|Developer: Tequila Works
Publisher: XBLA/Microsoft Studios
Release Date: Out Now
Players/Online features: One
Oh no, it’s yet another zombie apocalypse and this time we have to survive it in 1986 Seattle, the home of Frasier, the Space Needle and Bill Gates. Clearly inspired by 2D platform adventure classics such as Another World, Flashback, Prince of Persia and the first two Oddworld games, Deadlight brings ultra-violence and brain-craving flesh-eating undead to the genre. The main protagonist is a man named Randall ‘Randy’ Wayne, a Park Warden, who is living a contented life with his wife Shannon and daughter Lydia in a small town called Hope in South West Canada. All hell breaks loose in Europe in the form of an infectious virus that reanimates the dead into flesh-eating zombies, which spreads to the US mainland. Within weeks the virus reaches Hope and the town’s population are evacuated by the military. After an unsuccessful attempt to rid the town of zombies with the other menfolk, Randy returns home only to find that Shannon and Lydia have disappeared, and so Randy teams up with his friend Ben, an officer called Sam and sisters, Stella and Karla and sets out to find them, heading to Seattle to a government ‘Safe Point’ where it’s rumoured they may have been taken.
Read this sentence: “Press any button to Reload from the last Checkpoint.” Play Deadlight and you’re going to be seeing these words a LOT. If you’re anything like me you’ll also frequently sit there staring zombie-like at this screen waiting for the game to automatically return you to the last checkpoint, being used as we are to games doing that these days. This has to be the most pointless screen in a game EVER, as you don’t actually have the option to do anything else anyway, so why is it there?!
In Deadlight the zombies are called Shadows, presumably because they like the dark and are usually only seen as silhouettes. Randall has to avoid or hack Shadows to bits with an axe initially, but eventually finds a pistol and a shotgun, although the game is, perhaps to its detriment, never about blasting hordes of undead. A slingshot also comes in handy, not for killing Shadows but for setting off car alarms to distract them, and you can also unblock various mechanisms with a well-aimed slingshot to allow further progress. Along the way you’ll find hidden secrets and pages from Randall’s diary, which, along with the cut-scenes, fill in the increasingly disturbing back story, which is told in the increasingly-popular comic book-style; static drawings with the occasional basic animation laid on top. This sort of thing used to be known as “placeholder” or “artist’s impressions”, and although it rather suits Deadlight’s style, it’s undeniably easy and cheap way of telling a game’s plot.
The combat is brutally tough and necessarily violent; it’s traditional that zombies can only be stopped by blowing their brains out, decapitating them or chopping them into small pieces, and that’s what you have to do. Randall can fight off two or three Shadows with just an axe, but there are so many Shadows in some areas—and so little ammo—that Deadlight is a struggle for survival from the start, and sadly becomes a chore before long. There are brief moments of fun when you find a decent stockpile of ammo for the shotgun, but if you do it’s usually at a point where the Shadows spawn relentlessly, so you gain nothing. The occasions where you can lure Shadows to their final destination by electrocution or off a ledge are few and far between, and there aren’t enough environmental kills (dropping things on them, blowing them up etc) to keep things interesting either. The fact is that Deadlight commits the cardinal sin of any game, it’s just not enough fun, and you never get enough ammo, even for a short time, to really have fun and cause some major zombie carnage.
The game has a few annoying flaws that shouldn’t really have made it through testing; once you start to search a body or object you can’t stop the animation, meaning if a Shadow appears nearby (and they have a habit of doing that) you can’t break out of the search to fight or flee. Another irritation is that Randall can’t flippin’ well swim. This isn’t too much of a problem for most of the game, but certain moments had me screaming “a park warden that can’t swim, in a zombie apocalypse? Give me a f@*%ing break! Randall also has no automatic reload, you have to hold ‘LB’ and he won’t automatically change weapons when one is empty either-along with the insta-death trap screens you can’t help coming to the conclusion that Tequila Works wanted you to die as often as possible, possibly to artificially extend Deadlight’s rather short lifespan.
A decent enough game for a price of 1200 MSP but a mildly disappointing and brief (3-4 hours) one at the same time, Deadlight will attract fans of Another World and Abe’s Oddysee due to the obvious similarities, but they may well remember those classics with rose tinted specs and think they’d rather be playing them, I know I did.
- Extremely atmospheric for a 2D game.
- One of the best looking XBLA games yet.
- Too samey.
- Rather short for 1200 MSP.
- It's just not enough fun.
- A wasted opportunity for something greater.