Developer Access Games realizes that the brightest lights can cast the darkest shadows.

User Rating: 10 | Red Seeds Profile PS3
The small town of Greenvale seems like it could be a pleasant place at first glance. It is home to natural scenery that is beautiful, or at least it can be understood that someone might find it beautiful. It also has all the essentials, including a school for growing children and a grocery store to nourish families. However, all is not what it seems. Greenvale is a former lumber town, but the demand has dried up leaving it sprawling but empty. Tree trunks lay in somber piles on the side of the road. The connection to a recent string of murders is by far the most alarming information. Where beautiful trees used to stand, ominous red seeds are sown. Deadly Premonition is a game of light and shadow.

The player controls FBI Agent Francis York Morgan who is assigned the case. He has a freakish ability to profile suspects and he dreamily strolls through nightmarish situations, but he has needs too. Some of them are basic like food and sleep. Others are less tangible like honor, which is gained by performing bureau duties and looking sharp. However, even these "higher" needs are spurred on simply by money, which can be spent on food and caffeine. It's hard to even decide which needs York deems as higher as he waxes poetic about the delicate balance of milk and butter in a biscuit.

Like the other characters in the game, except perhaps more literally, Agent York is struck by duality. He has a split personality with his partner Zach, who he frequently makes asides to. Mirrors take a particularly important role as they are scattered throughout the environments to encourage introspection (and personal hygiene). It also has to be said that this bizarre partnership serves as the most clever guide feature in a game since the youth with amnesia, justifying York's lack of any internal monologue.

This psychological angle is most apparent in the shooting sections that are comparable to dungeons in video game lexicon. An area may have clues to the case scattered about to suggest some form of logic, but that is the only shred of it you're likely to find. Twisted ghouls come at York from all angles and, as you might guess, need to be taught a lesson. The strength of these encounters isn't in the shooting itself but rather in the level design. The mad genius here is that there is no rhyme or reason to the difficulty spikes. Ghouls crawl out of shadowy goop which may or may not dissipate. It may even happen in an otherwise irrelevant hallway, meaning encounters can't be rationalized.

However, the most interesting parts of the game happen when Agent York has free roam of Greenvale to conduct his investigation. It seems like almost anybody could be hiding information. An otherwise kindly old innkeeper deflects questions with mesmerizing skill. A diner cook guards his kitchen with a suspicious ferocity but makes a mean sandwich. A family member of a victim is so distraught that she can't articulate anything about the case.

York is an outsider coming into town, so he has no ability to reach out to these people. Thankfully, developer Access Games has made it a bizarre thrill to track down information from citizens. Each person has their own backstory and daily routine to unravel. Stalking them around town or peeping through a window could lead to an important clue. Such behavior is not below York, but he also interacts directly with the townsfolk. They have quests that may or may not be useful.

Thankfully, obvious dead ends are uncommon. Access Games does a commendable job of convincing the player that they are right on the heels of a big break early on and sustaining that momentum. Good versus evil is common theme in video games, but the depth of the characters allows the game to avoid the question "Who is good and who is evil?" and instead focus on "Who has the darkest shadows?" Those that mean the most to us can also cause the deepest injuries.