Sep
19
2014
3

D4 Launch Review (Prologue, Episode 1, and Episode 2)

Microsoft somewhat shocked us all when they announced that Swery65’s newest title would drop the 19th. We had barely heard anything about the title and most of our knowledge was extremely outdated. Fortunately for us, all the secrecy may have been a good thing as Xbox One users have a pretty good exclusive to play that relies heavily on its quirkiness. Not that we were going to expect much less from someone like Swery65. Most of us know Swery65 from the little known gem called Deadly Premonition. While that game was essentially passed over by everyone when it released, it has since become a cult favorite for being the video game spiritual successor of Twin Peaks in all the best ways possible. So where does D4 stand? Is it going to become the next cult hit? Well, yes and no.

D4, which stands for Dark Dreams Don’t Die, is way more polished that Deadly Premonition. Polished only in that all of the elements seem much more pulled together. Deadly Premonition was a bit of a mess between the need to sleep, eat, get gas, and a ton of other mundane things that almost distracted from the gameplay. D4 has traded most of these elements in for standard gameplay bars instead. You know have a stamina, a vision, and a health bar. The health bar is exactly as sounds and only diminishes during the quick-time event scenes when you miss actions. The vision bar is there to provide hints towards clues and objects that can be interacted with. Stamina diminishes as you complete actions and this can be everything from turning on TV’s to opening doors. Stamina is recovered by food but is much less of an annoyance than it was in Deadly Premonition as money/credits are easy to come by and the levels are fairly small/short. The stamina bar actually seems to be there more so that players will have a more difficult time finding everything within the levels with the need to maintain the ability to do things.

Fans wanting another bizarre plot won’t be disappointed by any means. D4 is essentially about a man named David Young searching for clues to his wife’s murder. All he knows is that his wife was found in their home’s bath tub already dead and that only his and her DNA was found at the scene. David is now haunted by images of his wife seemingly taunting him about all the good times they had as he struggles to find out what happened to her. All he knows is that someone named “D” is supposedly behind it all, according to a mysterious letter his wife left before she died.

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While all that is interesting enough, D4 also adds in a time travel element. David, it seems, developed an ability soon after his wife died that allows him to travel back in time. The only catch is that he needs things called mementos. Mementos are more or less objects charged with memories/power relating to a specific time that act as a sort of gateway. When David gets his hands on these mementos he’s able to travel back to the time they were created and live through the events. David is convinced that this is the key to finding out the truth behind “D” but it also seems that he’s holding out hope that he may one day get to travel back to before his wife died and prevent her death.

Much like Deadly Premonition, there’s a great cast of characters holding D4 together. Besides David being an interesting protagonist, there’s a whole host of interesting people. Forrest Kaysen makes an appearance which I guess is a recurring Swery65 thing but we have yet to see if this Forrest has anything in common with the man with thesame name in Deadly Premonition (hopefully not). There is also a mysterious man that is only called the “tall man”. This guy is a mysterious giant man dressed like a doctor holding surgical tools such as a scalpel. He seemingly appears out of nowhere and talks extremely slow. The odd thing is that when he sits down or peers through windows he appears to be normal sized yet when he stands he takes up the entire vertical space. The things he says are also incredibly cryptic and seem to give hints to David Young’s fate and powers. And of course there’s the incredibly bizarre characters that exist in the form of Amanda, a beautiful young women who acts and makes noises like cat and an avant-garde fashion designer who’s partner is a mannequin. It’s nice to see that Swery65 still has it in him but its even better to see that these characters may have small mysteries of their own (such as Amanda actually being a cat).

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I also can’t applaud the decision to go with a cel-shaded cartoon look because it suits this title, and Swery himself, incredibly well. The animation of it helps make the overly-bizarre aspects seem less bizarre than they actually are and they allow the time travel aspects to look almost like something out of a comic book. It’s a really fresh look and I think that focusing on realistic graphics would have really taken away from some of the aspects. It also managed to run a really great line of being a more adult cel-shaded title that kinda walks a line between the goofiness of Borderlands with the more serious look of Killer 7. Basically it’s still really serious and is going to focus on the mysteries and death but it still has time for a man my hair that looks like a lime green soft serve.

I know a ton of you are asking about the Kinect controls. This game was primarily designed to be played with the Kinect and it shows. The controls are especially quick and intuitive and relies on hand swipes in various directions and selecting tools by clasping your hand shut (as if you were grabbing things). I started out playing with Kinect controls but my setup wasn’t ideal and I was much too close. However, this is good news to those of you who picked up the Xbox One without the Kinect or who don’t like to use it because the controller controls extremely well. Switching to controller turns the game into something that feels like a classic point and click puzzle adventure and your movement is stuck to pre-determined places you click to move to. The movement based action sequences then turn into pretty standard quick time event sections. In all honesty, the Kinect may be the way to play as reaction times are significantly cut down and room for error is cut down as well as you won’t be wondering if that downward chop belongs to the left or right analog stick. You can also choose dialogue options by saying the actual options which is a lot of fun and something I’d love to see “choose-your-own” games adopt.

The game itself is also extremely forgiving which I really appreciate. It’s easy enough to miss hitting the various quick time motions and D4 treats these misses as your health. This means you have 10 chances to begin with and can purchase first aid stuff that makes it almost impossible to actually lose the game. And certain puzzles may reward you extra for beating them within certain guidelines while allowing players who aren’t good with puzzles to forfeit some credits in exchange for forcing the puzzle through. I think this is a perfect way to balance the game. Die hard puzzle fanatics have extra words to look forward to while people just playing for the plot can skip things they might not be good at and still experience the story.

All of this may sound short and boring but I was amazed at how much they packed into this game. I consider myself a player who’s a bit too nosy and searches everything. If there’s a single barrel left unturned then I’m doing something wrong. So imagine my surprise when I discovered that I was letting a ton of stuff slip by me. There’s various clues to discover, your wife left letters that are a collectible item, there’s pages from magazines and newspapers you can collect and read at will, and there’s little badges hidden around that you can collect for extra credits. On top of that, collecting certain stuff and beating chapters unlocks new outfits and customization options for the cast of characters that can be changed simply by entering the closet of your bedroom. The pieces are also individual allowing you to choose from all sorts of stuff to mix and match with.

I honestly wasn’t expecting to like D4 as much as I did. I really enjoyed Deadly Premonition but that game ultimately felt like a chore of a game where the only good thing about playing it was unlocking and furthering the story (so it’s Twin Peaks… with plant zombies?????). D4 is an incredibly gripping mystery story that has its doses of bizarre comedy but maintains its fun point and click adventure style throughout. There are certainly going to be people who aremad at the overall lack of action but the interactions and story were enough to draw me inand keep me playing. And with the knowledge that I missed stuff, the replay factor is certainly up there for those of us who are completionists.D4-07-png

This launch only gave us the first two chapters of the first season with more chapters, costumes, and stuff to do releasing in the future. There’s no word yet on when but I’d imagine that this will follow games like The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us and give us a new chapter every month or so. I’m dying to get my hands on the next chapters on as these 2 chapters here at launch really hinted at some great criminal activity and also the fact that David might not be ready to face the truth of his wife’s death. $14.99 also isn’t a bad price as there’s easily a good 5-6 hours here on one play through assuming you do some digging around and my slow and steady pace still had me missing stuff.

I can’t recommend this enough to people wanting a different kind of game that’s unlike anything out there at the moment. D4 is Monkey Island meets Deadly Premonition which should be enough of a crossover to get fans of either to check it out.