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It was a sunny morning, the kind that would burn your eyes right out if you could convince a stupid kid to stare into the sun. I’d just received an Xbox One, which included that fancy Kinect unit which may or may not have been watching me shower and broadcasting it to fetish German porn sites. I was in need of a game, but not your typical shoot ‘em up. And then into my download queue, was thrown D4, quite possibly the craziest game of the year.

D4 is, according to the game itself, the “story of a man with a very strange fate”. Former detective David Young is haunted by dreams and visions. His wife murdered two years previously, Young has been on a quest to solve the case and unravel the identity of the mysterious “D”. It’s an intriguing premise, make no mistake, and the game plunges you headfirst into it. Followed shortly by a strange cat-girl vomiting a mouse into your mouth and your former partner in the Boston Police Department ranting on and on about clam chowdah.

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Thanks to a bullet being lodged in his head, David can also take a deep dive into the past with the use of of items that are known as “momentos”. By taking that plunge, he can revisit previous timelines, which are somehow all connected to his current case. D4 is essentially a point ‘n click game in this respect, or in the case of the Kinect functionality, a waggle ‘n grab experience. The controls themselves are easy enough to master.

David can push and prod items, grab them and learn more about the people and locations around him. Doing so however, costs stamina, with David having the lung capacity of a winded smoker on the Comrades marathon. In order to keep his reserves up, David can gorge himself on food around him, from bottles of water to Boston burgers and more.

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In addition to that, David also has a life bar which plays a prominent role during the more outlandish QTE sequences, as well as the ability to scan the environment and highlight clues, which in itself is a finite resource. That’s about the gist of the gameplay, with D4 throwing players into environments where everything can be probed and examined like a fresh proctologist examining his first patient. And yes, believe it or not, the game is indeed better with Kinect.

It’s still a bit touch and go at times, but for the most part, it’s far more satisfying to use motion controls than it is to stick to a controller. It’s also more engaging, as the QTEs go from your usual swipes at the screen to assuming the pose of a baseball player in order to knock a perp out with a baseball in the cattle class section of an airplane.

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If D4 sounds mad, then yes, yes it is. But it’s characters are even more unhinged than you’d imagine. Young speaks with a Boston accent that makes Mayor Quimby from The Simpsons sound tame in comparison, while his actual cases involve him running into a fashion designer who may be having sexual relations with an omnipresent mannequin or a buff airline steward who routinely huffs what appears to be leftover Slowmo drugs from Dredd 3D. Throw in various other madcap characters, and the game itself may not pull at your heart-strings, but it manages to be intriguing nonetheless thanks to some over the top voice acting and animation.

It’s also the kind of game where you actually need to pay attention, for clues which quickly pop up, thus reinforcing the adventure game DNA present inside of it. Hell, I’d love to see more games of this ilk shy away from the Telltale template, as the D4 formula makes for a more intriguing game that is filled with many minute details.

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The visuals don’t hurt either, with the cell-shading being used to merge noir-ish elements with more modern-day sleuthing and anime elements. They’re not altogether there yet, but they do enough of a solid job to keep players entertained, something which is complemented by a decent soundtrack as well.

D4 however, is going to be a niche game. If you’re the kind of person who enjoyed titles such as Fatal Frame, Catherine or any of director Swery65’s previous titles such as Deadly Premonition. If you’re not a fan of those games, then D4 will most likely not draw you in either, as the title is firmly set in a very weird zone of murder and supernatural mystery.

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It’s also an episodic game, with a prologue and two episodes forming the backbone of this review. Navigating through David’s apartment is a half hour game on it’s own, while the two episodes won’t take you much longer than an hour each to get through. More episodes are on the way…eventually.

Last Updated: October 6, 2014

D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die
D4 is a darkly weird game, and one that boasts a fair amount of polish as it experiments with genres and controls. It’s not for everyone, but the solid Kinect input and trademark Japanese madness make for one deep dive that you won’t soon forget.
D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die was reviewed on Xbox One
76 / 100

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