Games of 2014: D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die

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.

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3 comments

  1. I play a lot of games, so I tend to have quite a broad range to choose from. Invariably, the more idiosyncratic stuff tends to stand out a bit more.

  2. I really enjoyed Deadly Premonition, and although I played D4 with a controller I enjoyed it almost as much. I hope we do see more episodes released and not so much to find out what happens but because I just love how bizarre, and so often hilarious, the game is. The doctor (? guy with knife and fork who appears on the plane) poking his head out of the vent actually had me in stitches. If we don’t see more episodes of D4 I hope we at least see another new game soon.


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