It’s been 10 years since the release of Hidetaka “Swery” Suehiro’s Deadly Premonition. What was originally deemed a lackluster survival horror experience that fell victim to its low budget and over-ambition has since garnered a cult following. It earned this status from its combination of Twin Peaks influence, laughably horrendous gameplay, and a cerebral yet earnest narrative. Now the Toybox sequel, Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing in Disguise, is releasing as a Nintendo Switch exclusive.
This time around, Swery offers up a carnival of poor design decisions with things like mini-games that could only be described as “anti-quality-of-life,” hokey and poorly mixed dialogue that blunders each sensitive topic it comes across, and bugs that defy reason. Yet Swery maintains the player’s interest with an outlandish and emotionally resonant plot.
“That game you like is going to come back in style.”
Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing in Disguise has a campaign consisting of four chapters, all partially taking place in the year 2019. Following FBI agent Aaliyah Davis in Boston, Massachusetts, most of the gameplay in these sections is confined to a living room. Davis interrogates a man named Zach on the events that happened in the rural town of Le Carré, Louisiana in the year 2005. The game then switches to that exact place and time period, serving as a prequel to the first game while following its protagonist, FBI Special Agent Francis York Morgan.
Le Carré, Louisiana serves its purpose as a recreation of rural towns in the American South. While the first game drew inspiration from Twin Peaks by taking place in the Pacific Northwest, Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing in Disguise draws heavily from the first season of True Detective. I had never seen True Detective, but I instantly recognized that the intro to this game had the HBO crime show’s fingerprints all over it. While writing this review, I decided to watch some of the show and noticed influences were carried from the setting, characters, and even dialogue itself.
Francis York Morgan and his young assistant Patricia navigate the open-world location of Le Carré, attempting to unravel the vast conspiracy surrounding the murder of a young girl. The past and present storylines converge in a conclusion that goes brazenly off the rails while still offering poignant moments with its sincere characters.
Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing in Disguise focuses on fleshing out each of the characters, pushing past their possible eccentricities to tell human stories. Francis York Morgan is a standout. It’s a joy to listen to him rattle off facts on the films he has consumed while also remaining captivated by his analytical and detailed detective work.
However, there is a certain character who’s implementation leaves a lot to be desired. While it’s evident that the writers were making an earnest attempt at valuable representation, those efforts were undercut by some frustrating decisions. Despite this, I still ended up enjoying the journey and thought it was both suitably out of left field and emotionally tangible.
“Do you feel it, Zach? My coffee warned me about it.”
I will never know how long I spent playing Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing in Disguise for this review. According to the in-game clock, I spent almost 113 hours (which isn’t possible). But that aside, there were quite a few hours the game didn’t track since I suffered a handful of game-breaking bugs, many of which required me to reload multiple saves in order to push through to the end of the game.
The bugs in this game range from wildly frustrating (I encountered around half a dozen game-breaking issues in total.) to hilarious. At points, I would switch out of the menu and FBI Agent York’s gun would no longer be able to be pulled out. I would have to reload the autosave, make my way through 15-30 minutes of combat, only to find myself stuck between a chair and a dresser. Again, I would reload and make my way to an investigation scene, and my progress would be glitched again as I would wait endlessly for dialogue to appear.
The open world brings its own share of frustrations. Le Carré has a lot of character in its bowling alley diners that specialize in comfort food, rock-skipping opportunities that are adjacent to brutal murder scenes, and hotels staffed by the same person who switches outfits depending on the needed vocation. The game certainly has the atmosphere that the developers attempted to capture.
Yet, not a single one of the minigames is properly implemented. For example, the bowling might be the worst of its kind ever seen with its awful mechanics and atrocious frame rate. That frame rate in Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing in Disguise doesn’t get any better in the open world. It runs horrifically on Nintendo Switch (especially when playing portable), making navigation between areas a chore even when using the much more efficient skateboard.
I ultimately adjusted the skateboard’s stats with charms that were made available to craft in the game, which made the navigation itself easier, though it obviously didn’t fix the frame rate or improve draw distance. I highly suggest unlocking the fast-travel destinations for those looking to stick with the main story.
I also was able to craft charms in order to better make my way through the game’s repetitive combat. There are alligators, squirrels, and dogs I either kung-fu kicked with a three-hit combo or shot with a tranquilizer gun that fired rubber bullets to gather supplies for upgrades. But there were also a handful of enemy types and bosses that I experienced in the “otherworld.” These enemy encounters were simple and largely uninteresting, thanks to both the passive behavior of the enemies and a generous lock-on system. The third-person over-the-shoulder shooting is nothing special.
“The world needs bad games. They keep the other bad games from the door.”
My favorite part of Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing in Disguise apart from the narrative was the loading screens. Despite all the technical issues in game, load times still take a generous 30-40 seconds across the board, including going in and out of buildings, rooms, and cutscenes. If there were any “blessing in disguise” I experienced, it was found in the serenity of loading screen red leaves flying across my Nintendo Switch’s screen at a fluctuating 3-30 frames per second, which offered a reprieve from Toybox’s buggy world.
Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing in Disguise is charmingly awful and will stand out as a morbid curiosity among the pantheon of Nintendo Switch exclusives. As a sequel, it stays true to the original by accidentally inheriting its almost exact flaws. In certain aspects it’s better, and in others it’s much worse. I found the combat to be more palatable while the performance and glitches were difficult to stomach.
The repeated ambition to swing for the fences on an open-world experience still doesn’t do these games any favors either. But there’s something admirable in a game that tries to do so much with so little, and it still provides an entertainingly bizarre and twisty narrative that has to be seen to be believed. I recommend those who haven’t played and survived the first game to steer clear, however, as both the built-up fortitude and previous plotlines are necessary to properly navigate the dysfunctional mysteries in Le Carré. However, the existing fanbase will be more than happy with FBI Agent Francis York Morgan’s latest outing, as it adds another unintentionally terrible sequel to the canon.
A review code was provided by the publisher.