Tying together two things that I have a bitter-sweet relationship with: Japanese-style story-telling and the Xbox One Kinect, I knew that my experience with Microsoft Studios’ D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die would be interesting if nothing else.
The game is solely controlled via speech and Kinetic gestures. It’s an odd experience that definitely requires the player to be in the right frame of mind.
The story and dialogue are both bonkers. After a strange intro with a girl walking on a frozen lake, we are introduced to David Young, formally of the Boston Police Department, now a private investigator. After the murder of his wife, Little Peggy, he has devoted his life to finding her killer. The only clue that he has is her last dying words, “Find D”.
He lives in his apartment with Amanda, who seems to think she is a cat and sells David new outfits and food. Weird.
As well as the cat-person, the supporting cast all seem a bit odd- from David’s obese and food-obsessed ex-partner to the ghost of Peggy Young who seemingly continues to speak to her husband from beyond the grave.
But it gets weirder. David isn’t an ordinary detective. He has a special ability.
Using items, referred to as mementos, David can travel back in time to witness the events he is investigating first hand. After locating all the clues he is sucked back to the present-day, waking up in the bathtub.
All this weirdness is controlled via the Xbox One’s Kinect camera. It’s like an evolution of the point and click adventure- where you physically do the pointing and clicking.
Thankfully, you don’t have to get up off the sofa to use the game's motion-control system. Turning on the spot is done by swiping horizontally and the viewing angle can be adjusted slightly by moving side to side.
Touching your forehead highlights selectable objects. These can be selected by moving the cursor over them with your hand and then clenching your fist to select. Instead of click on some of David’s questions, you can also actually say them out loud.
It was a struggle at first, but I soon got used to it. I wouldn’t say I like using Kinect gestures to play the game, but it is a bit novel and kind of fun. Kinect control is optional, so those not interested in hand waving and players without a Kinect can still play without issue.
The game is presented like a TV show, complete with closing credits at the end of each episode and “previously on Dark Dreams Don’t Die” introduction to each chapter. We’ve seen this before in Alan Wake and I kind of like it. Each episode provides a natural stopping point if you need to go do something else.
Visually, you are going to either like or loath the game’s art style. The graphics are rendered to look hand drawn in a sketchy graphic pen way. At first I was “ugh”, but it fits the tone of the game well, giving the whole thing a French graphic novel feel to it.
D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die is a game that is likely to excite or offend, depending on your taste. Most of what went on in the game was completely lost on me, but may (or may not) make more sense on a second play through.
The game is intriguing, as a curio, and deserves points for trying to be something new. If you are open-minded and want to try something different maybe you should give D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die a go. Gamers seeking more traditional fayre should give the game a wide berth.
D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die is available now as a digital download-only game on the Xbox One.