Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Developer: Access Games
There are games out there that are created that make you go hmm? (like C&C Music Factory used to say). From Swery65, the warped mind who developed the off-the-wall Deadly Premonition, comes another game that will make you go ?huh? rather than ?hmm?, but in a good way. D4 (or Dark Dreams Don?t Die), now available on the Xbox One, is an episodic murder mystery that will not only make you scratch your head trying to solve it, but will also scratch the other side of your brain while trying to soak in all the crazy characters and information.
One thing that sets D4 apart from Deadly Premonition is the fact this game takes more of a page from the more laid back Heavy Rain style of game play, rather than the open world style in their previous title. This allows gamers to really soak up the story, as kooky as it may be. You play the role of David Young, a former narcotics officer who is now a freelance private detective trying to solve the murder of his wife. Your biggest clues come from multiple facets, one being the mementos you find that seem to jog your memory and help you relive the place, time and situation they were involved in. The second is from the eclectic cast of characters that David meets during these ?flashbacks? caused by the mementos. They range from an angry detective to a fashion mogul who talks to his mannequin, to even a tall man with a surgical mask that speaks to you in riddles, yet seems to know the answer. Frankly the guy reminds me of Candyman, but on the surface is not there to harm you, even though he peers at you holding a knife and fork. To say that any of this makes completely no sense the first hour you play is an understatement to just how odd, if albeit silly, some of the situations are. It is really only those who enjoy the satirical humor of games like Deadly Premonition that will really appreciate its subtle slip into madness.
The game play itself is a throwback to the old point and click adventures but you will be doing a series of QTE events when the action picks up. Where D4 shines is the availability to play with either your controller, or the Kinect. The Kinect game play actually works quite well, from recognizing your voice commands, to movements on screen, and even head tracking works quite well in the situations where it?s utilized. While you can get the same effect and timing playing with a controller, if you want the most rewarding experience, give the Kinect game play a go, you will be pleasantly surprised. This most likely is due to the fact that you will spend most of your time navigating and collecting clues as the actions sequences come maybe once or twice a segment.
The one aggravating aspect about your time investigating is how much stamina and vision is used for even the simplest of tasks. Even if you have the resources and means to refill those lifelines, it takes away from the experience if you have to continue to do it repeatedly. Sure there will be sources of food and drink that will help you to refill your stamina, but they are few and far between which means they need to be purchased from the ?store? in game. My advice to you would be to think hard on the matter before you use up valuable lifelines, as later in the game the resource become harder to come by and you will end up needing to restart your whole mission (which can take up to an hour) if you make too many guesses. Along with these lifelines there are outfits that can be purchased, and yes to all you fans of Deadly Premonition, there is a Francis York Morgan outfit! Even though these outfits don?t help the outcome or provide any significant upgrades, it?s not like they come off as out of place in this wacky world either.
D4?s visual and audio style is not only original, but can be summed up easily as demented or delusional. I mean seriously, who comes up with this stuff? As if taken from the pages of thrown away Twin Peaks scripts, it will take players some time to process what they experienced before it all makes sense the next time they play. No matter how off the wall it all seems, it is a ride that will be appreciated by those like myself with an unusual sense of humor. The art style harkens back to the old comic cel-shaded, art over polygon look, giving the game an anime style, which is fitting for the game?s dialog and over the top voice acting. The game, even though comes off a bit lighthearted, has its darker side as well, and it?s this blend of fear and laughter that really work in this world. I really appreciate how the game provides you with opening credits before each chapter as if you are starting a whole new game again, complete with new and original opening theme music. It is little things like this that really set it apart from any other game?period.
In the end, D4 is insane. So much so that it was hard to write this review without talking about the characters and subject matter in such detail without uncontrollably rambling like a lunatic. But honestly there is so much unusual content in this game that spoiling it would take away part of the game?s charm, which has to be seen to be believed. I for one can?t wait to see what?s in store for the upcoming episodes to see if they can possibly top what was accomplished here. What D4 does incredibly well is provide gamers who loved Deadly Premonition with another tale of weird and wonder while at the same time giving day one Xbox One owners a reason to use their Kinect rather than controlling their cable TV.