PEGBRJE: Dominique Pamplemousse and Dominique Pamplemousse in: “Combinatorial Explosion!” and Midnight Ultra

Sometimes life comes at you fast. So fast, that you need two of yourself to get through.

Dominique Pamplemousse and Dominique Pamplemousse in: “Combinatorial Explosion!” is the lengthy named title of a visual experience created by Squinky, a solo developer of ‘weird’ games. This is a sequel following the events of Dominique Pamplemousse in “It’s All Over Once The Fat Lady Sings!”, a title that can be found later on in the bundle (I searched for it, page 10 for those interested). Unfortunately for me, thanks to how the bundle is structured I have reached the sequel to a game within the bundle first once again, which means the slight feeling of lacking critical information. Thankfully, Dom & Dom — my new shortened name for the title as I really do not wish to type out constantly — is an experience that still works to convey the message and musical charm.

So what exactly is Dom & Dom? It follows up the previous title with two main characters, both named Dominique Pamplemousse, who have appeared to been cloned in two thanks to a previous decision leading them to both arriving at the same destination. Both detectives, the one attempted to solve a murder and was shut down miserably while the other joined the megacorporation and was fired thanks to fine print. Upon realizing their predicament, they join forces in a singing duet to confirm which storyline of theirs is canon so that they can get some piece of mind. Unfortunately, they have no idea where to start, so they pick a direction and see where it leads them; and it leads them into some bizarre encounters with differing circumstances.

Throughout their adventures, both Doms encounter many individuals in various situations, all through the act of song. It’s a musical, and while it is the second to utilize musical theatre elements to tell a story I found that Dom & Dom had a bizarre fluidity to its motion between set pieces and dialogue. Musical numbers litter the game at times of explanation, just like every good musical; why explain things with monotonous text when one can SING? Conversations are deep and interesting yet cheesy in their delivery, constantly referring to their self-aware nature of being within a game and the weird situations that they are in. Musicals are notorious for their audience nods as good theatre fun while tackling relatively serious conversation topics, and this is no exception with many metacommentaries surrounding genderfluidity, gender appearances, story tropes, and different video game mediums.

Dom & Dom starts its adventure with a quiz for the reader, one that gauges the player’s personal views on some subject matters to see if they’ll enjoy the title. While odd, it was a fantastic way of setting the tone for the title and its musical absurdity; not everyone will enjoy it, and the game isn’t shy about telling players that they may hate the title. For me, it said I would ‘love or hate it’, probably due to my lack of playing the previous title. However I can confidently state that even with no prior knowledge, I thoroughly enjoyed the nonsensical musical energy that Dom & Dom gave within its hour of story telling. If you are looking for a musical video game with some commentary that ends with a heartfelt twist, by all means try out this title. I’ll be looking forward to playing the original once I get to it in the bundle.

My pentagram hand will shoot fireballs at whatever the scary mask points at. What a sentence, no?

Midnight Ultra is a grindhouse neon nightmare shooter by Forward Instinct, an indie dev team stretched across the USA who have worked on a variety of projects over the past few years. For this adventure, players are a lone witch hunter scouring the midwest for anything cult-like to destroy by any means necessary. As they progress they learn more about the world that the witch hunter inhabits, specifically just how alternate it is and how confusing it may be. There are also, in a way, two games within Midnight Ultra: the base version of the game, and the free Devil’s Path update. As I didn’t realize this until after playing Midnight Ultra (I thought it was just a cool extras update or something) I will be talking about both experiences as they left somewhat different feelings on me afterwards.

To begin a new game of Midnight Ultra, players will select a ranged and melee weapon — well, unless one picks the magical fireball hand, in which case I guess players get two ranged weapons. The ‘standard’ range weapons are all different guns, with different damage numbers and reload times so choosing which gun fits the needed playstyle is important. Ammo is also only for the gun, and fits all guns so no need to worry about that. Once these decisions are made, players are put into a violent violet world (it’s magenta, but I really didn’t want to pass up that word play, sorry…) where they have only one objective of reaching the end. Enemies meander around, sometimes running back and forth until the player arrives, to which they will simply charge and attempt to kill. Ammo is scarce, and the game is balanced around reinforcing this fact as ammo drops are at predetermined locations. If players run out of ammo before getting to the next drop, then it’s up to melee to carry them until they find more. Unfortunately, this is the first large divergent of Devil’s Path and the base game. In the base game, I found nearly every melee weapon, either enemy or my own, to be 95% ineffective. Either the hitboxes of the swings never registered, or they never existed, but both my and the enemy’s who attacked with melee rarely did damage. This would be fixed more or less in the Devil’s Path storyline, although I still defaulted to the fireball after using it so much.

The visual art and aesthetic style that Midnight Ultra invokes is one of classic FPS titles mixed and coated with neon surrealism. The crosshairs alone deserve their own praise, even if half of them felt nonsensical and useless as I couldn’t actually use them to aim; but damn did I enjoy shooting cultists with a spooky witchcraft eye or skull crosshair. The soundtrack is hard to explain, but I’d say that it sounds a lot like a grunge band did a collab with some edm power metal to perform a wild west cowboy movie. Does that make sense? Not particularly, but damn did it sound fantastic and set the mood for the title almost immediately. The world is covered in magenta to bore into one’s eyeballs, much like later on in the game, mixed with the black outlines of the buildings and enemies. Because of this, the world has many moments where it is somewhat hard to differentiate between what is the floor and what is a drop as they may be the same colour at times. Devil’s Path is more of the same aesthetic, but instead players are treated to a winter ‘wonderland’ with yetis blending into the snow and players relying on the sound design to hear where they are coming from. I found this to be effective most of the time, but a few yeti’s were a tad challenging to locate from their roars alone and ended up scaring me half to death.

Midnight Ultra is a puzzling adventure to be had, one of high paced jumping and shooting with a spooky theme and style to accompany it. There are many moments of excitement as there are moments of confusion, and upon completing it I’m still a bit unsure as to how I feel about the title as a whole. It may not be a title for me, but I can definitely see those that would enjoy a 2–3 hour visual explosion of retro FPS fun. I’d definitely recommend the Devil’s Path ‘campaign’ for it’s updates and fixes, especially for its angry yetis. Check it out if you’re down for cult hunting aesthetics.

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Jacob Vorstenbosch

Jacob Vorstenbosch

Just a Game Dev who decided to take on the monumental task of giving an overview of all 59 pages in the bundle for Racial Justice and Equality. We keep going.

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