‘Raincorts for all!’
Beautiful things often come with flaws. A beauty spot on a lovely woman’s face, a misplaced brushstroke on a beautiful landscape or a sneaky fart during a romantic night’s sex, no diamond is flawless after all. Deadly premonition follows this logic in some ways though it is more blemish than shine, like the Mona Lisa was painted using excrement. The kicker though is that the scatological deviant artist did so with such conviction and the result so endearing that (for me) it becomes one of the most engaging games i’ve played all year.
I should actually explain , this IS a bad game. The visuals look extremely rough bar the odd character model like that of York and Emily, the controls are bass-ackwards, akin to a parkinson’s sufferer navigating a cobblestone path, even the enemies are predictable and lackadaisical in their movement and attack patterns. All these problems come together to make a game that is tangibly painful to play, but play it we did and we came to love it. Why? simply for the characters and story. I can’t tell you exactly where mine and my cohort’s snorts and guffaws of derision turned to genuine connections with York and the other nutjobs of Greenvale but by the end i was desperate to see how it all wrapped up. So let’s, unfortunately, go in depth.
You step into the dress shoes of one Agent Francis York Morgan, an FBI agent with severe paranoid schizophrenia (apparently not a cause for concern in law enforcement) called in to investigate a homicide in a small rural town that is linked to cases elsewhere by red seeds. Get to know the locals and the surrounding area as you and your imaginary friend Zach close in on the killer and uncover a web of lies, second lives, sado-masochistic undertones and smiles so deranged you’ll shit the bed.
The general story can be summed up in two words, those words being ‘Twin Peaks’. Go watch it, then play the game to see what we mean. Batshit in a banana tree insane is another way to explain how the plot ends up, though thankfully it doesn’t go too deep into Indigo Prophecy territory. The pace starts off at a painful almost glacialy slow crawl and turns into a (somewhat predictable) fast paced twist laden dash to the answers that you’ve built up. I’m reticent to talk anymore about the story to avoid spoilers but I did genuinely spend nights thinking about who the murderer could be and came to all sorts of wild conclusions. A lot of the plot does feel awfully contrived and some things aren’t answered too clearly if even at all, but I personally was satisfied and emotionally engorged by the end. The man behind the game, the catastrophically insane and sociopathic Swery is now someone i’ll watch with great interest.
This is where unfortunately the game falls flat with no upside, whilst we played the game we were in a state that we found out later was medically defined as deceased. It has slow, tank like controls on the characters and combat that made us want to headbutt plate glass windows. I did the majority of the driving for our playthrough and it was awful, the car would often take to the air at speed on long straights losing all control. The ‘otherworld’ that most of the gunplay happens in would often be 90% too long with enemies that never change up their tactics and never trouble your health bar. Towards the end of our playthrough we discovered a host of unlockable mechanics (mostly attained through side-quests) that would have alleviated our woes with the game, things like smoking a cigarette passing time, hitting start to skip alot of the overly long animations etc. But when it comes down to it the gameplay is what put us off the most, we tolerated it because of the story and characters but only barely.
The characters are where the game hooked me in. York and the ever ‘present’ Zach may be my favourite characters in a videogame for a very long time, edging out Nathan Drake by a sizable margin. Emily opening up her personality as you move forwards in the story and the way she and York become closer had me firmly gripped by the emotional scrotum. Sherriff George, Deputy Thomas and the assorted nutjobs of Greenvale all had interesting quirks that endeared, like ‘pot lady’ Sigourney and deaf as a cabbage Polly, whilst also providing people like the resident rock and roll knobhead Keith, though even he was so over the top i grew to enjoy when he opened his infernal foodhatch and proceeded to spout his 50’s rockabilly slang laden drivel. I’m willing to bet anyone playing this game will learn to love and hate these people.
The first things you’ll see in this game are distorted and rough fonts in menus taken straight from a 70’s era game’s console, only to then launch the game and behold some of the worst textures you’ll see in a videogame. Sat looking at the screen, our eyes protested against the awfulness, we laughed for 10 minutes straight in disbelief, and continued to laugh even as our eyes screamed and bled. These graphics come straight from a PS2 and will jar you but after a while, once your eyes have calibrated to see into a mostly brown spectrum you’ll not notice. Some of the main characters aren’t too bad which makes me think the small budget for the game hit hardest here (maybe playtesting too) leaving them with not enough time and resources to make everyone look as good as York and Emily. I’ve attached a screenshot so you can see what the game looks like:
Ahh the sound, we loved the music, even the awful music. Juxtaposing the amazing and cheery ‘whistle theme’ over the top of York elbow deep in a cadaver’s oesophagus pulling out parts of it’s tongue. Bad jazz rules the day here, but it’s so bad it becomes humorous and makes you all the more happy to hear the ‘Whistle theme’. Voice acting in the game swings violently between capable/occasionally very good to awful, once again the divide seems to be the main characters and supporting characters, York and Emily being capably voiced whilst people like rock ‘n roll shit-brick Keith (yes he made our shitlist) make you cringe whenever they utter noises in an attempt to forge words.
Try to get it out of your head now!
After everything bad in this game it’s hard to recommend it to everyone, most people will find it far too abrasive to spend the time required to become invested in the story and characters and all the quirks of the game you’ll come to remember fondly. But having said that, after struggling through I became incredibly attached to York and Emily and enjoyed the story beginning to end. This is a game that people will be split upon but for me it is one of the most original, quirky and interesting games i’ve played in a very long time and in the age of Gears of Halo 14 that’s getting rarer and rarer.
Oh, by the way, the game retails for about £16 so why not try it?
8 / 10