D4 raised some eyebrows when it was announced as an Xbox One exclusive Kinect game during Microsoft’s E3 2013 press conference. Swery had reached cult status after the baffling but genius Deadly Premonition and people where extremely interested in what he was going to make next. D4, also known as Dark Dreams Don’t Die, provides the quirky, comical characters we have come to expect from a Swery production and placed them in an episodic murder mystery that plays a lot like Telltale’s The Wolf Among Us.
D4 introduces us to David Young, a private investigator whose wife was recently murdered. The events surrounding her death granted him the ability to travel through time using ‘mementos’, objects that have been involved in crimes. Using these powers he can ‘dive’ into the past and use his investigative expertise to solve the crime. His life revolves around finding his wife’s murderer and ultimately changing the past by stopping it from ever happening.
Currently D4 is split into a Prologue and Episodes 1 & 2, with future episodes being available at some point in the future. If you’re familiar with the Telltale adventure games you will understand how D4 works, you are given an environment, you can walk around and interact with various objects, some will be vital clues and others will just be everyday objects in order to add to the atmosphere. During an action scene you will be required to perform quick-time events in order to dodge and launch attacks on your opponents. As D4 is designed to be played with Kinect this will involve you waving your hands around in the directions given on screen, to select objects you need to use your hand as a cursor and you can lean your body left and right to look around. If you wanted you could even say out loud the dialogue options instead of selecting them on screen.
Unfortunately I would recommend not playing the game with Kinect, a lot of the time you are looking around an area in search of on object and this requires you to hold your hand up constantly to move around. This quickly becomes physically tiring and is also a lot slower and cumbersome than the optional controller support. I would however recommend changing to Kinect controls during the action scenes as it makes dodging and punching your enemy a lot more satisfying.
What really shines in D4 is the writing, Swery has created a cast of characters that are endlessly intriguing and often hilarious, from a woman who lives in your apartment who thinks she’s a cat to an ‘avant-garde’ fashionista who is dating a mannequin. These characters are what keep D4 interesting throughout the story and made me want to know who I would meet and what they would do next. The voice acting is appropriately over-the-top and surprisingly strong considering this is a Japanese made game, the protagonist either has the best or worst Boston accent I have ever heard but you get used to that over the course of the game.
D4 also has a delightful charm to it, something that feels missing from similar games like The Wolf Among Us, this feels unpredictable and energetic rather than a depressing murder mystery we have become accustomed too. For instance the fight scenes in D4 are full of slapstick and are very entertaining, one scene has you dodging flying luggage in an airplane and ultimately using a mannequin leg to hit a baseball into your enemy’s face. It is moments like this that make D4 more than your run-of-the-mill adventure game.
There are a couple of mechanics that keep the game from becoming too easy. You have three meters in D4 that you have to watch out for: there’s Stamina which runs down after every action, Vision which enables you to see what objects are interactable, and Life which goes down when you get hurt. These meters can be replenished by finding or buying items, for example eating clam chowder will restore you Stamina and drinking beer will replenish your Vision meter. It can sometimes be frustrating having to find some food in order to stop your stamina bar from depleting but it gives you a good opportunity to go back to your protagonist’s apartment in order to go to the shop, maybe look for some more collectibles and try on some new outfits for the character.
Overall D4 is a fun ride that brings something fresh to the adventure genre, the story and characters are the main draw and if you are a fan of Swery I could not recommend it enough. If you are new to his style then you will be in for a shock, but a game with this much charm and humor should be enough to win over anybody, as long as you aren’t using the Kinect controls.
This review is based on a retail version of D4 for the Xbox One which was provided by the publisher.