D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die Review

September 19, 2014

/ by Tin Salamunic

"Dark Dreams Don’t Die is disturbing, uncomfortable…yet incredibly immersive and unique."

Hidetaka Suehiro (aka Swery65) is a brilliant madman. His works are impossible to put into words and simply need to be experienced. Swery65’s rebellious approach to video game making is both shocking and refreshing. He doesn’t care about industry standards nor is he concerned with player expectations. Just when you think you’ve seen the most bizarre and twisted concoction the gaming world has to offer, Swery65 manages defy everyone’s assumptions. D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die is the equivalent to being dropped out of an airplane and eating ice cream, while having your skull bashed by winged monkeys. The experience is inexplicable. D4 is like an ugly distorted painting that you can’t take your eyes off. Much like Swery65’s incomprehensible masterpiece/disaster Deadly Premonition, D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die is disturbing, uncomfortable…yet incredibly immersive and unique. Anyone interested in a genuinely one-of-a-kind journey through a madman’s creative mind should seriously consider picking up D4. 

You play as David Young, a private investigator who’s been traumatized by his wife’s recent death. The shock left David amnesic, but he’s been granted the ability to time travel. Attempting to undo his wife’s murder, David travels through time in hopes of uncovering the secret behind the mysterious D. D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die is an episodic adventure similar to The Walking Dead series. D4 makes little since during its prologue and players unfamiliar with Swery65’s work are in for a shock. Many might find the game’s presentation appalling. The awkward cel-shaded style appears amateurish and unpolished…but it’s all part of Swery65’s charm. If D4 looked any different, the game’s tone wouldn’t be the same. Similarly to Deadly Premonition, the bizarre aesthetic is what makes the entire experience so fascinating. 

"D4’s graphical peculiarity is beautiful in its own way."

D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die looks like a Manga that’s been shoved through a shredder. There’s no anti-aliasing, many backgrounds look like they were modeled in Google Sketchup and the shading seems like it was done in Microsoft Paint. At the same time, everything looks intentional. D4’s graphical peculiarity is beautiful in its own way. The awkward facial animations and exaggerated expressions give each character unequaled personality. As someone who’s played all of Swery65’s earlier games, I can honestly say that none of this madness is a result of ineptitude or budgeting limitations…his “vision” and way of storytelling are just that weird.  

D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die can be played with both the Kinect and Xbox One gamepad. This may be the first Xbox One title where the slogan “Better with Kinect” truly applies. Since D4 is an adventure game, most actions consist of simple swipe and grab commands that are used to solve environmental puzzles. You’re rewarded points for finding trinkets and picking up various clues and there are even fast paced (and legitimately good) quick-time-events that break up the otherwise slow pacing. For those who choose to use the gamepad, the controls are equally effective and fun. The “swipe” motions are done with the analog sticks and the shoulder buttons are used for camera movement and interactions. David also has a “focus ability” that highlights objects in the environment, which can be helpful when getting stuck. While most of the environments are fairly small, the game isn’t as linear or simplistic as it seems. Clues are oftentimes smartly tucked away and it requires thoroughness to acquire a high score. But it’s the truly twisted characters and their conversations that make D4 such a standout title. Imagine Quentin Tarantino’s script being tossed into a rolling barrel while actors are trying to read the pages out of order. It’s both nonsensical and intriguing. 

"Swery65 once again proves that being experimental and playing by your own rules has its own advantages."

D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die is one of the most memorable games in recent memory. It may not be for everyone (many won’t even get past the prologue) but gamers with an open mind and Swery65’s longtime devotees are going to treasure this exceptional journey. There are very few risk takers in the industry these days, but Swery65 once again proves that being experimental and playing by your own rules has its own advantages. It’s also worth mentioning that D4 may be the Kinect’s savior. If more developers take inspiration from D4’s gameplay mechanics, there may finally be a good reason to invest in Microsoft’s pricey peripheral.

Review by: Tin Salamunic | Reviewed on: Xbox One


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