A direct sequel to its predecessor that originally released ten years ago, Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing in Disguise launches exclusively on Nintendo Switch. Once again taking the role of Francis York Morgan and his ‘friend’, Zach, to resolve a murder in the peaceful town of Le Carre, this instalment is undoubtedly impaired by technical shortcomings, hindering an otherwise intriguing and gripping story.
Last year, Deadly Premonition: Origins released on the Nintendo Switch and, shortly after, its Nintendo Switch exclusive sequel was announced. Fans of the original will know what to expect here: a murder case that needs solving, an eclectic range of characters to meet and a substantial amount of fourth-wall-breaking dialogue. What gained the first game its loyal fanbase has seemingly remained intact and, in doing so, the sequel suffers from a breadth of issues that unfortunately steals the thunder from an engrossing story.
You’re placed in the shoes of Special Agent Francis York Morgan, the main protagonist from the first title, who seeks advice from his ‘imaginary friend’ Zach (you, the player) and various townspeople to help solve a murder that’s taken place in Le Carre, a town in deep south Louisianna. He arrives in the town after being asked to investigate a recreational drug named Saint Rouge and, although we won’t go into specifics, York is thrown into a wild goose chase to discover who murdered a young girl. Things quickly escalate and it becomes a classic case of ‘who dunnit?’.
Akin to the first game in the series, the hotel you’re staying in acts as the game’s hub. Here, you can eat, sleep, change clothes and the handy pinboard in your hotel room becomes your case journal, showing who’s who and what’s happened so far. You’re given a map of Le Carre (and subsequent hints – or oracles – from a supernatural being) which points out main locations. While Deadly Premonition is an open-world game and you’re free to go wherever you please, grievances with the design and performance of the game swiftly set in.
Sadly, the sense of freedom is dampened by poor performance from the minute you leave the hotel. Suffering from an abysmal frame rate, traversing across Le Carre is a real chore and it took us quite some time to adjust to just how choppy the action gets. During the day, rabid squirrels run amok along with wolves that attack if you get close. For instance, trying to aim your gun to shoot them was a burden in itself. The inconsistent frame rate did very little to help the clunky controls too. Using your skateboard to get from point A to B is a nice touch, but when the controls are unresponsive and the action is hampered by very obvious technical issues, even the simplest of tasks felt daunting.
All that being said, Le Carre does own some memorable characters to interact with. To the woman who is hellbent on hogging the bowling alley, to the overly helpful cafe owner who has a soft spot for York, almost every single one of them is entertaining. The heavy-accented voice acting is fun and helps breathe new life into the three-dimensional characters of Le Carre. It’s a shame, then, that the energy that’s put into these people and their accompanying backstories (and there are many of them) isn’t spent elsewhere.
Chapter One helped us get to grips with the game’s mechanics, introduced us to some locations and presented us with our main goal: to find the killer. With riddles to solve and our map to decipher, it wasn’t too long before we were skating across town and putting together the puzzle pieces. The main goal is to make it through to an opening to the ‘Other World’, a place where you clear rooms of enemies, fight a boss and complete the chapter. Here is where the game gets mundane; the Other World soon becomes tiresome and the rooms are tedious to navigate. Stocked up with health kits and cups of coffee, you’ll breeze through the enemies, but doing so takes longer than it should. It’s repetitive and lengthens the game considerably but, when all is said and done, the revelation at the end of the chapter is a commendable reward.
As mentioned previously, the in-depth story is binge-worthy for the majority of the game. You’ll find there’s a deep connection with a lot of the townsfolk, especially as they all help to push the story onward in their own unique, bizarre way. The well-paced narrative is like a really good book; you can’t wait to turn the next page or get to the next chapter. Just when you think you’ve drawn your own conclusion, Deadly Premonition 2 throws a curveball, forcing you to rethink and point the blame at another (previously unsuspected) person. In its 15+ hours of gameplay, and thanks to the jump in timeframes and plot points, you’re towed through its enthralling adventure while simultaneously getting teased at every turn.
When you want a break from the turbulent narrative, there’s plenty to do in Le Carre. Head to the Sheriff’s Station and you’re given the option to complete side quests in exchange for money. Cash is spent on better weapons or ammunition, as well as items like doughnuts for health and sleeping bags to pass the time. Some locations are only accessible at certain times of the day, so you’ll need to keep a close eye on the in-game clock. Venture out at night and you’ll be faced with demonic monsters that plague the street, but apart from a handful of story quests, we spent the majority of time completing quests in daytime hours just to avoid the enemies.
And this is where the game trips up the most. You don’t need to complete any of the sidequests to finish the main story – nor did we really feel like we wanted to. Between the cliche and laborious fetch quests and unimaginative ‘go here at this time to activate dialogue’, there’s very little incentive to get the extra cash because you get more than enough by playing through the main story. And when you automatically earn cash by just playing through the main game, the rewards lack depth when obtained with a minimal amount of input. We never felt pushed to do even a little bit of grinding for ingredients to make a status-buffing relic, or any other of the items to aide in the murder mystery. Yet the option is there and, for some players, exploring Le Carre will be fun. But when none of it feels impactful, the urge to complete them is almost non-existent.
The mainline narrative does offer a mixture of activities to complete, though. Whether that’s skimming stones, shooting targets from a boat or performing tricks on your skateboard for some extra cash, you won’t be doing the same thing for long. Although skimming stones across a river to entice a character to help with the case may seem out of the ordinary, it’s nothing compared to some of the outlandish twists and turns the story takes. Uncovering the secrets about the multiple murders that ensue from start to finish feels ever so slightly rewarding because you don’t have to do much in the way of solving them yourself; Special Agent Francis York Morgan (just call him, York, everybody does) does all the hard work for you.
Deadly Premonition 2 plays similar to the first in the series, so fans of the original will favour what’s here. There’s a hunger and sleep meter to keep track of, time slots for certain events and minigames that help to pass time. Travelling from one side of the town is helped with other modes of transport, but it’s quicker here and the fee to zip to another location is minimal. This time around though, the focus is less on the horror aspect which may disappoint some folk. Sure, there are demons in the Other World, but it’s definitely a lot less eerie.
This title has all the ingredients to deliver a great, fun-filled game. It has a town full of interesting characters to interact with, an intertwining murder mystery that challenges its own reasoning whenever it can, and an abundance of things to get up to – no matter how crazy they seem. But with severe technical difficulties that made a few portions of the game almost unplayable and quests that go on for far too long, what should be fun becomes a slog.
While the game struggles to run, specifically when you’re exploring the town, we hope it’s something that a patch could help to rectify in the future. In its current state, play has been frozen mid-state and, for a time, the game became unplayable with forced restarts. Since the investigative story is so compelling, it’s furiously frustrating that you often run into issues at almost every turn.
Fans of the original from 10 years ago, or Origins that released on Switch last year, will most certainly enjoy what’s on offer. Newcomers, however, will find it hard to look past its many flaws even if the storytelling is compelling and the conclusion is ridiculously extravagant. Deadly Premonition 2 is up there with Travis Strikes Again levels of weirdness, but much like Suda 51’s hack ‘n’ slash Switch exclusive, Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing in Disguise isn’t really a blessing for Nintendo’s hybrid console. If this second title in the Deadly Premonition series sacrificed its Switch exclusivity and had more development time, it may have been saved from being a sloppy mess that doesn’t deserve its otherwise fantastic story and loveable cast of characters.
A review copy of Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing in Disguise was provided to My Nintendo News by Nintendo UK.