Traditionally, I have never been a fan of platformers. To be completely honest, I usually go out of my way to avoid them. The zombie infested Deadlight game, however, turned out to be the exception to the rule. As a platformer, it is artistically stunning and intriguing. Even though I thoroughly enjoyed Deadlight, it didn’t do quite enough to win my heart. It ended up being a well-made game that ran out of ideas and ended far too quickly. Deadlight is fun to play but it falls short of being an Xbox Live Arcade all-time great. It has, however, made me less apprehensive toward the platformer genre.
Our tale takes place in 1986 Seattle, 146 days after an outbreak that reanimates the dead. The reanimated corpses are known as Shadows. The game begins mid scene and is told through a series of illustrated images giving the games story a feeling akin to a graphic novel. You play as Randall, a rugged man with an equally rugged voice. The story is compelling but is over far too quickly, meaning you don’t develop a deep attachment to Randall - in fact you only really understand him and his motivation at the end of the game.
There are other characters briefly introduced in the opening scene but you don’t see much of them again, which results in you being a spectator of their fate rather than personally investing in it. Randall is immediately separated from the group and promises to meet them at the safe point, hoping his wife and daughter will be there too. Randall begins making his way to the safe point and his journey leads him on an adventure of twists and turns, uncovering disturbing truths along the way. There were far too many unanswered questions for my taste but it will certainly keep you engrossed throughout.
One of the game’s biggest highlights is it's impressive visual design and alluring graphics. Built on the Unreal engine using a 2D/3D combination, the foreground characters are 2D black silhouettes with almost no discerning detail. Shadows eerily lumber around with red glowing eyes making them distinct and ominous. The background is a detailed 3D apocalyptic metropolis which, when you stop and stare, is hauntingly beautiful. The game seems to draw inspiration from Limbo but is most certainly unique in its style and feel. The visuals are an absolute pleasure for the eyes.
The sound effects are appropriate and do a good job of setting the mood. Sadly, however, the voice acting was poorly conducted and worked against the game. In fact, it really hurt the production as a whole and at times made it hard to believe I was playing the same game with the high quality visuals. Considering that the game's story is mostly told through stylised cut scenes, the voice acting should have been more powerful.
The gameplay is pretty solid and not what would you normally encounter in a zombie game. Usually, a zombie game involves endless slaughter while getting from point A to point B. Deadlight’s gameplay forces you to pretty much avoid the Shadows altogether. You are limited to three bars of health, which basically means if you get hit three times - you’re dead. You have a stamina bar that drains quickly when doing specific actions, such as hanging from a ledge or swinging your trusty axe. Added to this is the fact that the Shadows never stop coming, meaning if you do stay for zombie slaughter you will eventually be overrun.
As the game progresses you have less time to complete puzzles. The result is a higher frequency of death. This was particularly frustrating for me. At the beginning of the game the puzzles and solutions flowed seamlessly, but near the end it felt as if it all came down to trial and error. This was aggravating, but thankfully none of the puzzles were too challenging so progress still crept along. It may have just been me but the flaws in the controls seemed to be exposed the more demanding the game became.
Fast reactions meant the difference between life and death but on occasion the controls felt like they couldn’t keep up, resulting in unnecessary deaths. And while I’m harping on about the things that annoyed me, I want to bring up Randall’s inability to swim. It was really strange because there was no explanation for that at any point in the game.
Despite all the negative pieces, the game as a whole flows well and your character's general movement feels fluid and solving a puzzle on your first attempt is rewarding. Controls are simple with the usual jump, sprint, roll and attack available. Later in the game, aiming and shooting become added tools in your arsenal. The game is easy to pickup and master thanks to these controls. There are collectibles scattered throughout the game and by the time you finish, you’ll have formed an interesting collection of things that are relevant to the world and its fate.
It could be that I’m incredibly talented at solving puzzles but more than likely the game is just very short. I managed to finish the game in 1 hour and 47 minutes. For 1200 MS points, this is inexcusable as other games in the price range hold much more value. Granted, more time can be extracted by finding all of the game's secrets and working to get the fastest times for each act, but only if you are obssessed.
This game really has loads of potential but just misses the mark of greatness due to poor voice acting, iffy response time to commands and a short experience. Deadlights visual aspects alone are, for me, enough to consider this purchase. The game is fun and a worthwhile journey, that is, if you don’t mind spending 1200 MS points for two to three hours of gameplay.
Rating: 6.5 howzits out of 10