DEADLY PREMONITION ORIGINS / DEVELOPER & PUBLISHER: TOY BOX / PLATFORM: SWITCH / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
If you've come across Deadly Premonition before now, you'll already know whether this Switch re-release is either an instant must-buy or something to run away from as fast as you possibly can. If this is the first time you've heard about it though... well, we've got a real treat for you.
Originally released in 2010, Deadly Premonition was loved by many and hated by many more. A supernatural whodunnit with a hefty amount of inspiration taken from David Lynch's Twin Peaks, review scores ranged from 2/10 to the full 10/10. Most people slated the game for its dreadful graphics (development started during the PS2 era, and seemingly never moved on), washed-out colours, horrendous animation, terrible controls and ill-fitting audio. The dialogue and overall story were similarly questionable, but were so off the wall and comically bad that it was impossible to not get some enjoyment out of them, which at least scored a few points with critics at the time. Nevertheless, DP's reputation was enough to warrant an HD Director's Cut PS3 re-release in 2013, but then things went completely silent. Fast forward to September 2019, when Nintendo dropped a huge surprise – not only is Deadly Premonition 2 in the works, set for release in 2020, but the original game (not the shiny Director's Cut, unfortunately) would be released immediately on Switch, now known as Deadly Premonition Origins.
As soon as the game loads up, you know you're in for a right old time. A grandfather and two young twin boys are walking through a low resolution (and very 2D) forest when they come across a naked woman, bound to a tree by thorny branches, with her stomach sliced open. Blossom falls all around as a snake slithers its way up her torso and into the branches above. The opening credits that follow show off some of the game's outstandingly bad facial animations, and those Twin Peaks references appear right from the start - a parent crying over their dead daughter, a mysterious necklace, a dashing FBI agent (that's you), and a general ambience of WTF.
We're quickly introduced to Agent Francis York Morgan and the voice in his head, Zach. York (as he prefers to be known) is on his way to the backwoods town of Greenvale, where he will be based for the duration of his investigation. Greenvale is pretty much open right from the start and can be explored at will, but most of its inhabitants – the characters you'll need to interact with – follow a fairly strict 24 hour clock, so the game forces you through its story by insisting that you get to a certain place by a certain time. It's possible to take days off and just do what you fancy, but you're likely to end up with a whole lot of waiting around until the clock rolls around and the next opportunity to meet up with the appropriate person presents itself.
The conversations you find yourself having with the residents of Greenvale are never anything less than bizarre. One early highlight is an encounter with the aged proprietor of an empty hotel, who joins you for breakfast but chooses to sit as far away from you as possible, at the opposite end of a ridiculously long table. She's crazy enough to begin with, but as the conversation gets weirder, the volume of game's soundtrack seems to turn itself up, and the characters end up shouting at each other across the table yet manage to remain only barely audible. The sheriff's assistant who seems to have been animated as a bashful Japanese schoolgirl is another high point, and you'll meet plenty more similarly strange characters throughout the rest of the game.
While Greenvale isn't exactly a thriving hub of activity (its street are always completely empty), its main destinations tend to be spread across the countryside. You'll be doing a lot of driving, fighting with controls that feel like you're guiding a skate shoe across an ice rink. The very first time you get in a car, a screen pops up to tell you the controls. You're likely to question some of these – why is that accelerate? Why do I need separate on and off windscreen wipers? Why do I need windscreen wipers at all? - but Deadly Premonition doesn't concern itself with taking the obvious user-friendly route. Wonky controls are just one of the game's many quirks, and it wouldn't quite be the same without it.
As entertaining as just being in this bizarre place and spending time with such odd companions can be, DP isn't just walking, talking and investigating. You'll also be fighting loads of reanimated corpses, many of which bend over backwards and crab-walk towards you, their joints clicking and cracking as they shuffle across the mostly untextured landscape. They also let rip with some super unsettling audio effects and soundbites. Pitched down moans and groans and slurred “dooooon't want to diiiiiiie” will haunt you for the rest of your days, as will the game's soundtrack, which is just as confusing as everything else. Jaunty acoustic guitar, chirpy whistling, sinister horns and even a bit of orchestral/choral come out to play, usually appearing at the most inappropriate times.
All things considered, Deadly Premonition is really quite incredible. It fails at pretty much everything that it attempts to do, yet the end result is one of the most uniquely memorable games of all time. You need to be of a particular mindset to enjoy it, but those in the know will defend this game until their dying day. It's disappointing that Origins doesn't include the Director's Cut content though, and there are some performance issues that put this slightly below any of the previous releases. We'd probably recommend seeking out the original Xbox 360 release (compatible with Xbox One) or the PS3 Director's Cut over Origins but, if those aren't available to you, this is still a decent way to experience a bonafide cult classic. Everything that was wrong about Deadly Premonition ten years ago is very much still present and incorrect, and we wouldn't have it any other way.