There are very few true auteurs in the video game industry, but if there’s any who has proven himself worthy of the title, it’s Hidetaka Suehiro, known better by the name Swery65. Famous for his cult classic survival horror game Deadly Premonition, Swery has released another fever dream of a game called D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die, an Xbox One exclusive which is just as much of a strange journey as his previous titles.
In D4 you play as David Young, a private detective and former member of the Boston Police Department who loses a chunk of his memory involving an incident that resulted with a bullet getting lodged in his head and his recently married wife, Little Peggy, murdered. However, he also mysteriously gained the ability to travel back into the past with the aid of mementos, random objects that are somehow tied to certain important events in the past. With this power, he hopes to find out who murdered Little Peggy and try to prevent her death by changing the past.
The game is episodic in nature, currently consisting of Season 1, which has a prologue and two episodes, with the amount of future seasons and episodes being determined by how well it sells. It’s a very odd way to do an episodic game to say the least, and an unfortunate one at that considering the sheer insanity of the story and how it really leaves you hanging. The gameplay itself is very simple, playing similarly to a point-and-click adventure game. There are two methods of controlling the game, either using a normal controller or the Kinect motion controls, the latter being terrible because seriously the Kinect is just awful and does not work properly at all.
Using a cursor, you examine the environment around you, which every action such as opening doors, eating food, talking to people, and looking at magazines earning you points that can be used to buy food, healing items, or bonus content such as different outfits and music tracks. You also have a stamina bar that diminishes as you perform each action, resulting in a game over if it completely drains, forcing you to go back to the last checkpoint. You can fill it back up by eating food hidden throughout the environment.
The main draw of the game is its story and characters, and boy how strange they all are. Throughout the game, you’ll meet David’s friend Amanda, who for some reason acts like a cat and only speaks in meows, David’s former partner, Forrest Kaysen, who seems to have a bottomless stomach, Duncan, a fashion designer who carries around a mannequin named Sukey, an obsessive compulsive woman named Deborah, who keeps notes on everyone she sees, and more. Much like Deadly Premonition, the game has a very weird, sometimes even dreamlike atmosphere clearly inspired by the works of people like David Lynch, with some characters perhaps being far more than they initially appear to be. It’s all developed in such a way that makes for a very unforgettable experience.
Another aspect of the gameplay are the action sequences, which are a series of quick time events that require you to press buttons and push the analog sticks in certain directions to perform the various actions in order to avoid losing health. One sequence involves a fight with another character that’s so over the top and ridiculous you really need to see it to believe it. These sections also have a grading system similar to rhythm games, with your score being dependent on your reaction time to each button press. It’s actually pretty fun going back and trying to get perfect scores in each of these sequences.
D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die is a very strange, yet extremely entertaining experience that really showcases Swery’s imagination and should be a must buy for any Xbox One owner looking for something a little bit different than the norm. It may be a bit short, being only around four to six hours long, but it’s well worth it to see the roller coaster ride of a story unfurl.