This game was played on an Xbox One with 5 hours of gameplay tracked
I’m in the middle of some pretty hefty RPGs at the moment. After beating Mortal Kombat and also currently working on Splatoon I wanted to play something quick to vary the palette and keep my writing skills sharp. I happened to be screwing around on the Xbox One a week ago and my eyes came to a stop on the D4 logo. I figured that since it was from Swery, it would be weird and interesting enough to warrant a playthrough and eventual review. Well it certainly exceeded those criteria with aplomb. Now the question is, whether or not the game is fun to play in spite of its quirky intrigue?
D4, for the uninitiated stands for Dark Dreams Don’t Die. It is the brainchild of game director Swery. Swery was put on the map thanks to a similarly quirky, interesting game called Deadly Premonition. It’s hard to argue that games cult status being the reason behind D4’s significant increase in budget and promotion. It was even free one month as part of Microsoft’s Games With Gold feature.
Swery is apparently planning on this being an episodic type experience. These types of games have been very popular lately courtesy of all the different Telltale games or others like Life is Strange. As such D4 can be finished in one or two sittings depending on your tolerance level for its quirks.
The first quirk is rather interesting given how hard it was once pushed as a main feature of the Xbox brand. That feature would be the Kinect. D4 wants to be played using the Kinect. Say what you want about what it does to my credibility as a game reviewer, but for the sake of my own sanity I decided to nix using the Kinect for this. Luckily the game gives you the option to play using a controller and it plays just fine.
The game is essentially a point and click adventure game. The player is put into an environment with a bunch of different clickable objects. Each thing will get a comment from protagonist, David Young and it will either move the plot forward or it’ll be flavor. The game does try to break up the usual gameplay tropes that these types of adventure games fall in to. There are three meters that the player will have to pay attention to.
The first is the stamina meter. This meter works in a weird way. All actions that David makes will eat up some of the stamina meter. So if he opens a cupboard, drinks water, or lifts a slip cover it will take up stamina. The second meter is the vision meter. This meter is essentially the cheat meter. If you’re having trouble figuring out what Swery wants you to do to progress you can use this meter to see all the clickable objects. The final meter is the life meter. If you go through the action segments and miss one of the button prompts, David will take some damage.
Now you may be wondering what happens if these meters run out. This may also damage my cred a bit (which is already at stratospheric levels already) but I didn’t see any of the fail states that could occur if those meters ran out. The reason for this is because the game makes it extraordinarily difficult to.
There were numerous times I was given stamina bonuses from clicking on different items. Drinking water and eating food will restore stamina and vision meters. If you ever are actually low there is a shop in every level where you can purchase different items to replenish all of these meters. You can do this with money earned by clicking every possible thing in an area. The amount of money is ridiculous compared to how much it costs to purchase the different items. There were times that I had thousands of coins available and a full replenishment of my health only cost a couple hundred coins.
The economy of the game is completely screwy. The healing items cost chump change and the most expensive things for purchase are clothing items. If you buy David clothing sometimes it can be pure cosmetics or it can give him additional bonuses to health and stamina in spite of it being difficult to deplete them as it is. I’ve never been big on pure cosmetic items in any game so I didn’t really take advantage of it here but you can also change the clothes of other characters in the game if you want.
You may be thinking that its lame of me to be talking about in game economy as opposed to the meat of the game but if you’ve played a point and click adventure game then you know how it works. It’s ridiculously easy to not screw up a point and click and they didn’t screw it up. Navigation works perfectly fine with some helpful foot icons that let you know what new areas you can access. The quick time events also aren’t bad. A lot of these sequences revolve around dodging items being thrown and its obvious that the Kinect was supposed to have you mimic dodging all of it, but since I was playing on a controller it did its best to replicate that. I didn’t mind it at all. Besides, it would be a real dick move on my part to complain heavily about a system that is here to placate me being a big baby about using the Kinect.
Due to the limited gameplay elements in a point and click adventure the players interest is usually held by the plot and the season setup that D4 is using certainly helps significantly. The game starts by introducing us to a private investigator from Boston named David Young. David’s wife Little Peggy was murdered and her last words were to “look for ‘D’.” Now you can insert whatever lewd comments you want but it works as an interesting mystery plot.
David lives at home and is visited by his Boston PD buddy named Forrest who looks like Phillip Seymour Hoffman and a strange girl named Amanda who dresses and acts like a cat girl. To the point that all of her dialogue is mews and other various cat noises. Forrest is there to help David find ‘D.’ Amanda is there to act as the shop.
Finding a person based solely on a letter is a pretty daunting task to be sure but David does have one advantage. He has the ability to use mementos in a case to travel back in time. These items can be as innocuous as a shoe, or a fragment of glasses. Once he touches them he can go into his bathroom and travel through space and time.
These mementos are essentially related cases to ‘D’. So in the first season David is told about a plane that was flying from Washington DC to Boston and a courier disappeared after the plane was struck by lightning. David uses a memento to travel to the plane and solves different mysteries there.
The story does a good job of interesting possible suspects. It was a little lame that they were immediate suspects because their first names began with D but it works. Most of these characters were interesting enough with their own weird quirks but my only problem was with a doctor character introduced late in the season. He is constantly shown sharpening cutlery and he talks so slowly that I had to skip most of his dialogue and read the subtitles because his speech patterns stopped being weird and entered the realm of annoyance.
Thankfully the main character is likable enough and I’m interested to see the truth behind what happened to his wife and more about the case where it was left off at the end of the first season. I thought the season did a good job keeping the plot moving at a pace that I was disappointed when it was over but in a good way. Like when a TV series has a good cliffhanger. You’re upset that it’s over at the moment but you’re still excited for when it comes back.
That’s pretty much my feelings on D4 right now. I was disappointed when it ended, but that was because it ended on a cliffhanger. I hope that the recent PC rerelease does well enough that a season 2 happens. It’s always scary doing cliffhanger mystery plots in gaming. I’ve got a good feeling about this one though.
To wrap up I will say I recommend D4 for its plot. Your mileage will vary with the gameplay though. If you’re easily frustrated by these kind of puzzle games the game does its best to help you along the way but there are still times where you can get stuck. So if you’re a person who doesn’t like this and is also against quick time events then you should probably stay away. If you can put up with that, are in the mood for a good mystery with quirky weird characters then D4 is an excellent addition to a game library.