The lights are on
As part of Xbox Live's Summer of Arcade series, Deadlight
comes at a time of the year when the gaming landscape is light on major titles.
Many gamers look to the Xbox Live marketplace during the summer in hopes of
finding a game like Deadlight to hold them over until the next big title. Though
this horror-platformer delivers some solid 2.5D action, Deadlight never completely comes together due to bad storytelling and, at times, frustrating
Taking place in Seattle during the mid-80s, Deadlight
follows Randall Wayne, a survivor of a world torn apart by zombies (or Shadows
as their called in the game). Randall is separated from a group of survivors at
the very beginning of the story, sending him on his own plight driven by his
desire to reconnect with his missing family.
Along the way, Randall slowly meets up with some of his
friends from his group, a strange sewer-dweller by the name of The Rat, and a
whole swarm of Shadows. The game picks up quickly from the very beginning, both
in terms of narrative and gameplay. You're able to quickly understand that the Shadows
plaguing the worlds are incredibly dangerous, having the capacity to end
Randall with even the slightest misstep. The entire first act does a great job
of utilizing a balance between tense action sequences and platforming. When
Deadlight's gameplay and style work, you're rewarded with an engaging
Focusing on platforming and scarce elements of simple
puzzles and action, Deadlight might remind you of the 2D platformers of the original
Playstation era (games like Oddworld come to mind). Randall is given only a few
tools to work with as he uses pinpoint jumping and rolling to traverse the
game. Most of the platforming is well done, never becoming too overly difficult
to frustrate or too easy to bore. The only major snag Deadlight hits in its
platforming is the loading times after death.
You'll be jumping over zombies... like a lot
As is commonplace for platform-focused games, there is quite
a bit of trial-and-error throughout the experience. The loading screens, though
only a few seconds long, can become very frustrating in some of the more
difficult areas of the game. Deadlight never reaches a difficulty that would make you
stop playing because of this, but there are certainly parts of it that suffer
from the player not being able to get back into the game quickly enough.
The puzzle bits of Deadlight are hardly puzzles at all. They
mostly require you to use a gun or a slingshot to open up a new area or
platform to use. They can become interesting when you're being swarmed by
Shadows, but they are never too difficult to grasp. Randall does get a gun, but with ammo
coming quite scarce, you won't be using it to cut down hordes of enemies.
Though accurate headshots are occasionally required in the game, for the most
part you'll be using your pistol or shotgun to break locks or doors. There are
large chunks of Deadlight where your gun will even be replaced with a
slingshot, a tool that's essentially used for the same purposed, solving light puzzles (with the
exception of the zombie headshot nastiness).
Deadlight is a 2.5D game, combing 3D graphics with 2D
gameplay. The artistic direction of the game is very clear and engaging throughout,
with striking silhouettes of monsters and characters providing the visual flair
needed to give off the dreadful situation in which the game takes place. This
is certainly where Deadlight works best--its in-game visuals. The use of 3D
graphics even informs the 2D gameplay at times as Shadows and other obstacles
come sprawling from the background or foreground into where the player is. From
beginning to end, Deadlight really does successfully capitalize on its 2.5D
graphics and artistic styling.
However, for every moment in Deadlight that delivers an
exciting, platform driven gameplay sequence, there are several moments of
downright terribly acted and written dialogue and cutscenes. Deadlight's story
isn't too intriguing to begin with. Add some spotty voice acting and
awkward dialogue choices, and you end up without a single character in the game ever coming off as dynamic
or even particularly interesting.
Deadlight overtly tries to mimic what franchises like The Walking
Dead have used for successful narration and plot, using the apparent threat of a doomsday scenario to
mask the real threat of the people around you as they slowly lose their
humanity. It's all based on interesting plots and narrative styles, but
Deadlight isn't showing off anything that hasn't already been done by other
games. On top of that, none of Deadlight's story is even very well told. With
the moving-stills style of the cut scenes (similar to those found in Metal Gear
Solid: Peace Walker) and the often out-of-place and trite dialogue from Randall,
Deadlight's narrative never fully comes together as a whole and enjoyable
story. Instead, you get bits of vaguely spoken nonsense from Randall mixed with dramatic scenes trying way too hard to be mysterious and dark.
Deadlight's cutscenes are all illustrations. Though they're well drawn, they're not very interesting to look at
As though the weak story wasn't enough, Deadlight also has a
series of diary entries you can collect. Recollecting what Randall sees before
and during the chaos that acts as the game's setting, these loose pages of
Randall's diary are actually embarrassing to read. These bonus items fail to
inform the story you're playing in a meaningful or engaging way. Much like the
story overall, Randall's diary tries way too hard to be illustrate a particular tone and style.
What you end up with is piece of vague and difficult to read nonsense.
Randall's musings are written how you would expect a gloomy teenager to write
Deadlight lasts about three or four hours and never really
wears out its welcome in terms of gameplay. There are enough collectables in the game for it to be
worth a second play-through, making Deadlight a fairly lengthy and re-playable game.
Though it doesn't completely come together in the end (particularly regarding storytelling), it certainly is worth its price. It isn't the best game
on XBLA, but Deadlight will probably end up being a major highlight of this
year's Summer of Arcade.
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