Deadlight is a 2D side scrolling, survival horror platformer, developed by Tequila Works. The game was released on Xbox Live on August 1 and on the PC, via Steam, on October 26, both in 2012.
Deadlight starts with a group of survivors in 1986, Seattle. A few months ago, there was a zombie outbreak (or shadows, as the characters call them) and the whole world is in chaos. You play the role of Wayne Randall, a park warden who is searching for his family and a safe place in Tequila Works’ version of an apocalyptic world. The story isn’t particularly interesting, and neither are the characters. You don’t get attached to any of them, not even to Randall’s desire of finding his beloved wife and daughter. It all feels very “been there done that”, as far as a zombie outbreak scenario is concerned. The story does picks up and gets a little bit interesting towards the end, only to reach a very disappointing finale.
The game, as I said, is a 2D platformer at heart, with some shooting segments and fairly easy puzzles in between. The platforming segments are well done. The controls feel responsive and tight, and I never encountered death because of them. You can use the keyboard and mouse combination or an Xbox 360 controller. Both are well suited for the task. These segments kind of remind me of the old school Prince Of Persia games, the 2D ones. A particular trap even resembles one from Prince Of Persia 2: The Shadow and the Flame.
Contrary to most video games in this generation, there is no regenerating life. Health replenishes by collecting med packs and as it is the case with your stamina, you can upgrade your life bar, via special packages you find during your travels.
The gameplay is interrupted by cinematics in form of graphic novels. The dialog isn’t especially convincing, but it does get the job done, and the monologue of the protagonist is a plus, because it helps you to better understand his motivations. There are a few weird instances, where Randall is using the plural when he talks about certain situations he encounters, like: “We need to find the combination to the trap”. It’s like he knows he’s being controlled by someone. It kind of ruins the immersion sometimes.
Diaries are scattered throughout the game by which you can find out more about the protagonist and the general world, before and after the outbreak, through his eyes. At the beginning, you already have some pages describing the events leading up to the outbreak, but there are quite a few of them missing, so in order to fully understand the events prior to our game, you will of course, have to look for them.
There are other collectibles in forms of IDs, newspapers or posters scattered throughout the game. Some are hidden, some are in plain sight. They give little replay value though.
There isn’t any background music during gameplay, but that only makes the game more immersive since you will concentrate on the zombies’ screams or the other background noises.
The game is very forgiving, having multiple checkpoints before any area that might have traps or more zombies than usual.
If there is one thing I really don’t like, then that is the helicopter segment. This helicopter chasing segment just breaks the pace and is frankly useless. It tries to inflict some kind of tension but it fails. I mean, does that gunner really have to start shooting from left to right, hoping he’ll eventually kill someone? It feels silly. The running segment is also interrupted by simple puzzles and that, yet again, breaks the immersion of you being in danger, because it seems that the bad guys are waiting for you to figure out what how to proceed. It should have been straight forward, until you completely evade them. It just feels disjointed.
There are zombies to deal with, so it’s only natural that weapons are thrown into the mix. The first weapon you will find is an axe, but it’s not really useful when confronting the shadows. Button mashing won’t work and you’re in trouble if you face more than 2 or 3 zombies at once. Because of this, more often than not, it’s a good idea to lure the zombies in one place, while you make a run for it in the opposite direction.
You must also be careful of your stamina. It is depleting a bit, every time you swing the axe to kill shadows or brake padlocks or wooden doors or other weak constructing parts. The same happens when you’re running or jumping. Too much of these activities and you’ll have to take a few seconds break. Every time your stamina is low, the screen flashes as a warning. This feature elevates the intensity of the situation even higher, when you’re surrounded by multiple shadows and are out of bullets. Speaking of which, where there are zombies, there are headshots!
You will get the chance to blow the zombies’ heads with a revolver or a shotgun. A bullet to the head and they’re down. In regards to the firearms, the game reminds me of Alan Wake. You can reload the guns faster, by pressing the button as fast as you can. Keeping the thriller game in mind, these shadows, as the characters call them, also remind me of the ones that are looking so eagerly to end Wake’s life, maybe not as smart, but still, with the same dark aura surrounding them. You will also get the chance to play with a slingshot, but that is only used for solving the easy puzzles there are.
On a technical side, the game is indeed a good port. At first, it was limited to 30 FPS but after a patch, released on October 29, you can play the game all the way up to 60 FPS. During the review, the game was played at 30 FPS, and there were a few slowdowns here and there and also the audio cut out in a few cinematics. I also encountered a few bugs but nothing that would be game-braking.
Another thing that bugs me (and here I’m just nitpicking) is why do I have to press multiple times on a corpse or something else, like a box, to get all the things inside? Why isn’t a single click enough for all?
The graphics are doing a good job of creating a creepy atmosphere. The only downside would be that the version doesn’t have so many graphical settings to fiddle with. It’s just a straight bar from low to high and your resolution.
All in all, I enjoyed Deadlight. The platforming segments are well done (after all, they’re the main attraction), the shooting elements are also great, even if in most cases it would be better to run than fight, and the atmosphere feels just fine (in a creepy mood, of course). My only problem is with the game’s story. It isn’t very interesting and the ending is a total letdown. It took me about 6 hours to finish the game, and after that, you can attempt a “Nightmare” version of the campaign, but it’s pretty much useless, since the only difference is that you won’t be given the chance to save your progress, so it’s a one sitting playthrough all the way to the end.
Was Deadlight fun to play? Sure it was! Would I give it another spin? No. At least not right now. Maybe after a few months or so. Why? Because once the story is over there isn’t anything to do. You might want to collect all the pieces of information, but that won’t take you long or you might want to see the alternate ending but believe me when I tell you, it’s so confusing, it’ll make the normal one look good (and that’s hardly possible).
Vlad Pintea enjoyed Deadlight and might even want to see a sequel. Just make the story more engaging. Until then, you can contact him via e-mail at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, Skype, My IGN or on Steam, all at the same name: vlad94pintea. Have a good day and remember! Stay calm and keep on gaming!