by Jed Pressgrove
Dominique Pamplemousse in “It’s All Over Once the Fat Lady Sings!” encourages political correctness from those in the know, not empathy and understanding. As the Independent Games Festival awards get closer, game critics make sure that nominees like Dominique Pamplemousse receive enough hype not only to legitimize the IGF competition but also to trumpet their sensitivity to genderqueer folk. Meanwhile, the ignorant remain ignorant and perhaps even indignant.
Developer Deidra Kiai should be commended for the work and risks involved in the creation of a point-and-click musical. Almost everything, including the claymation and singing, was done by Kiai, though the game’s presentation sometimes suffers from a lack of comedic timing. Dominique Pamplemousse also admirably forgoes the process featured in adventures like The Shivah. For example, you instantly move from location to location, so there’s no silly map to speak of.
The game’s cynicism, however, nearly eliminates its technical and creative charm. The pretense of being “about gender and the economy” is suited for headlines rather than gamer consensus. The first mistake is making genderqueerness a bad punchline. As a protagonist, Dominique Pamplemousse doesn’t reveal anything insightful about gender; the character is merely an annoyed victim whose complaints fail to articulate what the choir (self-congratulatory critics) already knows. To some people who don’t mind the choice of a men’s or women’s restroom, Dominique might come across as a weird joke. One could attack people for this perspective, but the game fulfills dismissive attitudes on both sides as opposed to shedding light on the limitations of binary thinking about gender.
Domininque Pamplemousse also wants pity for the struggling working class, but its cynical approach lacks perspective. Economic deprivation is portrayed as a given, not a result of complex environmental and social factors. The story implies that the protagonist could have been economically secure if a college idea hadn’t been stolen, but the game’s usage of Auto-Tune singing is depressingly pathetic, whether as a joke, plot device, or commentary on identity. The game’s two endings deliver the ultimate bleak message that morality and happiness are impossible to maintain in tough times — just more sentimentality for a spoiled American society that confuses the Great Recession with the Great Depression.
While Dominique Pamplemousse has its endearing moments (such as the bagpipes joke and the ending credits sequence), all of its cynicism adds up to a plea for pity, a surefire way to kill laughter and prevent catharsis. The game lacks the hope and dreams of Grand Titons and keeps many in the dark about social realities that aren’t going to be obvious to everyone.