Imagine, you are a gruff older man, the world is ending around you, the dead walk the earth, you have no idea where your wife and child have gone and tension is at breaking point with your survival group.
A little familiar maybe, but Deadlight doesn’t feel tired and old, far from it in fact. Developers Tequila Works have taking the zombie apocalypse and turned it into a side-scrolling battle for survival, something I admit I was initially a little sceptical about.
Set in 1986, Seattle, you play Randall Wayne who is pretty much your average chap. He isn’t used to fighting, jumping about or even shooting a gun as a short cut-scene shows you fairly early on. This shown physically on screen with his health and stamina bars, which at first seem woefully low for a game that has you hell-bent on survival. However is it this element that makes survival all the more important, Randall can only swing an axe a handful of times before he finds himself in trouble and his stamina drops right down, similarly holding onto a ledge drains your stamina, hold on too long and you’ll be forced to let go.
This theme of running not fighting, to just keep moving, becomes quickly evident within the game. While there is always not an immediate sense of urgency, and so you have some time to work out your next move, there are also segments which force you to rely on instinct and use the moves you have learnt up until then to just get a bit further, and hopefully not die in the process.
As can be expected in a game of survival, you will die. An awful lot. I certainly found myself leaping to my death in a variety of ways, or suffering electrocution, or in one pathetic instance, after stopping to look at a secret I had found, it turns out the game doesn’t auto-pause and instead Randall had a zombie munching on him instead. Thankfully the game is forgiving of you for flinging Randall to his doom and the checkpoints are numerous, you don’t lose much progress and come back with full health and stamina, so don’t be afraid to try out some strategies if you can’t figure out what to do next.
Keeping all this in mind, taking the time to pause every now and again and keep an eye out for three little blue gears which indicate something is to be found. These secrets can range from pages of Randall’s diary, to newspaper clippings, photos, and various other items left behind by various residents of Seattle and its surrounding areas. There are also a number of ID cards to be found on corpses sporting a range of familiar, but dubious, names. Finally you can find three handheld games, each with its own mini-game. All the secrets you find are presented in a scrapbook and can be seen from the title screen.
The game itself is well presented, the amount of detail to the backdrop is fantastic, in particular with the areas where you are inside buildings and get a more close up view of things. The art direction takes a decidedly realistic approach for the gameplay portions, with various degrees of lighting effects going on to aid this. The cut-scenes instead, as can be seen in the story trailer, take on a rather rough comic book style using a limited colour palette. While the switch in styles does separate the story element to the gameplay to a degree, it does not so much that it becomes a problem to follow what is going on.
As was touched on earlier, Deadlight is a side-scrolling game, but rarely do you feel limited by this. Rather than feel clunky the gameplay is, for the most part, smooth with Randall being able utilise the environment to his advantage. The game is not without issues entirely, but those I found were more to do with poor timing while hurtling down slopes, or being unable to figure out a certain puzzle for a while rather than anything game breaking.
Essentially, for a game that takes on an old story of a man surviving an outbreak that makes the dead walk again, Deadlight still has enough to make it feel fresh in a 2D environment. Artistically it is at times beautiful despite its bleakness, the script is well written (though not entirely without cliché), and with music that is atmospheric yet not distracting, it is at its heart a game that should be experienced first-hand.
If you want to know more about the development of Deadlight, including more on the artwork, then head over to deadlightgame.com to see a series of videos from Tequila Works.
Games on the Xbox Live Arcade are growing in popularity more and more, and with a title such as Deadlight on there it is easy to see why. Out August 1st, priced at 1200MS Points, Deadlight is well worth playing.
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