Some games are great, and you will look back on with fondness as you get older. Incredible stories of heroism, great sacrifice, or jumping on the heads of weird creatures to save your beloved.
Then you have the clunky, messed up, one generation behind near-abortions that embody everything possibly wrong. The gameplay isn't there. Awful acting. Stilted dialogue. Buttons not responding when pressed. Innapropriately jaunty music.
What happens when someone has a narrative so compelling and out-there, and combines it with gameplay from a generation previous, with acting so bad it's endearing?
You get Deadly Premonition - a game that, on the surface, has no redeemable qualities. At all. It's lead character is, to put it bluntly, a bit of a knob. A setting where everyone you meet is a weirdo. The cowboy looking-guy who loves rock music. The museum owner who is.... easy with her affections. The rude sheriff who doesn't want the FBI there.
The controls are awkward, the gunplay rudimentary. This is not Resi 4. All guns have infinite ammo variants because you will run out of bullets thanks to a lack of non-health related items.
This is from the twisted mind of a man called Swery65. He made a couple of games before this, most notably Spy Fiction on the PS2. Probably best described as "If SyFy made Metal Gear Solid". Swery's games share "actors", like Forest Kaysen who appears in the aforementioned, as well as Deadly Premonition and the follow-up, D4.
After realising they could get sued, DP was reworked to replace the more overt Lynchian references. The dwarves became spooky twin kids, for example. The final product, although a generation late and switched to Xbox, nearly wasn't released at all.
So what makes a game that is, to all intents, an unwieldy Twin Peaks knock off, made by an insane Japanese auteur, such an important part of the last generation of gaming?
Well, despite it taking from Lynch's work, it feels very original. There is literally nothing else like the weird town of Greenvale and it's happenings, and it's all down to how the game interacts with the player.
The game opens with York, the main character, driving whilst on the his mobile, and smoking at the same time. He's talking to an unnamed caller about Tom & Jerry, and their co-dependency issues. "It's okay that Jerry does these things to Tom, as long as Tom wants it!" Suddenly, all the electrics short out, the phone stops working, and York then says, seemingly to no one, "Did you see that, Zach?".
York, our FBI Special Agent, has an invisible friend; the player. He talks to you throughout the game, about cult movies, their production history, his thoughts on the people he meets, the places he sees, and the crazy stuff that happens to him.
That is the hook, the thing that sets DP apart from everything else. Zach is in charge of protecting York, you direct him round town, controlling him as you would any character in a PS2-era TPS. York places his life in your hands when you are attacked. "Think you can take care of this, Zach?" Every headshot is accompanied by him saying "Nice! Amazing! Bullseye! Great shot!"
Throughout the game, you take care of York. Change his clothes, make sure he shaves. Get him to check in with the Bureau and go over evidence collected so far. All of these things gets you a cash bonus on top of your FBI salary, paid at the end of each chapter. Spend the cash on new suits, weapons and healing.
People around the town set you weird tasks, or just chase you when you come calling. Anything to avoid helping the weird outsider who talks to himself.
The menu screen is inside York's head. A living room, in a forest, covered in red seeds and leaves. There's even a tv. Everything affecting the case is in that room, and more is added as you play.
These small touches though, would be nothing without a compelling narrative.
Luckily, Deadly Premonition's tale of mysterious murders across the US and a small town conspiracy linked to the US government and supernatural beings does not disappoint. Most satisfying of all is the discovery of how York and Zach met and became so close.
The last two to three hours of the game will leave your jaw hanging, as revelation is piled upon revelation, each more stunning than the last until it gets too ridiculous. Everything up until that second to last moment perfectly encapsulates why video games are unlike any other form of entertainment.
My biggest problem is that non-gamers will never experience the brilliant, measured insanity of Deadly Premonition, the town of Greenvale and it's wonderful, unhinged residents.
At the core of the game is a fantasic murder mystery. It's possible - though unlikely - that you could work out the identity of the killer early on as the game gives you lots of clues, right from the intro.
It's hard to convey quite what I found magical about the whole thing whilst avoiding spoilers, sadly. This is truly something that must be experienced, and thanks to the game's availability on XBL, PSN and Steam, there's no excuse not to. Fair warning though, the PC version takes some fiddling to get working, including deleting a Windows Media Player - associated file.
Allow me to leave you with this, my favourite scene from early in the game. Completely bizarre, but spoiler-free: