Editor’s Note: This review was conducted with version 1.01 of the game. The reviewer noticed no substantial improvement with the game’s performance in version 1.02. Regarding the changes in dialogue, the reviewer states they were unnecessary, and a disclaimer as with The Missing: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories would have sufficed without sacrificing artistic vision.
Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing In Disguise exists solely due to the cult popularity of the first game. The original was not a big seller and it is not a household name; it happened because Hidetaka Suehiro loves his fans, and wanted to make them happy.
Good intentions can be the absolute worst thing anybody can ever have. When you have good intentions, you may feel like people should oblige your generosity no matter what. You can’t make a game with only good intentions.
Somewhere along the way, something awful must have happened during development. This should have been an easy slam dunk for Swery, but technical issues and huge steps backwards in game design makes Deadly Premonition 2 into a dildo for masochists.
Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing In Disguise
Developer: Toybox Games
Publisher: Rising Star Games
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: July 10, 2020
What was it about Deadly Premonition that made it work? Many would say it was a mixture of the offbeat dialogue, unusual murder mystery, enigmatic characters, and genre bending gameplay. Greenvale was a town that was fully explorable and was 1:1 scaled, which made it feel believable and real.
There were all kinds of activities to partake in like fishing, various puzzle mini-games with many NPCs, collectibles, and the in-depth sim elements. Cars consumed gas, York would have to call for help if he got stuck, and other details like eating meals and hygiene.
Managing time to meet certain characters at specific points in the day was a necessary quirk to add to the believability of Swery’s low-budget opus. It was something to contend with, but was never a frustrating feature that got in the way too badly. Deadly Premonition 2 does make a few steps forward… And stumbles backwards down a rocky cliff, snapping bones all the way down.
When Deadly Premonition 2 begins, something feels off. Control is limited with all inputs, making a new player character move in a single scripted direction. The frame rate is very spotty in what can be described as a low detail hallway apartment, and even in a single room with simple assets the animation quality is very low.
The scene goes on with extremely drawn out dialogue. The fleeting control that is given is relegated to basic questioning and selecting objects on the screen. The game has barely begun and this sequence goes on for what seems like an hour.
These sequences set in 2019 establish Aaliyah Davis, an FBI agent who is hot on the trail of a weird illegal drug called “Saint Rouge.” Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing In Disguise expects the player to have completed the original game going into this one, and elaborating on the details on the narrative inevitably spoils the events of Deadly Premonition in this review here on in.
Editor’s Note: Spoilers for Deadly Premonition from this point on.
Questioning Zach about his connection to the mysterious drug is Aaliyah’s best bet on finding a lead. As the probing ensues, Zach will have flashbacks as his other personality; York. The York sequences is where a bulk of the core game is played and is set in 2005, years before the Greenvale investigation.
Deadly Premonition 2 might seem like it is about to finally get good. York is eating Cajun cuisine while talking to a bird that offers him a worm and is being served by a hilarious stereotype. The scene does go on way longer than needed, but it’s tolerable since the banter is bizarre and quaintly wholesome.
The nightmare finally begins when Swery sets you loose from the barrage of low budget cutscenes and you have to actually play this quarter-baked mess of Unity store assets. You reel back in horror, not because of the strange and bizarre murder mystery that is about to unfold, but because you are shocked to the core of how awful the frame rate is.
Deadly Premonition 2 sputters along, wheezing and stressing the poor Nintendo Switch as it can barely run the game at ten frames per second. Constantly hitching and sometimes seizing up, the simple act of walking around a barren town made up of low quality stock buildings is simply too much.
It does not run this poorly in most indoor locations, which are much more finely detailed. The nightmarish red rooms, where York confronts monsters and scissor men, are moments where Deadly Premonition 2 runs exceptionally. The lack of consistency for the quality makes the game seem woefully unfinished, and likely did not have rigorous QA testing.
A vast swath of the game is set in the open-ended town of LeCarre which is where the frame rate is at its worst. The playability suffers tremendously, and becomes unplayable due to the agonizing epileptic choppiness. The frame rate is so bad that it could cause a seizure.
York’s only mode of manual transportation is his skateboard, which manages to compound on the awful frame rate. The initial hours are going to be spent on desperately finding all fast travel locations just to avoid having to spend any time walking around Le Carre. Not that there is anything of interest, since it is devoid of details that made Greenvale so enigmatic.
Le Carre manages to be mercifully smaller than Greenvale, but the designers did not put the same attention to detail. The town is incredibly dense with lots of houses close together, yet there are so few NPCs and barely any points of interest that would make the place feel more alive.
It would be easy to assume that Le Carre is a tourist hot spot, since most of the generic NPCs converge in the hotel where York stays. It is supposed to be a very obscure and secluded town in the boondocks of the deep south of Louisiana. The broadness of the aesthetics and low quality assets make Le Carre feel like it could be anywhere.
There is so little value to the awful overworld that it could be removed entirely and nothing of value would be lost. If Deadly Premonition 2 was stable, there is so little worth doing in the town that makes it worth having. If all the important areas that are connected by the hub town were selected off a map, then the experience would be so much smoother.
This would mean losing all of the grindy side missions that reward York with roadkill. The animal parts with bits and bobs are used to power-up and customize Mr. Alligator; York’s nonlethal sidearm. Other missions involve having to find a single item in the huge map, with not a single clue or hint of direction of where to look.
Deadly Premonition 2 is utterly disrespectful of your time. Managing time and tracking NPC schedule was a big factor in the original, but it was never so annoying like it is in Blessing In Disguise. Expect to have an entire in-game week go by because the story demands that York eats his rice and beans on a Monday, with nothing to do other than to sleep entire days away.
The contempt Deadly Premonition 2 has for your time would be hilarious if it was not so obnoxious about it, because as the game goes on it only gets worse. The scheduling is so egregious, and has no point or any consequences other than to waste your time. It is compounded by how LeCarre has nothing worth doing.
There are much fewer unique NPCs this time around. Deadly Premonition 2 is so low budget that the bellhop, concierge, and the chef are all the same guy. The cast is so much smaller that it isn’t much of a mystery of who the big bad is going to be.
The charm that made Deadly Premonition so enjoyable is lacking in Deadly Premonition 2. The novelty of a messy murder mystery survival-horror has worn off, and was done better in the first game. The bright cartoony art style also does not gel with the gritty tone.
The game manages to look worse than the original due to the lazier art style. The overly bright whites and crushed blacks strains the eyes in many shots, often making the game look unfinished or missing textures.
Animation has also gotten worse. In the original characters moved awkwardly, and would emote with bizarre expressions. In Deadly Premonition 2, there is hardly any animation. Characters will stand almost motionless in scenes and will suddenly snap into poses.
Facial animation is seemingly done by somebody who has never animated before. Faces barely moving at times, or mouths snapping open and close like crude sock-puppets. It isn’t “charming,” it just looks cheap and lazy. This is far below the bare minimum to what Deadly Premonition fans deserve.
The simple act of talking to characters can’t even be done right. The game is so buggy that York will be talking to the back of another guy’s head in a standard shot-reverse-shot. This results in the player looking at the back of York’s head who is looking at the back of another head.
Those who are able to adapt to Deadly Premonition 2‘s crap-factor will still have to contend with the unfairly long load times. Transitioning between areas takes up a huge chunk of the game’s play time, lasting upwards to a minute in some instances.
Dealing with these screens is unavoidable, and can even happen before cutscenes. It happens so much, and they last so long you begin to feel time dilate and become aware of gravity ravaging your flesh slowly. The load times will add hours to the already padded out play time of Blessing In Disguise.
The various RPG mechanics are tacked on and completely unnecessary. After unlocking fast travel, you will use it at any chance you can to avoid spending any time in the seizure-inducing overworld. This makes the skateboarding completely pointless, and makes all of its side missions and upgrades redundant.
This applies to the psycho gun in the dungeons as well, since York will be able to lock-on and target enemies with ease without any charms or voodoo. The developers likely had an idea how busted their game was, and were left with no choice but to balance York as powerful enough to be able to play the game without having to engage in side missions or tedious grinding.
The dashing and side-stepping compounded with the over-powered psycho gun are enough to get through most of the game. This is the greatest mercy the developers could have granted anyone masochistic enough to play this game, yet it is tragically wasteful how much content nobody will ever want to access.
The offbeat dialogue is on par with the original game. Swery’s panache for offbeat banter and profound observations is ever present and confidently expressed. This time however, Swery doubles down on York’s movie talk at the expense of character and story.
In Deadly Premonition, York would only talk to Zach about movies to fill dead air while driving. Now York will start doing his cinephile shtick during investigations and frequently go off topic, dragging scenes out way longer than they need to be. It was endearing at first, but this got old real fast.
York comes off as a much less effective FBI agent than before, and will ignore crucial clues and make insane leaps of logic that go nowhere. York’s taste in kino has also taken a noticeable nose dive from the first game. Not only does he completely dismiss A Clockwork Orange, but has the audacity to suggest that Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and The Island were remotely watchable.
The story is dragged out out due to the exhausting busy work of the objectives. Expect a lot of “go here and get this,” only to find out you need to first go to some other area on the other side of the map. Deadly Premonition 2 is more like a long wild goose chase than solving any mystery.
Any investigative work just involves clicking on all the objects until the game checks if you have gathered all you need, regardless if you have figured it out before York. There are just too many obvious cues to pick up on that anyone with a working brain will be able to deduct who the big bad is going to be.
Much of this is due to the cast being much smaller, and the foreshadowing being far too obvious this time around. The first Deadly Premonition had its flaws, but how it told its story was not one of them. The problem with A Blessing In Disguise is figuring out what is happening before York does, and then having to go through the motions while he slowly solves the mystery after you.
How everything ties into the 2019 scenes is extremely tenuous, and could have been cut entirely. They are completely disconnected and only exist to further expand the scope of the universe, tying Dark Dreams Don’t Die into Zach’s world.
By the time everything is wrapped up, Forrest Kaysen is no closer to being caught since Deadly Premonition 2‘s core story is a prequel. It is highly questionable why a prequel was necessary, since nothing new is learned from the LeCarre investigation.
A story focusing on Zach without York would have been so much more interesting than another murder mystery set in a goofy town in the boondocks. It may have different details and the characters may be unique, but LeCarre is just a hallow imitation of Greenvale. The concept of the first game, recreated but cheapened.
The surreal horror atmosphere that permeated Greenvale is gone in Deadly Premonition 2. One of the aspects that made the original endearing was how it stumbled around with horror aesthetics. This sequel never even tries and is just far too goofy.
The gun play is far too effective to make any of the enemies threatening. In the dark worlds, basic scissor men go down far too easily and are frequently spawned as fodder. The boss battles are bombastic shoot outs with quick-dodging and embarrassingly easy to dodge attacks. Thankfully, these are when Deadly Premonition 2 runs its smoothest.
In the overworld, York will do battle with alligators, swarms of bees, dogs, and squirrels. These encounters tend to be the hardest in the game, since the frame rate is so poor it can lead to cheap deaths. Although, it is amusing to see York punch out a swarm of bees.
The only thing worse than the frame rate or load times, is the horrendous sound design. Some savant thought it would be a great idea to make York’s footsteps the loudest clomping sound imaginable. This does not dampen when walking on carpets, and it is so loud it can drown out dialogue.
Skate boarding is even worse than the quake-like clopping of York’s steps. The intensely loud droning of the wheels drowns out your own thoughts, and is like hellish white noise that makes your skin crawl. It will make you wince in pain after a while from the skull crushing headache it causes.
Deadly Premonition 2 manages to not only be one of the ugliest games on Switch, but it manages to be ugly to listen to. It takes a meticulous sadist who can craft a game that can cause physical harm to the player. The epileptic frame rate, torturous sounds, and the mentally exhausting load times form a perfect trinity of pain and suffering.
Deadly Premonition fans have been cheated out of a good sequel. The game design flaws and sloppy narrative would have been forgivable, if the game was not a shambling disaster. The fans have kept Deadly Premonition relevant for a decade and have supported Swery, yet this is what they get.
This product barely functions and is prone to so many game ending bugs and frequent crashes. It is crushing to have progress lost, and to have to endure more of the nightmare because of the complete disregard for QA testing.
The fans deserve so much better than this. The Unity engine is an effective tool to make games on the Nintendo Switch. Yooka Laylee and the Impossible Lair runs 60 frames per second and loads fast while running on the same technology. Swery’s previous The Missing: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories was also made with Unity, and it was not a technical disaster on Switch.
Deadly Premonition 2 is 2020’s biggest disappointment. If it was sold at a substantial discount, it would still be not recommended due to it being a health hazard. It is hopelessly broken, and it is unclear if Swery’s team can salvage this with patches.
With the dreadful PlayStation 3 port of Deadly Premonition that most people played, most assumed the roughness was always how it was presented. Most games by Swery before the PlayStation 3 port were stable and polished. Swery’s underrated Extermination on PlayStation 2 was 60 frames per second, and was like a proto-Resident Evil 4.
It is one of the great lies of our times that the shoddy quality added “charm” to Deadly Premonition. If Swery could choose to release Deadly Premonition 2 flawlessly optimized, he would. It is extremely remote that anyone would purposefully intend to release a broken product.
Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing in Disguise was reviewed on Nintendo Switch using a review copy provided by Rising Star Games. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.