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Dordogne review

Dordogne Review – One of The Most Beautiful Games You’ll Ever Play

Short but bittersweet, we’re so, so glad we spent a few afternoons with Dordogne, a stunning narrative adventure from Umanimation and Focus Entertainment. It tells the story of Mimi, cutting between her present day as a grown-up and the summer she spent with her grandma in Dordogne as a twelve year old.

Comparable to something like Season or What Remains of Edith Finch, Dordogne is not a game you play for the action. This slow-burning game tells a small, human tale about a young girl’s relationship with her grandmother – and the wider picture of their family relationships as a whole. Mimi is spending the summer with her grandmother, and it seems like it’s nobody’s first choice. She’s hurriedly dropped off by her father, and over the course of the game you’ll learn more about the chasm between Mimi’s father and her grandmother’s relationship.

As Mimi in the present day, you’ll explore her grandmother’s house, thumbing over objects and belongings that strike a memory. You see, that summer she spent with her grandmother was some twenty years ago, and as we first meet her, she’s unable to remember anything about it – or her grandmother herself. As you explore, Mimi’s memories will start to come back, and each memory brings a flashback that puts us in control of a younger, 12 year old Mimi.

Dordogne review

The majority of the game is spent in Mimi’s childhood, where you’ll explore the house, a nearby river and the market town. With everything animated in Dordogne’s gorgeous, painterly style, each location is absolutely stunning, a work of art in its own right. Kayaking down the river takes much longer than it should as you’ll feel compelled to take screenshots at every turn. You can pull out Mimi’s in-game camera occasionally, too, allowing you to frame up the perfect shot.

Related: 20 Best Story-Driven Games on PS4 and PS5

The photos you take this way can be used to create pages in Mimi’s scrapbook, where you’ll also place stickers you’ve collected and create poetry based on words that Mimi has found as you’ve moved through the game. Some words you’ll be given automatically, but others can be picked up by exploring a little. There’s not a great deal of poking around to do in Dordogne, as its areas are rather small, but there’s the odd bit of extra flavour you can gather by exploring as much as you can. The poems that you can put together offer a nice way to interact with Mimi and experience her feelings: whether good or bad, the poetry becomes a unique outlet for them.

Words aren’t the only thing you can gather by poking around the odd nooks and crannies of Dordogne. You can also pick up letters, and these become one of the best ways to fully appreciate the game’s narrative. The letters, to and from different people, provide greater insight into the lives of her grandparents, their relationship with their son, and other relationships around that. A key part of Dordogne’s narrative in its second half revolves around Mimi’s friendship with a local boy – but if you haven’t found some of the letters, you’ll miss some important context.

Dordogne review

The letters aren’t exactly hidden, but it’s a shame they’re not automatically provided since their contents are so important. If you do miss some, you’re likely going to be missing out on fully connecting with Mimi’s story, which is a real shame.

It’s not the only misstep that Dordogne takes: we’re also not enamoured with some of the mindless tasks it has you complete. Brushing Mimi’s teeth, for example, requires moving Mimi’s hands to the toothbrush and toothpaste using both thumbsticks, then moving them side to side to replicate a brushing movement. Same too goes pouring a cup of tea and preparing a bowl of cereal: every step needs to be manually completed. It’s laborious and adds nothing to the experience, other than padding it out somewhat. We’d have rather spent more time exploring Dordogne’s gorgeous world.

Dordogne’s unique selling point is undoubtedly its art style. It truly is beautiful – perhaps one of the most gorgeously animated games we’ve had the pleasure to play, even. And yes, the visuals alone are almost enough to carry the game. Despite the odd misstep, though, we did thoroughly enjoy the story and came to care for Mimi and her grandmother – as brief as our time with them was. It’s small, it’s quaint, but it’s touching – and it’s one of those special games that reminds you life is precious, fleeting and nothing should be taken for granted.

Dordogne Review – GameSpew’s Score

This review of Dordogne is based on the PS5 version of the game, via a code provided by the publisher. It’s available on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Switch and PC.

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