Those who have played Hidetaka Suehiro’s Deadly Premonition will be more than aware of the director’s surreal humour and his ability to merge laugh out loud moments with gore. Better known as Swery65, Suehiro has made his return with the release of the Xbox One exclusive, D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die.
The plot follows David Young, a private investigator whose wife has been murdered. Upon activation of certain objects (known as mementos), he is able to travel through time, which he uses to his advantage to investigate his wife’s death and prevent the murder from ever happening.
Whereas D4 works perfectly fine with a standard controller, it’s clear that the game was designed with Kinect in mind. Using either hand, players guide the on-screen cursor, creating a fist in order to navigate and select items, including dialogue options. There are also some voice commands thrown in for good measure. Although you can switch between the two control methods almost instantly, this is one of those rare instances in which the motion-sensor technology is the preferred option. Despite the occasional blip, it is extremely responsive and works excellently.
Quick-time events have been greeted to a mixed reaction from gamers in recent years, although they provide a welcome change to the pacing in D4. Known as stunt scenes, the quick-time events are sprung upon the player at multiple points throughout the first season, as players use hand movements or controller presses to control the action. The choreography of the scenes is excellent and the fact players are awarded with a sync score based on how quickly they react encourages replayability.
The first season of D4 contains a prologue and two episodes, which ends on a fairly large cliffhanger. Whereas powering through the main storyline won’t take players long, the side missions, primarily consisting of hunting down objects or completing trivia quizzes, add much needed lifespan to the game. The side missions also give players the opportunity to discover more about the game’s characters, which include a fashionista whose best friend is a mannequin and a woman who acts like a cat. There’s a particularly interesting exchange with the latter about clam chowder, which brilliantly demonstrates Swery65’s humour.
Credits are the in-game currency, which can be spent on items such as food and clothing. Players earn credits by collecting trophies scattered throughout the environment and for pretty much every other interaction, from opening a kitchen cupboard to picking up a magazine. Every interaction David completes drains energy which, in a game that involves exploring and investigating, sees his stamina bar running low quite quickly. While this can be replenished by eating food and drinking liquids, it’s an irritating niggle in the game and is a questionable inclusion.
In addition to credits, D4 also contains a number of collectibles in the form of letters from Little Peggy (the pet name David gave his wife), as well as scrapbook articles. Whereas neither is essential to the storyline, they do provide more depth to the game and there are significant rewards for finding them.
In terms of presentation, D4 adopts cel-shaded graphics, similar to those used in Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead series. The comic book-like design has been well implemented and it fits in well with D4’s style and themes. As for the audio, the accompanying soundtrack should also be commended as it flawlessly adds to the eerie atmosphere. It’s a shame the same can’t be said for the voice acting, which is extremely poor. Yet, at the same time, it doesn’t feel out of place in Swery65’s bizarre world.