Deadlight is a 2D side scrolling zombie adventure and like many zombie survival games the zombies are not called that. “Shadows” roam about the screen and stagger out from the games’ lush backgrounds to try to grab you as you run past. Gamers of a younger age will certainly draw comparisons with Limbo and Shadow Complex, but for older gamers, or those that have broadened their gaming to platforms of yesteryear, Deadlight feels more like a post apocalyptic zombie infested Flashback game.
Set in 1986 you play as Randall Wayne, a grizzly bear of a man thrust into a world gone crazy after a ‘medical incident’. Set 145 days after this incident of one “patient zero” Seattle is now a tangle of destruction and confusion. Searching for his family, Randall pairs up with a group of survivors who he inevitably ends up having to save.
The story unfolds through a set of grungy inked comic stills and although rather stylish, the story isn’t very deep and the epidemic never fully explained. Facts about the underlying story and the events that have passed can be pieced together through Randall’s diary, which you must find as for some reason they have become scattered throughout the game’s three acts. There is also little character development other than the main man Randall who you get to know through his inner dialogue and crazy hallucinations. There is also a rather interesting section of the game with one Harold Ratman, who is the only other character you really spend any time with. Although there is plenty to keep you entertained I felt that the game teases you but never fully explains anything – it’s a rich world that is just begging to be fully explored and explained.
The environments can be traversed by climbing and jumping about the wreckage of Seattle and through makeshift traps of the Ratman’s lair, to start with I found that the jumping was a bit hit and miss. While I pretty much nailed all the standard jump sections – running jumps proved rather troublesome, I either jumped far too soon or just ran off the ledge. If there was an achievement for missing far too many sprint jumps, I certainly would have been awarded it!
As well as standard navigational puzzles, you can also use the environment to take out enemies either with direct interaction with objects, by flicking switches to trigger a piece of machinery or by taunting them and leading them in to a trap. Much like Flashback and Limbo, the puzzles are never too taxing. You will find yourself repeating sections as you learn how to proceed through trial and error, and apart from one particular section it’s challenging but never too frustrating.
Enemies aren’t the only thing that you need to avoid, it seems through all Randall’s resolve he lacks the ability to swim – deep water resulting in death and you starting at the last checkpoint. Checkpoints are plentiful and this will certainly be a welcome mechanic for those that dislike rinse and repeating long sections only to keep failing at the same troublesome jump or obstacle.
Whilst Deadlight does have combat elements, the game limits how much you are able to rely on hacking through your foes. An energy bar depletes with each weapon swing and swinging an axe versus a shadow is rather ineffectual especially when you’re up against a crowd of them. Later you do get a revolver and a shotgun, but as you’d expect, ammo is scarce. Combat is there to give you some breathing room to devise an escape plan, it’s not there so you can run through the levels like a man possessed. It provides an excellent change of pace to the game’s puzzles and even though being mobbed by a crowd of shadows is no fun, there is always a solution that doesn’t involve an all guns blazing approach.
While water, falling from extreme heights and (later on) bullets may cause you to instantly die, being mauled by zombies will eat away at your health bar, which may be replenished with first aid kids spread thinly throughout the game. As I mentioned above, there is also an energy bar which will also deplete when you hang from ledges or sprint. The two bars aren’t massive constraints on your ability to progress though the game, but they do mean you need to consider your tactics before making any cowboy manoeuvres.
While this may only be a 2D side scrolling adventure puzzler, the depth to the levels is incredible. The backgrounds disappear into the distance and they are very much alive with activity, either integral to the story as the action spills in to the foreground or they exist purely as ambient activity for you to enjoy. Graphically the game is beautiful, alike to the style and starkness of Limbo but with the detail, grunge and depth of a graphic novel.
Deadlight is a really great game, the puzzles aren’t quite as clever as Limbo but it has the same charm. It took me 5 hours to complete the game with my overall time coming in at a little over 2 hours which may seem a little short if you look at the price tag of 1200 MS points. There are plenty of collectibles to find which help to further the story and explain just what is going on in the world. I did feel that they were a little too easy to find especially the hidden handheld consoles, although off the beaten track it’s obvious where they could be hiding. Handheld consoles are old school LCD games that serve as a mere distraction and a bit of humour and also come with an achievement for each of them should you beat their high score. If you have 1200 points burning a hole in your virtual pocket and find the lure of a Limbo/Flashback game appealing then Deadlight will certainly be up your street.
Review: Deadlight Results
What we liked:
Fun, intuitive 2D gaming mechanics
Flashback with a dose of Limbo
What we disliked:
In places the jump mechanic can be frustrating
A little too short for 1200 MS points
No depth to the story