A few years ago, I was stuck in a ridiculously line at TGS. Level-5 was giving away a free DS sampler that included some bizarre soccer RPG, and I promised to snag one for a co-worker. Unfortunately, everyone else in Japan seemed to have had the same idea. To get the sampler you had to play a bunch of games in the booth, and the line was slow as anything. Level-5’s booth was right next to Marvelous Entertainment’s, and so I saw this trailer about a million times over the course of an hour or so.


I watched and loved Twin Peaks back when it first aired, so the trailer stuck out to me. Again, I saw it about a million times, so maybe my mind just snapped somewhere along the way. Regardless, the thought of a game that was clearly modeled after the show sounded pretty cool. (Twin Peaks’ legal team apparently wasn’t quite as hot on the idea. Access Games had to change a few characters and some set pieces to avoid getting sued into oblivion.)

Eventually, I managed to completely forget about the game. That’s what happens when a name changes—from Rainy Woods to Deadly Premonition—and nobody in the United States seems vaguely interested in generating any buzz. I only noticed it when I saw the game’s name on a list of this week’s game releases and looked it up. Aha!

Ignition Entertainment has brought the game to the U.S. for the shockingly low price of $19.99. Yeah, I sound like an infomercial, but the thought of a new game selling at retail for that price on the Xbox 360 and PS3 stuns me. Not that I’m complaining, mind you. I picked it up this afternoon, figuring that even if it was completely terrible it wouldn’t be that big of a financial setback. So… is it completely terrible? The answer is kind of complicated.

I’ll just come right out and say that Deadly Premonition is better than the sum of its parts. That’s a relief, because a lot of its components are completely shoddy. It’s ugly. Combat is not very good. The sound design is broken in a lot of ways. And yet, I definitely want to see it through to the end.

I’ve played the game for a little over three hours, and I’ve already battled an ax-wielding Jawa thing, met a wheelchair-bound, gas-mask wearing mute, and driven in a car with working headlights, turn signals and windshield wipers. OK, so the battle took place during a frustrating quick-time event and the car drives like garbage. I’m mostly fascinated right now with the scope of the Greenvale setting and the messed up folks who live there.

Unlike a lot of video-game towns, you have to drive a ways to get to where you want to go. The ride from the sheriff’s office to the hospital is about five minutes. That will probably annoy many of the few people who play this game. I kind of dig having a more realistic take on a sprawled-out small town. It doesn’t hurt that when you’re driving, Agent York talks to you, the player, about movies and whatever else pops up into his mind. Did I mention that the protagonist is, in addition to being a brilliant FBI profiler, is most likely completely insane?

There are a lot of cool little touches in the game, such as stubble that grows out into a beard over the course of a few virtual days and clothing that gets smellier as time passes. If you don’t want to look like the Brawny man, you’ll have to shave. And if you don’t want to attract flies and annoy people, you’ll have to send your suits to the dry cleaner’s. Seriously. Do those cute gimmicks help you forget the awful combat controls? Nope. They don’t hurt, though.

Like I said, Deadly Premonition is definitely not for everybody, but for $20 it’s worth a shot. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was another blink-and-you’ll-miss-it release, like many budget games end up being. If you’re even moderately interested in playing through a flawed and completely bizarre survival horror game, you may want to pick it up sooner than later.