One of the most enigmatic Xbox One exclusives announced to date would have to be D4, or Dark Dreams Don’t Die, to give the game its full title. In development by cult Japanese game designer Hidetaka “Swery” Suehiro and his team at Access Games, D4 is a murder mystery with an intriguing hook: its detective lead David has lost his memory, but is able to dive into the past to solve crimes. Specifically, his wife’s murder.
Of course, given this is a game from Swery, the real hook is likely to be just how strange and offbeat everything is, and D4’s initial reveal certainly doesn’t disappoint on that basis. David refers to his wife as ‘little Peggy,’ and interactions between characters are deliberately weird, with bizarre facial expressions and glances held for uncomfortably long moments.
“Deadly Premonition… was a little bit weird,” Swery tells us, “and this one’s also a little bit weird.”
The best way to think about D4 – from the little we’ve seen – is that it’s going to play something like a modern point and click adventure. Think Telltale’s The Walking Dead series and you’d be on the right track. Within the demo’s passenger jet setting, for instance, players are able to investigate the world in a number of ways, bringing up information about people and objects, and choosing their responses when in conversation. Action sequences are choreographed, but will play out with a few different variations based on how well players follow the on-screen cues.
In general it seems like a good direction for Access to go in, as it lets Swery put characters and story on centre stage and avoid the stuff that – traditionally – he hasn’t been as strong at. Y’know, like good controls.
On that subject, D4 is designed from the ground up for the next generation of Kinect. Players mimic on-screen gestures during action sequences and can simply speak their chosen option during conversations. How seamlessly this works remains to be seen; we’ve only been privy to a video of the game in action to date and haven’t been able to go hands-on. Swery explicitly made the point, however, that D4 is designed to be played sitting down. He also said that the Xbox One controller would be supported for players that aren’t interested in using Kinect.
D4 will be episodic in structure, with David’s quest to solve his wife’s murder as the overarching story arc. It's also a digital-only title, and at this stage the team is planning on releasing it episode by episode. At least, that's “our thought at this point,” according to Swery. The episodic structure should work well given David’s memory-hopping ability. It's likely that each episode will take place within a different memory, with its own set of self-contained objectives, as well as an important tie-in to the main story.
So exactly how does this time-jumping work? Well, in order to jump into the past, David has to touch mementos that are connected to memories he wants to investigate. “The day little Peggy died,” he tells the player, “I managed to survive, through some miracle. In exchange for my memories, I got this skill. This has to be some kind of revelation, but I plan to use this skill to find a memento that can take me back to that day, so I can save my wife.”
Whether he can save his wife is something of a mystery. “It’s a bit complicated, but he actually understands that he can’t change the past…” Swery tells us. Surely the act of travelling into the past changes it, we point out. “I can’t give you many details just yet, but I think that being in the past was meant to be that way.”
It’s intriguing stuff, and deliberately multi-layered. No surprise, really; even the name is symbolic in more ways than one. In addition to Dark Dreams Don’t Die, it “also comes from the fact that the main character’s special skill is to go back into the past, so it’s the fourth dimension…" says Swery. "Also, in the game, ‘D’, the initial, is going to be a key word, and it’s going to have lots of important meanings.”
For the moment though, all we have to go on is the demo reel's short, densely-packed sequence. We meet a stewardess that looks exactly like David’s dead wife (to the extent that the gum bubble he’s blowing when he bumps into her pops and he just leaves it there, a pink mask across his astonished face), who alludes to being on the same “side” as him. We meet a scarred bald man who demands to know how David got on the plane. The pair have a history, evidently: “this time I’m interested in him, not you,” David says, motioning towards his target, a psychopath named Antonio Penny Zapatero, who he's convinced is harbouring evidence he needs.
Throughout these conversational vignettes the screen regularly splits into two or three frames, showing various elements of the scene from different angles. It complements D4’s cel-shaded visual style nicely, underlining a graphic novel flavour.
The climax of the sequence we’re shown is a raucous, entertaining and creative fight between David and Zapatero. They struggle up and down the aisle, with the game moving in and out of slow motion. David screams into a megaphone in Zapatero’s face and the cord from an air mask is used as an impromptu garrotte. There’s also a delightful move mid-way through the battle where our hero is pushed back into a stewardess. Players who nail the timing on the input see him turn smoothly and grasp her hands as if she were a dancing partner, pirouetting on the spot to get past. It all ends with Zapatero disappearing amidst a blinding flash of light.
A small slice, then, and we’ve certainly come away with more questions than answers. It’s going to be interesting to see just what Swery has in store, given how much of an unknown this is. In fact, when we asked him whether there was a direct source of inspiration for D4 – akin to Twin Peaks’ influence on Deadly Premonition – he just laughed and told us – in English – “I have no idea.” Swery, unplugged. Bring it on.
Source : ign[dot]com