I joined the Deadly Premonition party so late you’d probably say I’d long missed the mark of being fashionably so, the Nintendo Switch re-release my entry point into this weird but strangely entertaining Swery adventure. I reviewed it last year and while my experience with the game was one filled with problems aplenty, there was something about it that I also found entertaining. Through all its jank and so-so gameplay was a story that kept me scratching my head and laughing throughout (whether intentional on the game’s part or not) but more importantly oddly engaged.
What I’m trying to say is Deadly Premonition wasn’t exactly a shining example of its genre – hell it wasn’t even a great one – but at the very least it was damn entertaining in all its guilty-pleasure glory. So, once the initial feeling of utter disbelief had passed following the sequel’s announcement, I felt cautiously excited to step back into the shoes of detective Francis York Morgan. Is Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing In Disguise a worthy successor though or merely proof that the series should have closed the book on York after the first game?
Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing In Disguise acts as a sequel and prequel to the original game likely to leave newcomers to the series completely lost when it comes to its story. The 2019 portion – which essentially acts as the game’s framing device – sees two FBI special agents interviewing an older Francis Zach Morgan about an old case of his. The 2005 timeline meanwhile takes us back to that very same case where a younger Francis York Morgan investigates the murder and disappearance of Lise Clarkson in the small town of Le Carré in Louisiana.
Those new to the world of Deadly Premonition may have noticed Francis’ middle name switch between the two time periods I mentioned. Not a mistake but rather something explained in the original game. Again, Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing In Disguise will be hugely puzzling for fresh players, the story intertwining with the original game and its characters. Even having recently played the first game, I still found myself scratching my head at times. That isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy the story though. It still delivered that same level of weird and sinister mystery I found so captivating in the original whilst radiating the same low-budget horror movie vibe too. Its cast of characters again didn’t disappoint whether we’re talking Patricia, York’s teenage sidekick or the local sheriff who constantly talks as if he were the movie trailer voiceover guy.
Of course, this is York’s story and I’d be lying if I was saying it wasn’t good to see him back. His wide-eyed optimism and genuine appreciation for everything from his breakfast to the people of the town is always entertaining. Fans also need not worry; he’ll have plenty to say about some of his favourite movies too.
As for the actual game part of Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing In Disguise, this is split between open-world exploration and survival horror sequences. Much like the original game, the action here is at best passable and at worst repetitive as hell on both sides. The survival horror sections feel like simple shooting galleries, the environments nothing more than dark, murky red rooms adjoined by corridors and the enemy variety laughably small. The aiming doesn’t feel great but this isn’t so much a problem thanks to the slow, predictable and unchallenging movements of the enemies. Even boss battles feel dull and uninspired and can be taken down simply by filling it full of bullets and occasionally dodging an attack or two.
As for the exploring the town of Le Carré, this is where you’ll spend a fair amount of your time, partaking in fetch quests, shooting the wildlife of the area or taking a break from the case for a spot of bowling or simply skimming some stones. York is able to get around via skateboard now (since his car was stolen), an amusing mode of transportation for someone wearing a suit and one that I actually found myself enjoying more than the clunky-handling vehicles of the last game. While the next Tony Hawk this is not, it’s entertaining enough and the fact you’re able to pull your skateboard out at any time feels convenient too.
As for the town itself, while it might feel smaller in size than that of the first game’s Greenvale it also somehow manages to feel even more empty and lifeless. There’s nothing particularly interesting about this place either, a problem since you’ll be exploring it a hell of a lot. Between shooting monsters and dashing about from one location to the next to further the story, you’ll also very occasionally be required to solve small riddles, piece together your evidence board and answer questions. It’s very light stuff and as a result feels underutilised throughout, a shame really considering the idea of actually investigating could have added an interesting layer to the game.
None of this mediocrity is helped by the fact, the game’s mechanics at times feel poorly thought out. Hygiene needs to be maintained in York’s day to day but combined with hunger and sleep it feels one thing too many. Also (and this is a big one), the returning day and night system – while a neat idea – is one that led to many a maddening moment. In the game’s second episode, for example, you’re required to gather items, a rather boring task in itself but one made even more so given the fact you are required to obtain some of these items on specific days. With time moving so slowly in the game (and not at all when inside) plus few activities to actually keep you busy and pass that time I was forced to either smoke myself into an early grave or continually put York into a 24-hour nap. Again, it just doesn’t feel like these mechanics have been well thought out.
Chances are you’ve likely already seen discussions elsewhere on the game’s performance and with good reason. Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing In Disguise is an absolute mess in so many ways. From the struggling frame rate that reaches ridiculously low numbers when exploring the town of Le Carré to the ugly visuals that wouldn’t feel out of place on a PlayStation 2, to the fact objects like trees can pop in when York is only a stone’s throw away to load screens that take so long I’d thought the game had crashed. There were even instances that outright broke the game, one particular example preventing me from loading a save file instead throwing me to a black screen. It wasn’t until several attempts later and the random mashing of buttons that the game finally decided to let me play. The original wasn’t exactly known for being a showpiece in performance yet somehow Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing in Disguise manages to fall below that bar and then some, a disappointing fact especially since we’re ten years on from that game.
Yet rather amazingly despite all this, I wanted to keep going. I found myself with that same feeling I had when playing the first. Intrigue and curiosity. For every boring task or frustrating bug, I had to put up with, I knew there would be a little more weirdness just beyond. Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing In Disguise isn’t much fun to actually play but it’s entertaining enough to experience, a fact that leads me to the conclusion that this is a successful sequel. Maybe? Who knows? At this point, even I’m confused as to my feelings on the game. At times I hate it, and others I’m absorbed by it.
Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing In Disguise is another messy, frustrating and at times broken experience… but then again so was the first game. The story once again is a highlight with a cast of strangely acting characters sure to make you chuckle or downright confused. Unfortunately, seeing the tale unfold is slowed massively with dull and tedious quests aplenty. Big fans of the original will likely find exactly what they’re looking for here but for others, there are just too many issues technical or otherwise sure to prevent you from actually enjoying yourself.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Rising Star Games