D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die Review

Swery is the most interesting man working in games at the moment. He has this air of utter brilliance and insanity that makes all his games just so damn intriguing. Deadly Premonition was technically laughable, but gained a cult following just because of how damn weird it was. D4, Swery’s latest and Xbox One exclusive, follows a similar path. But believe it or not, is technically rather impressive.

Presented in an episodic format, D4 follows David Young as he tries to uncover the mystery of his wife’s death, who he rather creepily refers to as, “Little Peggy”. You see, David has this gift. By using objects called mementos he can use them to jump back in time. It’s with this trick he’s able to try and track down the one known as “D” who he believes murdered his wife. This is just the tip of the weird. It gets stranger.

The characters you meet are, a little bizarre. From a mannequin loving weirdo, to a crazed FBI agent, they’re all injected with that Swery magic. There’s even a girl who believes she’s a cat. Or maybe she is a cat? It’s not quite clear. The most head scratching thing about the plot is that the “D” David is looking for is merely the first letter of the person’s name. So basically everyone with a name that starts with D is a suspect. And naturally, the plane you quickly find yourself on is full of characters that share that first initial. Not to mention our very own player character, but surely that’s too obvious of a twist. Right? Right?!?!?!

But what type of game is it? Well, the closest comparison would be something made by Telltale. You can walk along predetermined paths as David, examining items, talking to people and taking part in QTE action sequences. Controlling David can be done in two ways, controller or Kinect.

Once the news came that Kinect would no longer be bundled with every Xbox One it became wise for companies to make the switch and include an alternate control scheme for those without the camera. However, D4 seems to be that rare game, one that actually feels like it was made purely for Kinect. During the QTE sequences, what would usually be done with swipes of hands is done by using the two analogue sticks.

The icons on screen are so small for the sticks that it becomes straining to see what you need to press. And also, it becomes harder to actually watch what’s happening on screen. You don’t need to see the scenes play out, but you really want too. They’re amazingly put together, moving seamlessly between the action with barely a noticeable dip in framerate. You do have health, so can miss a few QTE’s before game over, and at times it’s actually worth doing that just to see how the scene plays out. Breaking up these moments are simple exploration sequences that slow the pace down and are largely forgettable. They’re not exactly taxing, with puzzles (if you can even call them that) revolving around just clicking on things until something happens.

As the story comes to its conclusion you realise that maybe episodic may not be the best approach for something as niche as this. Only containing the first few episodes, the game ends on a rather abrupt cliffhanger, one that if the game doesn’t sell well could end up never getting resolved. It’s the video game equivalent of a TV series you love being cancelled mid-season. And it would be a shame if that happens.

D4 does have its issues. Most notably is the way stamina works. Talking to people, examining the environment reduces stamina. If the stamina reaches zero then David faints, and you need to spend a large amount of credits in order to continue. It never became a problem, credits are plentiful and you can replenish stamina by eating food scattered around or buying them from the cat vendor (don’t ask). Which really makes it a less of a hindrance, and more pointless.

But a few niggles aside, D4 further cements Swery as one of the most interesting developers to come out of Japan. A weird and wonderful game that deserves a conclusion to its bizarre tale.