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You should play the year’s most beautiful game on Xbox Game Pass right now

When I was a child, I hated Cape Cod. My parents would often spend a bulk of the summer there, which meant I did too — until I was old enough to be left on my own. My frustrations about 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 that I didn’t want to waste so much of my summer away from my friends, but my requests were shot down. I remember the arguments clearly, but I’ve fully blocked out the actual month I spent there. It’s a lost memory in my most formative years.

Dordogne - Launch Trailer

I flash 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 lost childhood memories after her grandmother passes away. In an attempt to fill in those gaps, she returns to her grandmother’s home in France, a place where Mimi was forced to spend a summer away from her friends. That kicks off a touching, reflective, and at times painful coming-of-age story presented in a gorgeous watercolor art style that turns every frame into a painting of its own.

Summer in Dordogne

Dordogne joins a small, but growing list of narrative adventure games about an adult reflecting on their family history by returning to a lost loved one’s home. It’s structurally similar to last year’s Hindsight, as Mimi recalls past memories by discovering objects from her childhood, but it goes in a very different direction thematically. While Hindsight was centered around grief, Dordogne is more about the multiple lives that people, places, and objects live.

That idea is reflected in a story that follows both Mimi’s past and present. It begins with an adult Mimi exploring her grandmother’s old home while trying to find something specific that might make sense of her lost memories. Every time she finds a familiar object, the story flashes back to her summers in Dordogne. Like I was as a kid during my Cape Cod days, Mimi is initially angry about her arrangement as her father forces her to stay with her grandmother for the summer. The more time she spends in Dordogne, though, the more she begins to reclaim her independence through her childhood adventures.

Mimi and Nora sit in a forest in Dordogne.
Focus Interactive

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

That’s pushed further with Dordogne’s journaling system, which heightens my senses even further. Throughout the story, young Mimi collects stickers, takes photos with a Polaroid camera, and records audio snippets. At the end of each chapter, I’m tasked with creating a journal page using those elements, as well as creating a short poem using words I’ve either selected in 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 Mimi’s and my own emotions during these formative moments.

Though what stands out most of all is Dordogne’s gorgeous, hand-painted watercolor art. It’s not just a pretty artistic gimmick that helps it stand out in a sea of indies; it’s just as fundamental to the story’s heart as its gameplay. Each frame is like its own landscape painting that you’d see hanging in a grandparents’ home. They’re gentle, nostalgic images that capture the beauty of the French countryside while giving the experience yet another personal touch.

Mimi paddles down a river in a kayak in Dordogne.
Focus Interactive

Dordogne is as effective as it is because of that handcrafted touch. I can feel the human hands working behind the scenes, something a lot of games tend to hide in the name of immersion. And I’m invited to put my own stamp on my journey through the journal pages I assemble and the memories that I have a role in shaping with my own fingers. It all makes the mechanical nature of video games feel more human, as I’m physically connected to Mimi during the short adventure. The more she uncovers her own memories, the more determined I am to dig through my own past and discover what I’ve left behind in that fateful Cape Cod vacation that’s been repressed for so long. Maybe there’s something painful there I’ve intentionally blocked out. Maybe I’m burying something beautiful that shaped my childhood. As I learn from Mimi’s 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, consoles, and cloud.

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Giovanni Colantonio
Giovanni is a writer and video producer focusing on happenings in the video game industry. He has contributed stories to…
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