[Ed: Yesterday we started a list of 10 games inspired by Twin Peaks. The list turned out to be pretty long, so we split it into two parts for the people who get scared when there are too many words congregating in one place. Like the Zerg swarm. Can’t trust them when massed.]
Okay, I know this is most likely the one that will causes some readers to give me Rock-style eyebrow raises but there is more than meets the eye. Persona games switch styles with every new iteration from general story to elements of presentation and music. Yet Persona 4 struck a chord due to its narrative around mystery. Where they all take a distinct “young adult fiction” vibe, Persona 4 took that core of the mystery genre and placed them in a Japanese high school setting. As I am sure we are aware, when there is mystery, there is often Twin Peaks.
Now for the most part, it would be easy to progress through Persona 4 never thinking of Lynch, Cooper or really anything from Twin Peaks. However, when looking at certain key elements, they make themselves more present.
First off, the Velvet Room. Igor and the Velvet Room have been a main element of the franchise over all entries of the Shin Megami Tensei spin-off. If you were to look at Igor a bit more in depth, especially in Persona 4, he becomes a big reference. One of the famous scenes from Twin Peaks is within the Black Lodge very early in the show before it is even named. In the second episode, Cooper finds himself in a weird room with a beautiful young woman and a strange little man who speaks in riddles of destiny. A room that looks like a 70s music producer’s cocaine binge in a furniture store. Persona 4’s Velvet Room too has a small man who speaks in riddles, a beautiful young associate all set in a room set up like a bar.
The curtains are even blue! Blue Curtains and Velvet Room. Take the first words: Blue Velvet. Like the David Lynch film!
Away from that nod, the general setting Persona 4 does have some similarities to Twin Peaks. Going into a small town, very quickly it is rocked by the murder of two young and beautiful women. After finding powers the group of teens now dubbed the “Investigation Team” heads into the “TV World”. While the TV world often takes turns into whole new settings, the association to the real world and people’s general feelings mimics similar ideas to the Black Lodge. The harsh shift from the fun trials and tribulations of high school life to grizzly murder and deep secrets, there are definitely some Twin Peaks wheels in motion.
This is clearly more of a stretch than others on the list and it is worth acknowledging that. There are some similarities that feel way too close to ignore. While the life and tribulations of the protagonist through all his high school romances might seem a bit far out for a Twin Peaks reference, the sense of mystery around murder in a small town definitely feels Twin Peaks. Those two slices of life being at odds only add to the style.
Kentucky Route Zero
Kentucky Route Zero is an indie adventure game that still has yet to have its final episode after starting four years ago. Just based on a lack of narrative conclusion I could tie it to Twin Peaks but that is being a bit disingenuous. Kentucky Route Zero, much like Persona 4, can seem like a stretch but the influence comes more from a macro level. Throughout this list, the term “Lynchian” has been thrown around, a symbol of the uniqueness of David Lynch directed and produced pieces of media. While some games do hold Lynchian features through Twin Peaks inspiration, Kentucky Route Zero is the most apt usage of the classification.
Kentucky Route Zero is a warped point and click adventure game that follows the strange tale of truck driver Conway who is out for deliveries. Trying to explain the plot of the four released acts is hard as they are not only unique, but vary so much that it could take a while. On the journey, Conway experiences a reality that delves into a world somewhat like that of nightmares as the player attempts to make sense of it. The term Lynchian has many a definition through years of film scholars attempting to anaylse the collected works of David Lynch. Some consider it the balance of the macabre and mundane while others associate it closer to the usage of dreamlike imagery combined with a hard anchor to reality.
Across these multiple definitions, Kentucky Route Zero embraces them all. It is why it can be difficult to really consider it Twin Peaks inspired when it uses motifs from a variety of Lynch’s work. Yet, due to the prominence of Twin Peaks on Lynch’s filmography, often the term circles around Twin Peaks itself making Kentucky Route Zero a viable candidate in this list.
Once again, spirits and weird characters are littered throughout Kentucky Route Zero. Through the baffling story being told there are definitely Twin Peaks vibes that push through the cardboard cut-out style. If you have the chance, it is well worth experiencing yourself as Kentucky Route Zero is a fantastic little Point and Click adventure. The fifth act is still in development but considering it took two years between Act 3 and Act 4, we can never say when it will come. If they really want to follow Lynch, this should be the biggest doozy of them all.
Puzzle Agent 1 and 2
Now we return to a hard Twin Peaks inspired game. Puzzle Agent hit the digital marketplaces in 2010 and found itself a cult following. The full name of the game is Nelson Tethers: Puzzle Agent and boy is it a ride. Puzzle Agent is a cocktail of Twin Peaks weirdness with that dry Fargo flavour. It is a match made in Bizarre Heaven by putting Lynch with the Coen brothers.
Puzzle Agent is (as the name suggests) a puzzle game. Players take control of Nelson Tethers, the sole member of the elite FBI unit Puzzle Research Division. The unit doesn’t get much action (or any for that matter) until a shutdown at an eraser factory calls for Tethers to head to Scoggins, Minnesota. From there, Special Agent Tethers must solve puzzles in order to discovery the mystery behind the eraser shutdown.
Clearly enough, you have a premise looking pretty familiar, except this time we can replace beautiful dead girl with erasers. A weird special agent is thrown into an even weirder town hiding a lot of “little” secrets. Tethers must solve puzzles provided to him by not only the strange townspeople but also hidden group pulling the strings.
The sequel follows the plot but the formula is the same. This takes the more humorous elements of Twin Peaks and cements them down into quite the quirky adventure through the snow filled town. It is not hard to see the similarities, but Puzzle Agent is smart enough to play on the expectations and the inspiration itself. It can even fall into the lines of satire at points at just how weird it gets with a sense of subdued presentation. If you get the change and need a brain thinker with a laugh, definitely check out Puzzle Agent.
The most recent game to hit the list, Virginia was a first person mystery adventure game that came out last year. It found itself to be in the centre of the “Walking Simulator” debate with some loving the game for a daring approach to storytelling, while others felt it was too far on the side of an interactive film with little actual interaction.
Despite where personal feelings lie with regards to Virginia, it definitely belongs on a list looking at Twin Peaks inspired games. Virginia is the story of two FBI agents investigating a missing young boy from a Rural Town in Virginia. There is a lot more going on but explaining can be a difficult thing as Virginia relies heavily on players understanding the symbolism. The story is not directly told but on a base level the Twin Peaks vibes strike true.
Apart from the premise, mysteries of the town and characters are revealed. Some of the characters take a lot of design inspiration from those found in Twin Peaks with one character looking strikingly similar to Donna Hayward. There are also elements of more “out-there” visuals tied to symbolism within the town. The Bison probably being the biggest example of such.
Virginia is a short and sweet experience that won’t take long to get through. While it does have some other plot points the main story is very Twin Peaks in design. Still, if you are a fan of either Twin Peaks or Mystery “Walking Simulators” it might be worth a look. Hell, maybe you can understand the Bison.
Yes, we are finally here. In the original discussions of the list, three separate people all said the same thing completely independently of one another: “So Deadly Premonition going to be on there right?” If you have any familiarity with Twin Peaks or Deadly Premonition, you knew this was coming. In all the nine games mentioned before, they all have taken some element of inspiration from Twin Peaks that is sometimes evident and other times not. Here is the one conclusion that the team of SAGamer came to with regards to Deadly Premonition and its director Swery65’s use of inspiration:
“Deadly Premonition does not give a F*ck”
Deadly Premonition is so unabashedly Twin Peaks it hurts. Originally it was announced as “Rainy Woods” back in 2007. It met so much criticism for how similar to Twin Peaks it looked that the studio had to make some changes. By “some changes”, this means they replaced the two little people with twin children, swapped out the main character model and called it a day. To give you the basic plot of Deadly Premonition would not just give a set-up found in most entries of the list, I would literally just restate how Twin Peaks starts. For the hell of it, let’s just do it anyway. It is basically mad-libs with just swapping out characters names.
The game is set in the small town of Greenvale, Washington. Two young boys discover the body of a young woman named Anna Graham. She has been murdered and this calls for FBI Special Agent Francis York Morgan to take the case. In the town he meets the weird citizens while he unwraps the mystery of the killings in a town hiding secrets. By going into a nightmare filled version of reality, it is up to York and his Partner Zack (who is in his head) to take the call.
The game is so unashamedly Twin Peaks in so many ways I could make a list of Deadly Premonition characters and their Twin Peaks counterparts. For the incompetent officer Andy Brennan, you have Thomas MacLaine. You remember the iconic Log Lady? Well Deadly Premonition brought her back and replaced her log with a pot and dubbed her the Pot Lady. I could go on for so many characters it is frightening. Even Dianne, a character Cooper talks to through voice recordings has a counterpart in Zack. The game went so far as to even create its own Dianne!
Although this is a fun piece of trivia. Emily from Deadly Premonition is clearly modelled after actress Naomi Watts. Watts will be featured in some capacity in the new season of Twin Peaks. Seems Swery was actually ahead on this one.
Yet despite it falling more to imitation than homage of Twin Peaks, Deadly Premonition is something special. It is a gaming experience that is something so baffling and wild it is hard to hate. While the story at first looks like a hard retread, the moment it deviates it goes completely batsh!t in the most wonderful of ways. Even the gameplay is just so weird that even early frustrations are met with a sense of awe. From side quests that are bathed to lunacy, to a horrible version of the Resident Evil 4 gunplay and even the cars that feel like tanks, it all feels special in its incompetence. The gameplay and the world itself also seem incredibly inspired by earlier entry Mizzurna Falls. With the day/night cycle, the driving around the town to get the story going. Even from a gameplay standpoint you could argue to revels in imitation.
The game even opens up with a conversation between York and Zack about the relationship between Tom and Jerry (yes, those ones). Later they discuss 70’s grindhouse movies that feel so close to a lawsuit you watch through finger-covered eyes. It is just so magical. The weirdness of Twin Peaks residents and town are cranked up to 11 to go above and beyond. From the Rock-a-Billy dad at the grocery store, to the seductive cowgirl gas station attendant, they are all just loons.
I could gush for another few thousand words about my love of Deadly Premonition. A game so wonderful I own five different copies. Yet as a game inspired by Twin Peaks, there is no other quite like it. This game promotes itself of being a Twin Peaks clone only to completely lose its mind half way through and dive into complete insanity. Director Swery65 is truly a beautiful soul whose follow up game D4 has similar tendencies and inspirations, Deadly Premonition holds a special place in many a player’s hearts for good reason. If you have the chance and are a Twin Peaks fan, you owe it to yourself to play it. With a few days left until the Season 3 premiere, why not give it a go? You come for Twin Peaks and stay for the crazy.
So there you have it. 10 games inspired by Twin Peaks. There are definitely many more that could have made the list like Ron Gilbert’s Thimbleweed Park and even the Blair Witch games which actually features a Dale Cooper cameo. Any games you think worth mentioning? Let us know in the comments.
So remember everyone: Fire. Walk with Me!