Tuesday, 14 August 2012

GAME REVIEW: Deadlight

New review coming up just as soon as I relive a traumatic repressed memory. 
The new game from studio Tequila Works, Deadlight is the second title in Microsoft’s Summer of Arcade series; a 2.5D side scrolling puzzle-and-platformer with zombies that’s part LIMBO, part Resident Evil and part Abe’s Oddysee. The player assumes the role of Randal Wayne, a down on his luck fellow searching for his missing wife and child in the middle of a ruined Seattle in 1986, while also escaping hordes of the undead (or ‘shadows’ as the game calls them) as well as the requisite shady military presence. 

Now you might well moan at yet another zombie game, however this one feels so much different. This isn’t an action title, like Valve’s Left4Dead series or the zombie mode  in Treyarch’s Call of Duty games. It’s a run, jump, roll and basically avoid the zombies at all costs game. And while you do get some weapons later on to bust some undead heads, you’ll find the best solution is only to fight them when you absolutely have to. The zombies are an oppressive presence, and one that is relentless and while they are your classic shuffling zombie which might not seem too much of a threat, get ganged up on and you’re pretty much dead immediately.

Fortunately though, dying isn’t much of a hindrance, as like LIMBO and Abe’s Oddysee, this is a trial and death game. Didn’t make that jump and ended up in the water? Respawn and time it better. Pulled the wrong lever and electrocuted yourself? Respawn and don’t pull said lever. Accidentally pressed jump and fell down a ravine/into a herd of undead/onto a mashy spike plate? Respawn and try not to do it for the fifth time in a row. 

A rare zombie killing.

This trial and death method comes into play rather beautifully during the puzzle elements of the game but most of the puzzles aren’t too difficult. There aren’t many that will stump you for any great length of time, which is nice, but at the same time a little disappointing. There’s nothing that has the fiendish difficulty of LIMBO, which I got stuck on dozens of times. The toughest challenge here is finding a certain item to push or pull so you can advance. 

However, nearly the whole middle section of the game is simply working out how to progress through an underground network of death traps. Some of which are very tricky. Navigating said death traps (as well as the zombies) needs a certain degree of precise timing, and thankfully the reasonably simple controls don’t cause too many problems. It’s standard platform stuff and nothing new, but it doesn’t last very long, and all the time you really just want to get back topside and enjoy the destroyed beauty of the world. 

Run, you crazy sumbitch. RUN!

Speaking of, the most striking aspect of the game is easily the art design. It’s nothing short of breathtaking; with glorious 2.5D rendered environments showing you a beautiful backdrop to this post zombie world. Collapsed buildings, cars abandoned on freeways, far away zombies fighting with army types; it let you have a glimpse at this ruined world and really sets the tone of the whole game. That tone being: grim. Grimmer than grim. The plot of the game is in the same vein. I’ll not spoil anything, but the feeling of isolation and futility pervades throughout creating an immersive environment to play in even if the story isn’t much kop. The final twist in the tale is something you can see a mile away, and the protagonist isn’t very sympathetic or even that interesting.  Although the last act of the game, in the 'Safe Zone' is terribly exciting.

Overall though, it’s merely ok when you’d want it to be amazing, it isn’t very memorable and clocking in with a completion time of less than three hours, it’s a fun ride while it lasts but has nowhere near the lasting impact of its obvious influences. 

3 and a half stars.

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