Dordogne is a beautiful watercolor adventure about lost memories | Digital Trends

I hated Cape Cod as a kid. My parents often spent most of the summer there, which meant I did too until I was old enough to be left on my own. My frustrations with that routine came to a head one year when my parents said we were going to spend a full month on the Cape. I protested, saying I didn’t want to waste so much of my summer away from my friends, but my requests were denied. I remember the discussions clearly, but completely blocked the actual month I spent there. It’s a memory lost in my most formative years.

Dordogne – Launch Trailer

I think back to that experience as I begin Dordogne, a newly released game published by Focus Interactive. The four-hour indie focuses on Mimi, a woman on a mission to unlock some childhood memories lost after her grandmother’s death. In an effort to fill these gaps, she returns to her grandmother’s house in France, a place where Mimi was forced to spend a summer away from her friends. This kicks off a poignant, thoughtful, and sometimes painful coming-of-age story presented in a gorgeous watercolor art style that transforms each frame into a painting of its own.

Summer in the Dordogne

Dordogne joins a small but growing roster of narrative adventure games about an adult reflecting on their family history by returning to the homes of loved ones. It is structurally similar to the last few years Hindsight, as Mimi brings up memories of the past by discovering objects from her childhood, but thematically goes in a very different direction. While Hindsight was centered on pain, Dordogne it is more about the multiple lives that people, places and objects live.

That idea is reflected in a story that follows both Mimis’s past and present. It begins with an adult Mimi exploring her grandmother’s old house as she tries to find something specific that might make sense of her lost memories of her. Each time she finds a familiar object, the story returns to her summers in the Dordogne. As a child during my Cape Cod days, Mimi is initially angry at her arrangement as her father forces her to stay with her grandmother for the summer. The more time she spends in the Dordogne, however, the more she begins to reclaim her independence through her childhood adventures.

Interactive focus

Dordogne keeps its gameplay simple, focusing on playful interactions that build my physical relationship with objects from Mimis’s past. In her present, Mimi finds a kayak in a cave that unlocks a certain memory. Later, I get to see her origin in a flashback where she patch her holes and paint it with my grandmother through tactile interactions. Its simple but effective gameplay; I feel memories of Mimi, which bring me closer to her story.

This is pushed further with Dordognes journaling system, which further heightens my senses. Throughout the story, young Mimi collects stickers, takes pictures with a Polaroid camera, and records audio snippets. At the end of each chapter, I’m tasked with creating a journal page using those items, as well as creating a short poem using words I’ve selected in the dialogue sections or found during my adventures (not unlike this year’s Season: a letter to the future). Each page is a living memory, my personal abstraction of both Mimis and my emotions during these formative moments.

Although what stands out most of all is DordogneIt is a gorgeous hand painted watercolor art. It’s not just a pretty artistic gimmick that helps it stand out in a sea of ‚Äč‚Äčindies; it’s just as central to the heart of the story as its gameplay. Each frame is like his own landscape painting you’d see hanging in a grandparents house. They are sweet and nostalgic images that capture the beauty of the French countryside while giving the experience an extra personal touch.

Interactive focus

Dordogne it is as effective as it is thanks to that handcrafted touch. I feel human hands working behind the scenes, something many games tend to hide in the name of immersion. And I’m invited to put my stamp on my journey through the diary pages I assemble and the memories I play a role in shaping with my fingers. It all makes the mechanical nature of video games feel more human, as I’m physically connected to Mimi throughout the short adventure. The more he discovers memories of her, the more determined I am to dig into my past and find out what I left behind on that fateful Cape Cod vacation that has been repressed for so long. Perhaps there is something painful that I have intentionally blocked. Maybe I’m burying something beautiful that shaped my childhood. As I learn from Mimis’ story, both are important to remember.

Dordogne is available now on PlayStation 4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch and PC. It’s also available on Xbox Game Pass for PC, console, and the cloud.

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