When it comes to strange and surreal mystery games, D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die, takes all the awards. Aside from supposedly taking place in Boston, the game seems to have no grounding in reality. We liked the original version, developed for the Xbox One with Kinect controls, but now it's time for D4 to make its way onto a new platform, namely the PC. Although it's still as weird as ever, something got lost in translating the controls.
D4 puts you in the role of David Young, a Boston cop turned private detective, who has exactly one case to handle: The murder of his wife two years ago. In fact, she was killed in the bathroom of the apartment he still resides in, and he hasn't done anything to clean the crime scene. David also has strange acquaintances, including a woman named Amanda who thinks she's a cat. He also has a special ability to see into the history of special, emotionally charged, objects and step into past events to interact with objects and people.
The goals of the game aren't immediately apparent, but despite having its Kinect controls converted into mouse or gamepad movements, its roots are very apparent. D4 on the PC feels very much like an awkward point-and-click adventure. Players need to find and click interactive objects and people to uncover clues and piece them together. Players have the option to either push or pull objects, and every once in a while, they'll need to swipe the hand-shaped cursor around, but it all amounts to the same thing. Move the mouse back and forth to wipe the dirt off a window, click on the feet icon to move forward.
David sort of becomes part of events when he's sent back to the past, although things play out as though it were a dream. He can interrogate or coerce characters, examine objects, read documents, etc. Then, random character like a tall man in a surgical mask, scraping a knife and fork together, will appear from out of nowhere. Furthermore, David only has a limited amount of stamina use for interacting with these visions, which is replenished by eating food. Food can be purchased from a cat (an actual cat) named Amanda, who conveniently sits nearby. I guess it doesn't matter that it's technically dream food that he's eating. Clicking, swiping, and examining earn points that can be used to purchase food items, but there's enough free food laying around the vision to make this feature optional.
The game features a number of whacky characters, but its port suffers from one major flaw: the timing for each action is set for a Kinect. I had plenty of time to perfectly hit every click and swipe during the quicktime events, starting with the one where Amanda (the human) suddenly throws dishes at me. You really have to work to fail at these challenges. As a result, the gameplay gets boring really fast.
Boring is one thing D4 definitely shouldn't be. With crazy characters like a fashion designer with a mannequin fetish, to a federal witness that kicks the crap out of a US Marshal without anyone noticing, this is a game that takes you for a ride that up and down and in circles.
Gameplay aside, I'm not quite sure how I feel about D4's story so far. The surreal characters are entertaining, but I can't really say that I liked any of them. At the end of the first episode, David proclaims that he solved the case, when in fact he didn't. He actually solves the mystery of why he couldn't solve the case, which is an equally bewildering situation on its own.
D4 is clearly a game that people will either love or hate, depending on how much they embrace the absurd. However, the gameplay is so easy that it almost feels shallow. Perhaps the game would have been better suited to touch screen controls, but somehow I doubt it would have been much better. As it is, the best reason to pick up D4 for the PC is to follow its quirky story, because as strange as it gets, you're always left wondering what will happen next.