Review: Deadly Premonition Visual Companion for iPad
Deadly Premonition polarizes players almost instantly with its bizarre story, eccentric characters, and graphics that are…less than stellar, to put it nicely. Still, so many fans love Swery65’s sandbox horror title from 2010that the game successfully released a Director’s Cut edition on PSN. This spawned the iBooks-exclusive Deadly Premonition Visual Companion, a guide to help fans delve deeper into the town of Greenvale and all of its secrets. With character biographies, maps of the town and its hidden treasures, and a host of information about the game’s creator itself, the Visual Companion is basically a love letter to established fans of the game; those simply taking a leisurely stroll through Greenvale or who are planning on playing the game later would be better holding off until they’ve completed the game.
If the Visual Companion was a book, it would be a coffee table book, and an interesting book at that. As a tablet-exclusive eBook the Companion packs videos, music, games, and even some hidden content into the mix. Like watching the special features at the end of a film, this book provides deeper information about the universe of Deadly Premonition. The book is divided into chapters, some looking at the game’s world and characters, while others look at the work of the team behind the game. Swery65, the Japanese director responsible for the madness, gets a chapter of his own where we see a notebook he wrote in while working on the game, a biography about Swery, and some example storyboards. Unfortunately for those of us unable to read Japanese, the print from these scans are untranslated. This means that we get to look at some interesting pictures, but don’t get to take in much of the benefit of seeing the creator’s notes and learning more about the creative process. Still, seeing the pictures themselves is interesting, and the rest of the companion offers items like interactive maps of the town that reveal the locations of hidden items and side-quests, which can prove really useful.
In addition to the typical content one might see in a book about a game, the Visual Companion features a word search, a coloring page, a diorama setup where you can create crime scenes using stickers of characters…it feels very much like a 6-page coloring book you might get with the kid’s meal at the diner. It’s simple and can provide a fun distraction, but it still feels like there should be more to this part of the app than there is. Perhaps it’s the fault of the iOS-based presentation, but I wanted to unlock content as I cleared the games, find hidden videos and the like, but that wasn’t the case. The guide does take advantage of the tablet-based presentation by providing access to the full game’s soundtrack as well as a soundboard to play with popular character’s lines from the game…perhaps the book did exactly what it was supposed to though: by the time I was done with it I was struck with the overwhelming feeling that I really needed to play through Deadly Premonition so I would know what the hell was really going on.
As a newcomer to the world of Deadly Premonition, the app didn’t have much to offer me that wasn’t either very basic or a spoiler to something in the game. In most places the guide does a great job of warning when spoilers are on the way, they even block off entire portions of the character bios to prevent accidents. But this process isn’t perfect, and even casually flipping through something like the trading card chapter can ruin hidden moments of the game’s plot. The book seems designed to be a COMPANION to the game as a whole work either before or after, not a guide through the game or a casual read. Those who’ve finished the game and loved it will find a veritable treasure trove of content to enjoy, including the cheesy games at the end.
I love the idea of companion apps to give background on titles I enjoy, and I hope more digital companions like this appear for other games. From a technical standpoint the eBook provided mixed performance on my iPad 2, though I imagine it runs more smoothly on newer hardware. There was decent lag when trying to load new chapters, and it would hesitate a bit before playing music or turning pages in a new section. Once the app buffered up whatever it was working on though, it moved fluidly and images still looked gorgeous even without a Retina display. I imagine those running the app on a newer iPad would have an even better experience.
For those who are just curious about the game and think it might be up their alley, the guide will leave a lot of unanswered questions, though it likely will whet your appetite to find out “Who Killed Anna Graham?” But Deadly Premonition is by all rights a cult-classic, and the Deadly Premonition Visual Companion is definitely designed for inductees who have already been initiated and sworn into the Cult of York. If you’re a card-carrying fan of Deadly Premonition, hop on over to the iBooks Store and grab a copy.