Thoughts on D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die

When I obtained an X-Box One last year, the first game I really wanted was D4: Dark Dream’s Don’t Die, the episodic series created by SWERY. I didn’t purchase it right away. Other games robbed me of my time. I eventually forgot about it. One day it was part of Microsoft’s Games with Gold program.

I was looking forward to using the Kinect to play D4, but seeing as I decided to record a Let’s Play with my cousin Nicholas Maturo and the tiny amount of room left over after setting up multiple AV sources, the Kinect became a less than desirable option.

Preceding the start of the game, Nicholas warned me that D4 get’s really weird. I put it off.

We went to a BBQ at a friend’s house, and the game was brought up. Nicholas spoke about the game and explained his theories about the ending for what seemed to be hours. Loud discussions ensued and my interest piqued. What was it about this strange game that had people talking?

The game begins on a frozen lake, with a poetically fueled script designed to purposefully confuse the player within seconds.

Ice

You are David Young. All you know about yourself is that you have the ability to float backwards in time – or your memories. The arguments are endless.

David

The prologue informs you, mostly through exposition, that David’s wife, Peggy Young, has vanished, and you must sink into your past to unravel the truths behind her murder – or disappearance. It’s unclear.

The people that surround David are peculiar. They’re the types of people that might instill anxiety in people who don’t have a history of any disquietude.

You’ll encounter men with big appetites, women on planes who convince you of impending doom, and a best friend (Amanda) who dresses like a cat, theorized by some to be an actual cat, manifesting herself as a human in David’s mind.

There’s another well accepted theory that Amanda was once a cat turned human. She’s not a cat lady. She doesn’t have a billion cats and she’s not an anthropomorphic animal.  She’s a lady cat. I suppose I’m not qualified to say those aren’t within a realm of truth either though. There is one definitive thing we know about Amanda and it’s that she’s David’s personal merchant. Think of her as Amazon on demand.

Amanda

The game implores the player to use David’s detective skills. You, yourself, use your real life decision-making skills to converse with surreal characters. The blend of real life emotion and cacophonous individuals you’re forced to interact with emulates what I’d imagine an LSD trip would be like. The conversations are mandatory. You sluggishly uncover pathways to the truth – or so it seems!

You’ll learn more and more, only to be drizzled on by puzzle games that don’t squeeze in properly. The game play from the puzzles aren’t replicated in any other form during “actual” story game play. I believe their intentions were originally to:

  1. Utilize the Kinect
  2. Stimulate players enough from slipping into REM

The developer may suggest it’s an avant-garde attempt to supply players with new experiences, or something of the sorts.

Untitled

If you’ve played recent point-and-click games, you might agree what makes them special are the detours and various endings available to a wide range of different types of players. D4 doesn’t have that. It’s more along the lines of an interactive graphic novel.

Instead of every player having a different experience depending on the way they behave towards non-playable-characters, the only difference most audience participants will be able to share with one another are how many attempts puzzles and combat took the to finish.

The voice acting is audibly fraudulent. David is supposed to be from Massachusetts, yet the entire time he sounds like a bewildered North Easterner, often switching among accents. The voice became so jarring that it’s impossible to remain unaware that you’re playing a video game. It adds another layer of oddness.
I’m not sure SWERY understands what makes point-and-click so engaging, but he had me yearning to learn about David’s tragic story. I care about David, even if he sounds different every other minute, and wanted to learn if the past can be modified for calmer future. Minor spoiler ahead, but the first episode of the game ends on a cliffhanger.

Franchising is the future.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6mFOj2ny0WE

If D4 rests on your digital game shelf, then take it for a whirl today.

D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die was available at no cost for X-Box One gold subscribers, is still available for digital purchase through the X-Box One store, and also available on PC.

Daniel Mihailescu
danjamllc@gmail.com