a watercolour painting. The hand-painted visuals are beautiful, bringing the world into vivid relief, wrapping around 3D structures and the central characters in an endearingly enigmatic way. Their gentle strokes and faded edges are reflective of Mimi’s own slightly fuzzy recollections, and they lend the tale an understated and tender beauty that’s simply unforgettable.

Dordogne’s visuals are matched by a soundtrack that mixes synth-laden sci-fi with French jazz, providing a laid-back and suitably ethereal quality to Mimi’s freshly stirred memories. The entire experience evokes both the past and the future, and it’s serenely satisfying to shuffle through the different recollections, building up a clear picture of the family’s past on your way to the game’s heartfelt conclusion.

Summary
Dordogne is a delight. A picturesque and poignant journey that will touch your memories and your heart in equal measure.
Good
  • Thoughtful and touching
  • Great artsyle
  • Enjoyable gameplay
Bad
  • Occasionally a little clunky
8
Written by
TSA's Reviews Editor - a hoarder of headsets who regularly argues that the Sega Saturn was the best console ever released.