If someone came up to me and ask me what D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die is about, I would say it’s about letting go of the past, eating and relationships. These are the three themes I noticed quite frequently in the game and the three main ingredients that keep a person functional in the society. This game is about a broken man named David Young who is on a metaphorical journey from death to life.
I must admit, I was a bit confused to what was going on in the game. All I knew was the protagonist lost his wife. So I played the game several times. Then I concluded the game is very dreamlike purposely. One moment, we see Young falling into the bathroom, and then we see him reading a magazine on the bed casually, drinking coffee, crushing fortune cookies, changing music records, turning on the T.V, changing clothes, pushing little squirrel off the window etc. Everything seems calm and normal. Until Amanda, his cat, enters the scene. Then I realized, Mister Young is not okay. We are witnessing a man who is undergoing some severe trauma in the head!
And so, Forrest Kaysen, an important supporting role in the game, is there to guide Young back to life, the reality–the present moment. If you haven’t noticed, once Young solved a particular mystery of his past, the memento loses its special power. This is a way for the game to tell the player–mystery solved–now you can move forward into the present moment. Have you folks ever experienced that? When you are bothered by the past, but there is nothing you can do to change it, but live in regret? Leave it in the past, my friends, leave it in the past.
Looking closely at Kaysen, he is like a philosopher and sometimes like a twisted version of Little Peggy. Speaking with him, opens up a dialogue about eating. It is important to nourish the body with food. How can any person function without food? Obviously, the game attempts to point out that people who are consumed by the past do not feed their bodies. Why would they? They are dead inside. So it’s no surprise to me, when Kaysen confronted Young for not finishing his meal. Kaysen knew that Young has been drinking excessively to drown his misery, but he also wanted acknowledgement for his cooking ability. It’s a hilarious cut scene which I could personally relate to. I too, have a small stomach, and have a hard time finishing my meal. So I’ll tell you a little personal story. I once dated a Japanese man. He asked me what he should cook for dinner and I said, “I don’t like eating.” I said it because I wasn’t hungry at the time and food was never on my priority list of things to think about on a daily basis. He got very upset. To him, I was disrespecting life and his food. He said we need to eat to be alive, which is true. I should have chosen my words wisely or not say anything at all. This part of the game really highlighted the differences between Japanese and American culture on food and human interaction in a twisted way.
I know I mentioned a lot about the plot because the plot and the colorful characters are definitely stronger than the gameplay, but the gameplay is not monotonously minimal like other cinematic games. The stunts with Amanda and the courier are quite funny. But my all time favorite side game is taking Philip Cheney’s quizzes. His dialogue is interesting and his villain-like approach to the quizzes made me laugh hard. I am not surprised he is the fourth “D.”
And yes, the game ends with a cliffhanger and is too short, but I didn’t mind it at all. The game is jam packed with timeless human drama that made me think even after I am done playing it. It made me think about human relationships as being the most important aspect of human civilization. We are like civilized social animals, resembling cats. According to a scrapbook article I found in the game, cats sacrifice the lone life to move in large group. Doing so will make them achieve social status. Hmm…we are like cats!
Lastly, the game made me think about relationship between lovers as the strongest bond between humans. Some of us argued that we don’t need it, but I think we do. Life seems more enjoyable despite the arguments that come with a relationship. Losing a relationship will drive us crazy as we see it with the Marshal who chases after the courier to avenge his wife’s death. He too, like the protagonist, is living in the past. But perhaps, Little Peggy is right: Things in the past need to stay in the past or else a person cannot move on and live a happy life. The only thing we can do is acknowledge our mistakes and practice for tomorrow as Young once said. Overall, the game gave me a good feeling. Most of the time, I was laughing with the game despite its dark plot.
I am still curious–who killed Little Peggy? I’m hoping for season 2. Let me know what your thoughts are on D4 if you have played it, and thank you for reading! Until next time, take care!