7/10 game-a-thon: Deadlight

20140423-160121.jpgThe first in a series of reviews in which i plunder my backlog for games that are worthy of 7/10 or less.

Follow the journey of Randall Wayne in this 2D side-scroller originally released in 2012; recently made available; for free, with the improving ‘Games with Gold’ promotion on Xbox live.

The question is it a journey you’d want to follow or is this just another festering corpse of a game?

  On first viewing Deadlight is a game that; seemingly, has everything going for it. It is stunningly beautiful, with an almost monochromatic aesthetic and a beautifully animated protagonist (it will undoubtedly remind most gamers of ‘Limbo’). The backdrops are also beautiful with the dilapidated ruins of Seattle prove a poignant reminder that this world is very different to the one we know.

deadlight-607-007

The use of juxtaposition between what you expect and what you get; is used expertly. If you enter this game expecting a 2D side-scrolling platformer; prepare to be disappointed. Deadlight is very much a survival horror (or so it seems).

Deadlight embraces everything you remember and loved about old-school survival horror, the atmosphere is superb and while ammo is at a premium; zombies are not. The opening is an intriguing motion comic style cut scene which (even here though the horrific dialogue is very much evident) is beautifully rendered and it does a good job at setting the tone (which is relentlessly pessimistic).

The first few chapters crack the story on at a fair old rate, and as it is mostly told through the pages of Randall’s diary is it engaging; until the voice acting begins. However as with most average games (even the most stunningly beautiful ones) it all starts to unravel. And it all begins with the survival horror roots at the heart of the game.

Deadlight embraces everything your remember and hated about old-school survival horror, namely iffy-controls and a half-baked narrative. For some ‘artistic’ reason Tequilla Works have thought it wise to give Randall incredibly imprecise and inconsistent controls. Jumping feels like a lottery at times and the animation of Randall can cause your landing zone (not just of jumps but melee weapons too) to fluctuate wildly. Pair this with the fact that Randall cannot swim (which was an absolute disgrace in 2012, but much worse in 2014) and a precision jumping section in sewers (why are your traps water based? DAMN YOU RATMAN!!!) the latter half of this game is enough to make you wonder if the positive memories you have of everything up this point are inaccurate.

sewers

In the latter part of Deadlight even the visuals contribute to the problems; foreground objects obscure your view of Randall. Its not obvious (or logical) which pieces of the scenery are platforms (or traps). Zombies will (again randomly and illogically) come from the background to attack you. No gamer can foresee which zombies can, or will, attack and it creates a trial and error gameplay that frustrates. Gone is any notion of survival horror and in its place frustrating platforming. This gameplay remains for the rest of the game time, the end set piece is a memory test that will infuriate gamers with instant death and restarts.

Perhaps the biggest crime Deadlight commits isn’t the technical shortcomings that should have been left behind decades ago. No, it’s the fact that it ditches it’s original concept so quickly that it left me wondering why Tequila Works even bothered with it for the first hour and a half. It’s a real shame, this game could have had it all; instead its like watching an episode of ‘America’s next top model’ – it had all the expectation of seeing beautiful things, but inevitably you’re left underwhelmed and disappointed.  It’s also roughly the length of an episode of ‘ANTM’ with the same level of script and dialogue.

Overall Deadlight is a wasted opportunity, it could have been a great ‘metroidvania’ style survival horror, in the end it falls between two (poor constructed) stools and achieves nothing but alienation of its two core audiences.

Score – 5/10

Please leave a comment if you enjoyed this review (or even if you hated it).

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