Zombies are among the most recognisable and common enemies in gaming, whether players are fighting them in hordes or are trying to survive in a post apocalyptic wasteland, gamers have always found them endearing. Deadlight, developed by Tequila Works and produced by Microsoft Studios, takes this genre in a new and unexpected direction.
Deadlight, available on Steam and the Xbox Live Arcade, is a sidescrolling 2.5D platformer with a focus on puzzle-solving and survival rather than combat. This review will judge the game based on graphics and presentation as well as Gameplay.
The first thing that anyone should notice about Deadlight is its unique art direction. The 2.5D visuals have a unique art style of dreary colours with a shadowy foreground that oozes atmosphere. Some might complain that the cutscenes which tell the more significant events of the story are a disappointment in that they play out more like an animated comic book, but the endearing voice acting makes these scenes a pleasure to watch.
Unfortunately to get the most out of the game's plot the player will need to pause the game and read through the main character's journal (pages are scattered around the game world and they help piece together the events leading up to the outbreak) in order to fully understand the plot and care about the main character.
My computer, despite its specs being middle-range, did have some performance issues such as framerate drops in outdoor areas and the sound inexplicably cut during most of the cutscenes. This shouldn't be a problem on the Xbox Live version of the game and for those with a high-end computer.
Deadlight is a platformer with a focus on avoiding enemies rather than confrontation, and thus it's not for everyone. Controls can feel a little clunky at first and reminded me of the control scheme of the Abe's Oddysee series where players have to take the time to turn and precisely time their jumps. This also becomes apparent when there are a few jumping puzzles along the way. Confrontations are a last resort, and guns and ammunition are scarce. One feature I did appreciate was the clever use of background, where enemies in the background will move towards the foreground and attack the player.
Deadlight's path is linear with little room for exploration, which is a shame considering the beautiful art style and with so little room for error during the game's many puzzles and encounters, it more or less feels like acting out a role rather than playing a game. There are only two types of enemies in the entire game, the latter which only appears during the short final act.
Deadlight is at its best when the player is running for his life from the zombie horde, but unfortunately these bursts of excitement while frequent in the beginning become scarcer in favour of puzzles as the game progresses. This isn't necessarily a bad thing as it paces the action, but a lot of these puzzles are simply solved by precise jumps and trial and error which will result in frequent deaths unless you look up a guide.
Deadlight is also very short. It took me around 5 hours to finish the game with frequent interruptions. Many people would complain that such a short length isn't worth the hefty $15 price tag for an Indie Game. There is a Nightmare Mode on the PC Version that is unlocked after completing the game, but this is merely a mode where there is no save option.
Deadlight is an artistically gorgeous, well written game let down by some control issues, but mostly its short length. I give it a recommendation.