For most of us, our first experience with D4 director Hidetaka ‘SWERY’ Suehiro, was back in 2010.
He’d just released Deadly Premonition for the Xbox 360 and PS3, and to say opinion was divided on the bonkers, Twin-Peaks-inspired murder-mystery would be one hell of an understatement. But the game’s unique blend of American cop drama and Japanese horror would be enough to establish it as a cult classic, and SWERY as an industry auteur.
So imagine our surprise late last year, when the first chunk of SWERY-made episodic series, ‘D4’ appeared on the Xbox One dashboard almost completely unannounced. The game’s total lack of PR has meant for the last eight months there’s been no sign of any new content. But what does exist of Dark Dreams Don’t Die, has earned something of a reputation for itself. One which means that SWERY and the team at Access can hit the ground running this time, with their re-release of ‘D4 Season One’ on PC.
The story revolves around grizzled ex-cop turned P.I, David Young, investigating the murder of his wife, Little Peggy. Her somewhat unhelpful dying words were to ‘look for D’, which alongside a possible connection to a new street narcotic known as Real Blood, is the only clue David has to go on. But a gunshot wound to the head he sustained at time of Peggy’s death, imbued P.I. Young with a convenient power. By focusing on emotionally charged items he calls ‘mementos’, he can travel back in time to try and prevent his wife’s murder and put a stop to Real Blood. Helping out with the investigation is one of Boston P.D.’s finest (and David’s ex-partner), Forrest Kayson, and Amanda, the freeloading, leotard-wearing lodger who thinks she’s a cat.
Did we mention SWERY games can get a little weird?
Gameplay takes the form of a point-and-click adventure and was originally designed to make use of the Xbox One’s Kinect. Players would use their hands to touch or ‘grab’ objects, and indicate where they wanted to move to; but in the port to PC, three mouse buttons are all you need to play. Left click interacts with whatever you’re highlighting, right click pushes things and people (which doing repeatedly never gets old), and the scroll wheel can be held down to tilt the camera and get a better look at the scene around you.
A few QTE-style action sequences require some creative mouse-motions and quick reflexes, but the movements themselves have been perfectly translated from Kinect hand-gestures into swipes, flicks and clicks; and come with the added bonus of not leaving you exhausted after extended play sessions. Which is more than can be said for David however, whose stamina depletes at a pretty ludicrous rate for a fit, young PI.
In a mechanic that feels a little arbitrary, David has to keep up his strength by stuffing his face, otherwise he’ll fall unconscious and be kicked back to his own time. It’s an easy state to avoid thanks to the truckloads of discarded food left strewn about the game world, but it does makes for some unintentionally comical moments when your protagonist passes out from a brief conversation or opening his microwave door.
That said, comedy’s a pretty big part of D4. Despite some serious subject matter, there’s plenty of slapstick and cheesy dialogue to juxtapose all the drug dealing and murder. Usually, such bi-polar changes in tone would feel jarring, but those that know SWERY, know that he makes it work. A few unexpectedly silly moments and some bizarre dialogue go a long way towards making D4’s unique cast of characters thoroughly memorable.
From the muscle-bound, inhaler-addicted flight attendant, to the creepy, cutlery-sharpening giant, there are some brilliantly eccentric personalities. David himself is a true standout if only for his comically inconsistent Bostonian accent. Which could simply be the result of poor voice acting, but is equally likely to be intentional. It’s just one of those SWERY tropes that no one seems to mind, and in the context of the game world, seems to fit.
For the PC port of D4, all previously released DLC has been integrated with the vanilla game, meaning costume packs and hairstyles can all be found as pick-ups or are gifted to you by Amanda in her daily ‘Free Costume Corner’. Graphical options can of course be tweaked, and the game will comfortably run at 60fps for anyone meeting the recommended specs. The usual selection of Steam trading cards, badges and backgrounds will be ready at launch, and there’ll also be some brand new DLC in the form of ‘SWERY’s Choice’ costume sets, a digital art book, and selections from the game’s OST.
Most importantly however, this change of platform may well mean that Access is one step closer to releasing the next part of David’s story we’ve so anxiously been waiting for.
For £11 you get the series’ prologue and first two episodes, which can be wrapped-up in just under four hours. However that doesn’t include time for the substantial amount of ‘extra cases’ which you’ll want to invest in, if only for an excuse to hang-out with some of D4’s more colourful NPCs, and earn a few credits to spend in Amanda’s store.
Thanks to a vibrant, toon-shaded aesthetic, engaging story, and jazz-funk soundtrack straight out of an Atlus JRPG, the asking price for even just the first three pieces of this bizarrely captivating mystery, is an absolute bargain.
If you missed the Xbox One release, and anything you’ve seen or heard of the game so far has even remotely piqued your interest, D4 is well worth a go. There’s a demo available on the official site to give newbies a taste of the insanity; and for us existing fans, it’s great to know that SWERY’s Dark Dream is far from Dead.