Diminishing returns kick in, hard.
We live in a world where a Deadly Premonition sequel exists. In a year that gave us a new Half-Life game as well as a Final Fantasy VII remake, this might actually be the most shocking game to exist. The original Deadly Premonition was… an interesting game, let’s go with that. It was entirely broken, and a technical disaster, but its wacky characters, Twin Peaks style intriguing story, and surprisingly evocative atmosphere made it a sort of cult classic over the years. A lot of people swear by Deadly Premonition, not in spite of its issues, but perhaps because of them, since they add so much flavor, charm, and just a bonkers sense of aesthetic, to the game that just adds to its intangible appeal.
What I’m trying to say is, Deadly Premonition isn’t the kind of game where a review score tells you the whole story. Given how technically bad and broken the original game is (I’m not even getting into how awful the shooting was, or the banal driving that comprised the traversal across its surprisingly well realized open world), you can’t really give it much of a high score. But that misses a lot of the game’s appeal, which is rooted in things you need to experience for yourself to truly understand (or not, as I am sure will be the case for a lot of people).
"So, a lot of the same problems that plagued the original game? Those still apply here. The framerate is hilariously bad, and I do mean hilariously so, often stuttering worse than a poorly drawn flipbook."
All of that applies to Deadly Premonition 2 as well. In spite of the success(?) of the original game, as well as of subsequent projects by auteur creator Hidetaka Suehiro (better known as Swery to his fans) such as The Missing, this is not a high budget game. It’s not even a budget game, honestly. This is the kind of insane, poorly made low budget experimental game we used to get so much of back in the day in the PS1 and PS2 era, when development costs hadn’t gotten prohibitively expensive.
So, a lot of the same problems that plagued the original game? Those still apply here. The framerate is hilariously bad, and I do mean hilariously so, often stuttering worse than a poorly drawn flipbook. The loading times are interminably long, sometimes literally exceeding minutes upon minutes of waiting. The shooting and aiming? Absolutely awful. As bad as the original game, probably worse given that we’ve had 10 years of advancements made to third person shooters in the intervening period. And the crashes! Oh, the crashes. The game can randomly freeze on an image, buttons can stop responding, necessitating a full restart, and I have never had as many hard locks on my Switch as I did with this game. Deadly Premonition 2 almost seems to revel in its jank, whole-heartedly embracing it along with the unintentional(?) hilarity that can ensue as a result.
None of this is really news to anyone, and I would argue that for a lot of fans of the original, it would have been almost disappointing if the game hadn’t had this kind of jankiness, given how strongly it’s been associated with the first game at this point. But there is a difference between laughing at a minor glitch that makes your character model clip through the floor, and randomly dying because the buttons stopped responding. Deadly Premonition 2 is a test of patience for many players, even veterans of the original.
Wade through that jank, though, and you get… well, you get more Deadly Premonition, really, although it’s hard to say that this outing is as “good” as the original. A Blessing in Disguise is a prequel and a sequel to the original game, following two parallel stories. One follows Francis York Morgan (Francis Zach Morgan now), the batcrap insane self-styled investigator, who is following another murder that seems to eerily invoke the first game’s events in Le Carré, while the other is set in 2019, and follows a far more subdued Morgan as the prime suspect in an investigation.
Much like the Danganronpa series, Deadly Premonition 2 gets extremely meta. The game overtly echoes story beats from the original game, and calls attention to them – this actually works to its credit, because the self-awareness here helps compensate for the sameness of the story, which does make it far less special than the first game as a result. On the whole, however, it’s hard to shake the feeling that this isn’t quite as special a tale as the original.
Some of that, surely, has to do with the fact that while the original game came out of nowhere and practically blindsided everyone, this sequel is a known quantity, and has the baggage and expectations that come from being a sequel. By definition, it cannot feel as delightfully off-beat as the original game. If it tries, it feels like it is trying too hard to recapture the original’s magic. When it doesn’t, it feels like it is unnecessarily more somber. It’s a catch-22 situation.
"In spite of the bevy of criticisms I leveled at it, it’s still a game I feel fans of the original game will enjoy – just not as much as they did the first one."
One area where the game has seen an improvement is the ancillary mechanics. The extremely trite driving from the original game has been replaced with skateboarding, and it’s a lot more fun now. Or at least, it is when the framerate co-operates (it gets especially nasty in outdoor environments). Similarly, for example, the life sim elements all return, and they add hilarity and a solemn weight to proceedings both at once – try going without a bath for a few days, and you’ll see exactly what I mean.
Also improved in this game, or at the very least as good as the original, is the dialog. It’s sharp and witty and often surprisingly profound, and more than anything else, is almost singlehandedly responsible for this game’s incredible characterization. A lot of times, the dialog can even spice up the story, which, as mentioned, can feel a bit rote at times. The interactions between York and his assistant Patricia, especially, are a joy.
One area where this game does take a hit – and this one hurts – is the atmosphere. This, again, ultimately comes down to the game’s self-awareness. The original game had a slightly chilling and eerie sense to things, permeating every scene and dialog, every interaction and plot point, standing in sharp juxtaposition to the absurd antics the characters got up to. Deadly Premonition 2… doesn’t? The game’s own self-awareness of what the original game was, and the seeming overt attempts to try and recreate that brand of wackiness, end up undermining a lot of the atmosphere (although there are certainly moments when A Blessing in Disguise outdoes the original in this respect). This is, more than anything else, this game’s biggest failing – the atmosphere of the original game gave it an incredible sense of place, adding a feeling of tangible tactility to the characters, and the supernatural mystery that you were chasing. All of that is, not gone, but greatly diluted in the sequel.
In spite of the bevy of criticisms I leveled at it, it’s still a game I feel fans of the original game will enjoy – just not as much as they did the first one. It’s still got oodles of charm and off-beat humor, the story, while diminished in its impact, still has some great moments (especially as it moves towards its resolution), and it feels nice to get to spend some more time with Morgan. If you liked the original, you will still find something in this one to your liking – maybe you’ll even get more out of it than I did. If you didn’t particularly appreciate the original, or never even got around to playing it, but got intrigued by the sequel once it got prominently featured in a Nintendo Direct, stop. This is not the game for you. Go play something else instead.
This game was reviewed on Nintendo Switch.
Still retains a lot of the off-beat charm and humor of the original, albeit diminished; there are improvements to the core gameplay loop, such as with skateboarding or the life sim elements; extremely witty and sharp dialog; a meta sense of self-awareness
The story is not as good as the original; the atmosphere is not as good as the original; the game seems to try too hard a lot of times; controls and aiming are pretty awful; hilariously and excessively broken, with a number of crashes and bugs; framerate very literally goes down to single digits a whole lot of times
Fans of the original will still enjoy this outing, albeit probably not quite as much. Everyone else is best advised to stay away.