Oh boy. We’ve no idea why it’s taken so long for someone to make a game that plays like a series of Quantum Leap, but D4, Hidetaka ‘Swery65’ Suehiro’s bonkers crime drama, is just that. Stepping into past memories one episode at a time, pretty-boy detective David Young hopes to track down the killer of his wife, Peggy, whose dying clue was to look for ‘D’ and alter history so that she can come back to him. So far, so grim. But the director of Deadly Premonition was hardly likely to serve up a game without humour and oddball characterisation, and it is in embracing both that D4 – which stands for Dark Dreams Don’t Die – veers sharply off the conventional track.
For one thing, the game has been built from the ground up for Kinect 2.0. “The original Kinect was enough for me to come up with the basic concept,” Suehiro says, “but Kinect 2.0 is indispensable for giving more fidelity of control.” He also believes that the updated version of the peripheral allows for extra player immersion. “You can get closer to the TV now, and you can play in the dark. And since Kinect can read facial expressions, you can [involve empathy] more.”
During the exploration sections of the game – we see a level set inside an aeroplane cabin – your hand movements highlight items on the screen in the same manner as a point-and-click adventure. Close your hand on an item to select it, swipe to turn the camera and, cutely, point two fingers at the screen like a gun to move forward when a footsteps icon indicates that there’s the option to do so. Touch your ‘glasses’ to activate a Batman: Arkham City-style enhanced vision mode that highlights objects that might warrant a closer look. Occasional splitscreen cutaways, meanwhile, lend an air of ’70s buddy-cop TV drama to proceedings.
As you chat with the air stewardess and other passengers in your search for clues as to the whereabouts of D, conversation trees offer various paths for interrogation. Choose the one closest to how Young would think to fill your Synchro Gauge, which is useful in the action scenes. These are also where things
get truly loopy. Suddenly, you’re playing a rhythm-action game, swiping your hands in time to the onscreen prompts. In this case, we guide Young as he roughhouses with suspicious fellow passenger Antonio Zapata, dispensing lines of cheesy detective-drama dialogue over a high-octane soundtrack.
Every now and then, a Synchro Stunt is activated, with an icon indicating some tricky body contortion position for you to throw yourself into. These allow for some of the demo’s maddest moments; Young dances a lady passenger out of harm’s way, for instance, and bats away a baseball thrown at him by Zapata using a discarded mannequin leg.
What about the wider arc? “Along with solving the mystery of Peggy’s death and the identity of D, you’ll also learn why Young has suddenly been gifted with his supernatural powers,” Suehiro says. Each episode will present Young at a different time in his life while he explores the past to rearrange the present. “We haven’t decided [on] the number of episodes yet, but each episode will always have a climax and conclusion, like episodes of a TV drama. You won’t even have to play them in sequence.”
Swery tells us that the game will be entirely playable with a controller if you’re “embarrassed” by Kinect. But as one of the most creative-looking uses for the device to date, a gamepad seems like the dull option when you’re leaping into Young’s weird world of time-warp detective work and taking the serious with the seriously strange.