Many aspects of Access Games’ terribly brilliant Deadly Premonition have proved hugely divisive amongst the gaming public, but one aspect I believe everyone can agree on is how the game rather unashamedly wears its influences (or is that influence) on its sleeve.
Having already heard of the similarities between Deadly Premonition and David Lynch’s fantastically batty Twin Peaks series, I decided (at the potential cost of my sanity) to take on both the game and the show in shifts. Although I have been a long standing fan of Lynch’s work, for one reason or another, I had never gotten around to watching the show, so, as you can imagine, this proved the perfect excuse to finally sit through this unique and quite frankly brilliant piece of 90s TV.
Are the similarities as strong as some suggest? Are aspects of Twin Peaks copy and pasted wholesale into the game? Do some of the characters bear an almost uncanny resemblance to those found on the show? Yes, yes and yes. Although there are obvious changes made for Deadly Premonition to work within the confines of a basic videogame structure, thematically and tone wise, this is every bit the carbon copy of Twin Peaks. Whether it’s a case of homage, tribute or plagiarism will largely be down to personal perception but make no mistake, Deadly Premonition is only a few minor tweaks away from being Twin Peaks: The Videogame.
In fairness to the developers, it’s not like they’ve ever tried to hide their key influence – in the opening scene alone, you get the beautiful blonde mysteriously murdered in the woods (tied at the arms no less), the bizarre, clue strewn dream sequences, a grieving, well to do mother, the friend holding the meaningful necklace and the fumbling deputy who can’t keep his emotions in check……there’s even a Pot Lady for heaven’s sake. If imitation is the kindest form of flattery then Lynch should be positively blushing.
The surprising news is that originally, Deadly Premonition was planned to be even closer to Lynch’s classic TV show. Known originally as Rainy Woods, the twins Isaach and Isaiah were brought in to replace two dwarves who were an almost carbon copy of The Man From Another Place while Sheriff George Woodman’s appearance was also changed due to his uncanny resemblance to Sheriff Harry Truman from the show. That still leaves a host of similarities in the final product, but hey, at least they made a few concessions.
The thing is, as similar to the show as Deadly Premonition might be, I for one wouldn’t have it any other way. Despite its somewhat clunky controls, relatively poor visuals and last-gen gameplay mechanics, Deadly Premonition rises above its technical deficiencies thanks to the enthralling mystery at the center of the story and its wonderful cast of characters. It also helps that its combination of open world gameplay and dialogue driven story makes it one of the few games to use the Shenmue template in recent years and honestly, any game which attempts to cross Twin Peaks with Shenmue (with a little bit of Silent Hill thrown in for good measure) is well worth a look in my book.
Its limited budget always keeps it from being the truly special videogame it could have been and many gamers will struggle to see past its myriad of technical faults and idiosyncratic design choices but for those willing to forgive its deficiencies, Twin Peaks rip off or not, Deadly Premonition will deliver a truly unique, quite unforgettable videogame experience.
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