D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die (Xbox One) Review

By Albert Lichi 27.09.2015

Review for D4: Dark Dreams Don

Hidetaka "Swery" Suehiro is an enigmatic game designer who loves putting so much of what he loves into his games. He is an auteur creator much like Hideo Kojima, Suda Goichi or Hideki Kamiya - game designers with a distinct sense of style to their games that make them memorable and personal. While Swery may not be the giant of the industry, he does have his following. Back in 2010, Access Games developed Deadly Premonition, which has become one of the great cult titles Swery developed. It was a perfect storm of weird that combined open world Shenmue-style life-sim concepts with Resident Evil 4's action, with a setting that cribbed from David Lynch's "Twin Peaks." While Dead Premonition was by no means a polished or well-made game due to its scope far exceeding its limitations, the world eagerly awaited Swery's next game that would be published by Microsoft, who would unceremoniously dump it into the Xbox Live Marketplace with no fanfare. It was a mysterious move by the publisher for such a project that was hyped early on, and then went into such silence when it came time for release. Just what is D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die? Cubed3 finds D in this review of Swery's cult game.

D4 is the great Bostonian adventure the world never knew it needed. Swery seems to have wanted to pay tribute to the state and include so many Boston-isms as he possibly could, as well as inject his quirky signature style and passion for Lynchian murder mysteries, cult films and hockey. Many of the plot elements are subtly set up and get the appropriate pay off later, so everything feels cohesive and, in its own absurd way, makes logical sense - things are never confusing, despite the surreal circumstances of the plot.

The atmosphere lives up to the strangeness that fans of Deadly Premonition would hope to see, with a hero that has a penchant for bubble gum and a thick Boston accent. He lives in an apartment with Amanda, who acts like a house cat, and can do an impressive Michael Jackson impersonation. The soundtrack is a very eclectic mixture of sombre atmospheric ambiance, upbeat whistle tunes that would please fans of Deadly Premonition, and goes into high gear with the action theme that sounds like a hit single from the Dropkick Murphys.

Screenshot for D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die on Xbox One

D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die has the advantage that Deadly Premonition did not have - that being that Microsoft was backing Access Games' development, so they would have a higher budget and the tools to make sure that this game would be a bit more polished compared to Swery's last game. D4's artists opted for a stylish graphic novel aesthetic with cel-shaded colours and inky black outlines. The effect works and really brings out a lot of life into the setting, which is unusually small for a mystery like this. The awkward facial expressions that made Deadly Premonition so endearing have come back and have even more uncomfortable smiles and agonising grins that can be both humorous and unsettling.

Even Swery's love of American food is present here, complete with extended scenes of characters eating favourite Boston specialties, like clam chowder and lobster. D4's lurid colours and bizarre character designs feel as if Swery was not held back. However, given the seemingly more artistic freedom for the designer, this seems to have once again come with a drawback. D4 is a "season" with only two episodes and a prologue.

Screenshot for D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die on Xbox One

Like most point-and-click games, D4 has many points of interest to interact with in each environment. Since it was originally designed to be used with Kinect (fully playable with a controller, too), Swery and his team at Access Games aimed for having a bit more volume in the environments and in how David can engage with the world and NPCs. Given Swery's panache for the weird, expect the unexpected when interacting with the world of D4, like finding a snow owl living comfortably in a luggage storage room in an airplane, or meeting an overly neurotic obsessive-compulsive woman who has a side-quest that involves David checking the airplane for flaws.

Aside from the standard adventuring in David's apartment, or the cabins of the airplane where a bulk of the game takes place, there are some quick-time events that pepper the journey, adding some liveliness to an otherwise laidback game. Unlike most adventure or "cinematic" titles, Access Games made D4 to be very game-like by having an ever-decreasing stamina bar, health bar (for getting physical damage) and vision bar (detective vision), which can be replenished by eating or drinking. It all comes at a cost of abstract points that are earned by completing basic tasks, doing side missions, or finishing an episode.

Screenshot for D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die on Xbox One

Points can also be spent on different clothes for David, which actually do have in-game effects to his stats, adding a bit more depth and connection to the character that is not seen in most games like this. Even some NPCs, such as Forest Kayson (who may or may not be connected to Deadly Premonition) can have their outfits changed, which are only cosmetic, but it is neat to see the effort put in, so people can have some options.

D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die is a mystery adventure game with no conclusion that comes to an abrupt "To Be Continued," with no indication if this story will ever get the closure it needs. It is so frustrating, especially since what content this does have feels like it would require maybe another five to six more episodes considering how there are so many loose ends and that there are only a handful of locations.

The basic premise is that the protagonist, David Young, is trying to solve the mystery of how his wife died, and her last words to him were "Look for D." Using his gift of time travelling to specific events that are tied to items of power he calls "mementos," David is able to traverse the fourth dimension in hopes of finding clues and possibly changing fate. The story is quite engrossing, but ends just when it feels like the first act of the story comes to a close and when all the basics are in place, making it a very difficult recommendation to anybody. It is so disappointing because, as far as point-and-click adventures go, D4's gameplay is a cut above others.

Screenshot for D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die on Xbox One

Cubed3 Rating

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die is such an unsatisfying adventure game due to it ending way before it even truly begins. All of the elements were in the right place for a worthy successor to one of the greatest cult surprises from last gen, thanks to Swery's ambitious creative choices and boldness to have stat management in an otherwise non-skill oriented genre. Sadly, all of these flourishes are painfully undermined because of the story's abrupt cliff-hanger that is not built up to. The way D4 leaves so many plot threads unresolved and with no proper climax is guaranteed to frustrate anybody who plays this. The future of D4 is very unclear if it will ever get resolution, and while there has been an announcement of a second season, there is no indication that it will conclude the story of David Young. This game is very hard to recommend because, while it is interesting and is not like anything else available, it is also a massive tease with no promise of satisfaction.

Developer

Access

Publisher

Microsoft Game Studios

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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