Sawbuck Gamer

Dominique Pamplemousse

Clay Songbirds

A claymation musical adventure game? You can’t fault Dominique Pamplemousse for lack of ambition.

By Joe Keiser • April 19, 2013

Sawbuck Gamer is our daily review of a free or cheap game ($10 or less).

There’s something on my iPad evocatively named Dominique Pamplemousse. It’s a black-and-white claymation musical adventure game that was funded by normal folks and released globally on a mass market platform. It stars an androgynous detective investigating auto-tune-related crimes. I’m not sure when reality contorted itself into this fantastical shape, but damn if it isn’t beautiful.

The work itself has the ragged analogue edges of a ’50s-era Saturday morning children’s show. Part of this is because there are only a few simple deductive puzzles in between the many melodic conversations. The aesthetic is rough as well, but that’s by design. Here, the claymation acquits itself well, clay being a medium that charms more when you can literally see the fingerprints of the artist.

Unfortunately, it’s the music that lets down this musical. Like the rest of the game, the songs are intentionally raw, with piped-in static and first-take pitchiness. Now, Dominique Pamplemousse is a handmade indie game, but it also tells a story about the inherent value of such handmade works when compared to the soulless construction of corporate cultural products. Pamplemousse has soul, and you can feel it in the presentation. But sometimes bad songs sung badly are just that, and this undermines everything the game is trying to say. I love that this game exists, but it’s a musical you should play with the sound off.

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24 Responses to “Clay Songbirds”

  1. Roswulf says:

    Yesterday, my girlfriend asked me to come up with fusions of musical theater and video games. So thanks Gameological!

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to check my apartment for hidden cameras and Joe Keiser’s, just in case.

    • Merve says:

      I wish that there were more musical video games. I mean, most video games are already ridiculous. Why can’t characters break into song while shooting faceless thugs from behind crates in warehouses? Unfortunately, since the last major attempt at a musical video game, Epic Mickey 2, was so widely panned, I don’t think many publishers or developers would be willing to take a chance on something like that.

      • Chalkdust says:

         I have a weird idea that Space Channel 5 could be adapted for Broadway.

      • Enkidum says:


        Oh, Cortana, I’ll save you, I will!
        I’ll blaze across the galaxy finding enemies to kill
        Two guns at a time, but thousands of foes
        Hot lead to the head or grenades instead
        That’s how their story goes

        Oh, Cortana, I’ll save your bytes and bits!
        For an artificial intelligence you’ve got fantastic—

        Uh… never mind.

  2. SamPlays says:

    That screenshot reminds me of the Mr. Bill shorts from SNL way back in the day. And Pamplemousse reminds me that despite living in Canada and having an Acadian mother from New Brunswick, I can barely speak French. But for the record, Pamplemousse means “grapefruit”, it’s pronounced “pam-pla-moose” and can be used as personal insult. For example: 

    John Teti eating snacks on the digest make him look like a pamplemousse. 


    SamPlays is a pamplemousse for calling John Teti a pamplemousse.


    • Merve says:

      “La grenouille mange le pamplemousse.”

    • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

      It is also the best La Croix flavor.  If you’re into that sort of thing.
         Or flavour, if you’re into that sort of thing.

      • SamPlays says:

        Apparently Canada, except Quebec, is the only crowd who still thinks about 1812. It’s important to note that “flavour” is the natural form – “flavor” is the Americanized version. Because, you know, why include letters when you don’t pronounce them?

    • Girard says:

      ‘Chou’ means cabbage, but can be a complement. Like ‘mon petit chou’ essentially meaning ‘my sweetheart’ or ‘chouette!’ meaning ‘awesome!’

      The French have a weird relationship to produce.

      • Chum Joely says:

        It’s weirder than you think. “Chouette” doesn’t mean a little cabbage. It’s a variety of owl.

        • Girard says:

          Hmmmm…. Does that mean ‘owl’ and ‘cabbage’ share etymological ancestry in French? And what’s so cool about owls? I mean, they’re okay, but cabbages are TOTALLY RADICAL.

        • SamPlays says:

          @paraclete_pizza:disqus Owls are both AWESOME and ADORABLE!!

  3. Penis Van Lesbian says:

    Hmm, a game where you play a musical theatre hopeful, accidentally involved in a conflict, where you use your musical abilities to force the bad guys to break out into song and dance routines, thus leaving them vulnerable to your toe-tapping assault with a malacca cane. I’d play that.

  4. “The Neverhood” had really great music.