Show of hands, who had heard of Swery before Deadly Premonition? If you didn’t put your hand up, then you’re likely in the same boat as the rest of us. Despite being a dated looking and feeling survival horror, the game managed to gain a following for its bizarre premise and even odder cast of characters. But how do you follow something like that up? D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die was the result of the Microsoft Studios collaboration with Swery’s Access Games and is an adventure game that uses Kinect. It’s a drastically different game and nothing feels overly right about it.
Bizarre doesn’t cut it
Upon purchase, players will be greeted with “Season One”, which thus far contains a Prologue chapter that introduces the mechanics to you, and two episodes. The first episode is the most enjoyable as it has you investigate an aircraft in mid-flight in a semi open-ended fashion, while the second is an on-rails affair with little room for deviation.
Following former Boston Police Department narcotics detective David Young, whose wife was murdered before him, you must try to make sense of her final words in order to bring her killer to justice. To this end, David somehow gained the ability to jump backwards through time via mementos from certain events.
Being a Swery game, D4 is about as crazy, over-the-top, and disturbing experience as you’ll probably ever find. You’re introduced to characters such as a scantily clad woman who thinks she’s a cat, a man with the most ferocious appetite, and a fashion designer who is overly attached to his mannequin. Interspersed throughout the campaign are extra cases that you can undertake, ranging from a variety of mini-games to hidden object scenarios and dialogue choices. A couple of cases feature scenes that will make you wonder how the characters aren’t ill from the amount of food and drink they consume throughout.
Lack of Air Traffic control
Kinect is sometimes used as a bit of a death knell in critical circles, but there are some smart decisions that have been made with its usage. Firstly, the fact you need to be sitting down to play is a step in the right direction. You instead use your hands to handle everything, including movement from place to place. Secondly, you can opt not to use it at all, instead using the Xbox One controller, and you are able to switch on the fly.
Because of the input choice however, D4 feels clunky to actually play. Moving from point to point makes sense with the Kinect, but having to select the point to move over there with the controller emulates trying to play old point-and-click games without the mouse.
Out of the two inputs however, the Kinect actually has some major advantages. It’s significantly better for the QTE sequences, making the player feel part of the action. The voice activated dialogue is also more convenient, though at the time of review you may need to put on a diabolical Bostonian accent for Kinect to register it. Kinect does have its downsides, being practically unusable in low light and straight up worse for one mini-game involving catching falling clover leaves; but given how terribly taxing the inputs are for the QTE sequences for the controller are, this is a sacrifice worth making.
There are three main things to watch out for while investigating in each chapter. The main one you’ll focus on is the stamina gauge that drops after almost every new action performed, requiring food items to refill before it runs out. Also on hand is a vision gauge that is used by pressing the button or performing the action via Kinect highlights each interactive point-of-interest in the area, requiring fluids to restore; and a life bar that reduces as you take damage by interacting with dangerous items or being hit, requiring medical items to recover.
However, the main problem with D4 is its questionable presentation. Frankly it’s a mess from start to finish. That’s not just the sloppy visuals and abysmal voice acting! Merely reviewing obtained items takes a lot of sifting through menus, but really the game never asks you to actually make connections as once you have collected all the necessary evidence the game moves on with the next sequence. As such, you’re merely there for the ride in this highly linear adventure and barely interacting with whoever is around. The most amount of freedom you have is when speaking to NPCs, but beyond dialogue choices there isn’t much to do beyond gorge upon food and spending credits on costumes.
With more episodes on the way, I still don’t know how D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die ends and quite honestly I’m not sure I want to see this to its conclusion. The premise is strange enough to intrigue, but point-and-click adventure games have been done way better in the past by providing actual puzzles to solve, better ways to interact with the NPCs, and not hand-hold for the entire duration. While Deadly Premonition may have become a cult hit, there’s a serious doubt that D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die will garner a similar following.