Deadlight (Xbox 360 Review)
I was more than excited to hear about Tequila Works’ new and original 2D platformer, with promises of zombies, an ominous story, puzzles and a dark brooding main character. It has a lot to live up to in terms of zombies and dark story contending against recent titles like The Walking Dead. If that isn’t enough, the puzzles and art style is going head to head with Shadow Complex and Limbo. I know it’s not fair to draw comparisons, but it’s hard not to. Everything feels familiar in Deadlight. And not in a good sense.
The story is loose. I found myself ambling through the first part of the campaign without the foggiest idea of why I was beating down zombies. It was only when I began to read the journal entries scattered throughout the game that I began to understand what had happened.. These zombies were later revealed to be “shadows”, although they are dead and frustratingly annoying. The aim of the game is to meet up with your friends and family after you were separated at the beginning of the game. Although it may seem like a noble mission, Randall (the protagonist) is anything but that. He speaks down to his survivor friends and shows no respect for those who save his life or the dead.
Randall Wayne has to be one of the most intolerable characters I have ever came face to face with. He makes a sarcastic comment about everything he passes, more often or not emphasising the notion that “he just doesn’t care and may as well be dead inside” like some pre-pubescent goth who is yet to see the bright side of life. There were occasions where I considered abandoning him much like his friends at the start of the game, as if the apocalypse wasn’t bad enough. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if his wife and kid ditched him on purpose. Outwith the poor character I can’t help but see an attempt to recreate Ethan Thomas from Condemned.
The gameplay plays much like you would expect, you go left and you go right. It’s a platformer, and a basic one at that. On occasion you are tasked with puzzles that involve running, jumping and periodically shooting obstacles with a slingshot or gun. To fight off zombies you will rely on axes and guns. Although if you consider using your axe to break a set of wooden planks then you are in for a tough time. You see Randall needs to use his face to destroy them. Y’know cause he is a badass with a chip on his shoulder and that’s what they do: break things with their face. If that isn’t enough, they also fill their pockets with rocks and wear a coat made of cast iron. Why else would you sink and drown on contact with water?
There is just something off with the gameplay to me. I do dabble in platformers, but Deadlight felt clunky and at times very broken. There was several instances of repeating the exact same movement and timing to produce completely different outcomes. The puzzles also started to repeat after a very short period of time and left you feeling slightly unsatisfied in terms of challenge.
The collectables of Deadlight come in the form of trinkets of a better time, such as IDs, notes and pictures of people. Naturally Randall has something to say about every last one of them, no matter how much sense it makes. Although added to encourage re-playability, I would hardly say it is worthwhile to drag yourself through a rather short and dull campaign again.
The visuals may be the games one saving grace. They are dark, dreary and really emphasise the bleak outlook Randall has on the apocalypse. Nothing is in one piece and the world appears to be torn asunder. Yet once again I am drawing parallels to “The Walking Dead” and “Limbo”. The cutscenes try to capture a rather comic feel and the gameplay is nearly always dark with a lot of shadows with vibrant and animated backgrounds. It just isn’t enough to pull the game from under the rubble.
It’s not the worst game on XBLA for sure, but Deadlight is plagued with bugs and lacks anything that can be called original. Platform games have been tried and tested for years. So much more would have to be done to make a game like Deadlight excel enough to stand out from the crowd. I applaud Tequila Works for their effort, but the frustrating gameplay and irritating jump mechanics made the game a lot closer to a controller survivor than a survival horror.