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‘D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die’ – An Underappreciated Gem

ScreenCritics Emily takes a look at one of the Xbox One’s more underrated entries, the impressive ‘D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die’.

Last generation there was a game called Maijin and the Forsaken Kingdom. It was about a boy and a massive mythical beast he wakes up from a deep slumber to help him on his quest to save the world from chaos – and it was just magical. I loved it and played it to death, but nobody else had even heard of it, let alone played it. I felt I was isolated in my love and adoration of the giant creature with his dopey voice, and this left me feeling sad.

Before every game shop within a 20-mile radius closed down, looking for hidden gems among the mountains of pre-owned games was one of my favourite pastimes. There’s something satisfying about picking up a game you’ve never seen or heard of, freeing it from its lonely prison on the shelf – where it goes largely unnoticed beneath the masses of AAA titles – and finding that actually, it’s one of the better things you’ve played.

Now, I have to make do with scouring the Xbox or PlayStation Store for my impulse-buying kicks, and so far this generation there hasn’t really been much that particularly inspired me. It’s all been very samey, all platformers and remakes of the previous generation’s favorites. And then, in January 2015, a game that escaped my radar altogether until Microsoft gave it away cropped up.

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D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die is an episodic tale from the creative force behind Deadly Premonition, Hidetaka ‘Swery’ Suehiro. Played in the style of a point-and-click detective story, it’ll probably remind you a little bit of Telltale’s offerings. I say ‘a little’, because beyond the fact that gameplay-wise Telltale’s games and D4 are similar, there’s one massive difference – D4 is absolutely loco.
Crazy. Nuts. Bonkers.

Seven-foot-tall man dressed a surgeon, scratching together a knife and fork bonkers.

From mannequin leg-baseball to watching a man eat six hot dogs at once, there’s certainly never a dull moment in what could be a pretty depressing game if it was done by anyone else – because between all the random ‘WTF’ moments, there is a dark but decent underlying story. You are Detective David Young, and your wife – who you endearingly refer to as Little Peggy – has been murdered in an incident that appears to be related to a spate of bizarre deaths surrounding a street drug called ‘Real Blood’. With the ability to use ‘mementos’ – objects connected to the people involved in certain situations – David can travel back in time to a specific moment and interact with people and the environment to further his investigation and find out who killed Peggy.

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With a surreal cast of characters and the sense that David might just be going a bit loopy – leaving you wondering if any of this is really happening at all – D4 works well enough as an episodic tale that I wanted to carry on with the next one as soon as I’d finished the former. Although you could get through each chapter in an hour or so, there’s enough content to keep you playing a lot longer, with extra cases, hidden clues and collectables dotted around to keep David busy.

Reviews for D4 were mixed, but I’d advise you to give it a try. If you downloaded way back when, while it was free and you still haven’t given it a go yet, please do – even if it’s only to find out what it’s like to use a mannequin’s leg as a baseball bat to shoot projectiles at a drug dealer, on a plane that’s about to plummet towards the ground, or to experience living with a grown woman who thinks she’s a cat.

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