D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die | game review
Dreams can't die if they never end.
Game summary: This is the story of a man with a very strange fate. His name is David Young. Two years ago, his wife was murdered by an unknown assailant, and Young suffered a blow to the head that cost him his memory. His wife's final words: “Look for D.” (Steam)
So I have a weird history with D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die, because I didn't really look into it before I first started playing it years ago. I went through the prologue and first episode, but stopped there because I already had other games I was playing and expected this to be similar to the TellTale set of games with three or four more episodes to go. Nope, there's just the one more to go.
That's right, one prologue and two episodes make up this first (and likely last) 'season' of D4. And it ends on a bloody cliff-hanger too! To say it's an unsatisfying experience would be an understatement, but at least if you're reading this or have otherwise looked into the game before playing it, you might not view it quite as negatively as I do for stopping just when the story was really getting going.
Another issue is the game's replayability requirements. To see everything story-related, players must play through the game at least twice, because some interactions literally aren't available when you first go through the story. On top of that, collecting all the achievements requires multiple playthroughs, making it feel like the game is artificially lengthening its playtime to make up for how short it is.
Then there's the controls, which are stilted and awkward. The game uses a combination of point-and-click mechanics and quick-time events, but the execution feels clunky and imprecise - from what I've read, D4 was designed to take advantage of the Kinect for Xbox, and it really does feel like a game adapted from motion controls, rather than one intended to be played with a mouse/keyboard combo or a controller.
The camera angles are also frustrating at times, making it difficult to navigate the environment and interact with objects, a lot of which you'll need to collect if you're achievement-hunting. These control issues can take away from the overall enjoyment of the game, and it's disappointing that the controls weren't better adapted when being ported to PC.
On the other hand. the game's visual style is noteworthy, with a cel-shaded design and colour palette that feels like it's been ripped straight from a well-drawn graphic novel, which also means it hasn't aged too badly in the years since its original release thanks to the choice of art style. The characters are well-designed, and the environments are packed with details to really sell the locations you find yourself in.
The voice acting of the lead actor, Ben Pronsky, is particularly impressive as David Young, and his performance captures the character's determination to find out what happened to his wife and confusion at some of the more bizarre elements that come into play. The supporting cast feels equally strong with what we get to experience of their performances, but the game's length counts against it yet again.
D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die is good while it lasts, but it just doesn't last anywhere near long enough. It looks and sounds great, but the controls on PC will likely prove frustrating for most and the fact that it's over in a flash while providing absolutely no closure or catharsis means it's not at all satisfying either. Maybe give it a go if you can get it super-cheap just to try it out, but it's not really worth it otherwise.