The games industry needs more Hidetaka Suehiros. This eccentric Kinect-powered detective thriller is further evidence of a singular voice that deserves to be heard by more players. Not that D4 was ever likely to bring SWERY’s brand of weird to a wider audience. It was on a hiding to nothing from the start, really: it’s a game that might have thrived on PC or PS4, but on Xbox One it feels out of place, built for a piece of hardware its maker has quietly shuffled offstage. You can still play it with a controller, but its interface has been designed around Kinect. Microsoft all but buried it, releasing it the day after it was announced at the Tokyo Games Show. With few pre-launch reviews and zero fanfare, it understandably struggled for traction.
Pity, as it’s enormously entertaining. It has much in common with Deadly Premonition – comically exaggerated animation, offbeat dialogue, a fascination with mundane detail – but it’s much more polished. As a result it loses some of that ramshackle charm, but it compensates with the energetic invention and slapstick comedy of its quick-time action sequences. With Kinect, you’re cast as both puppeteer and stuntman: the point-and-grab interface works well, voice functionality is immaculate, and it’s forgiving of clumsy attempts to mimic the gesture commands, seemingly rewarding you for effort.
D4 needed decent sales to earn a second season. The knowledge that its silly cliffhanger climax will probably never be resolved lends it a strange poignancy: a bittersweet end to a magnificently odd drama. I’ve played games this year that are already fading from memory; it says much about D4 that I remember it as if I finished it yesterday.