This is not the end, nor is it the beginning. This is just another day. A dead world ruled by the living dead. What few survivors there are have their hopes laid out to reach the coveted Safe Point on the outskirts of Seattle. Randall Wayne is one of these men, he is a survivor and wants nothing more than to find his family, his beloved wife and daughter once more. Welcome to the dark, atmospheric new world of Deadlight, developed by Tequila Studios based out of Madrid, Spain. Their first title to be released which is available on the Xbox Live Arcade.
Deadlight is a survival horror platformer in which the player takes the role of a grizzled Vancouver park ranger by the name of Randall Wayne. Randall is working his way towards the now ruined city of Seattle and the coveted “safe point. He hopes that he may once again reunite with his friends that he is travelling with as well as his missing wife and daughter whom he suspect are waiting at the “safe point”, and whose memory haunts our hero throughout his journey.
Randall, being a park ranger is quite attuned to being in the great outdoors and is quite skilled at dodging various obstacles and finding his way to various platforms that the normal person would find quite difficult to manage while dodging the shadows(zombies) that plague the world. Randall will be working through puzzles to move from one room to the next through a variety of locations much of the time throughout his journey. Locations such as the ruined streets of Seattle, the sewers, and a sports coliseum.
Randall’s skillset is more than capable of keeping him alive, with his wits and his brawn. He is able to run, jump, climb, and push and pull large boxes around to help him maneuver around one obstacle to the next. Randall is also able to taunt the shadows by whistling or yelling at them to get their attention so that he may be able to dodge them without coming into harm.
Deadlight portrays a graphical aesthetic that is dark; taking advantage of dark lighting the image of a ruined world come across clear and are capable of drawing in wonder as the player moves from section to section. As you travel from left to right you are treated to a beautifully grim picture of Seattle, with cars piled up in traffic during the initial breakout, to bullet trains having fallen off their track and into a building. The colour palette is dark, with Randall himself covered in shadow throughout the entire journey. The shadows with their glowing red eyes in the distance, with some even wandering into the foreground seeking our hero.
The cutscenes in Deadlight which are meant to expand the story are all done in a rough comic book style with a noticeable red hue. Comic readers will recognize the style used as being very familiar to the The Walking Dead comics by Robert Kirkman and artist Tony Moore. The voice work throughout Deadlight is very well done. The actors are able to give each character an individual personality, making you want to know more about these individuals and how they survive in the world they must live in. With commentary from Randall who retells what he sees and adding additional exposition during the main sections of the game, as well as the side characters during cut scenes make for believable acting and draws the player into what little story there is.
The music in Deadlight is mostly ambient pieces to add to the atmosphere of new locations you enter as you progress through the game. Including fast paced pieces during the more intense action scenes that occur at various points throughout the game. The music itself is well done and doesn’t outstay its welcome by having it loop when it isn’t necessary. The sound design as well, is well done. Gunshots sound like gunshots and the moaning of the shadows isn’t over done and is an intimidating sound.
Randall however, is not left defenseless. He will come across a small arsenal which includes a fire axe, a slingshot, a hand gun, and a shotgun. Ammo is sparse, but not sparse enough that you can’t afford wasting a couple shots. As well, as each new chapter begins your ammunition is magically refilled which takes a significant amount of challenge away.
There is quite a bit to collect throughout the game. As you progress you will come across pages of Randall’s lost diary, which goes into depth about his life as a [ark ranger before the outbreak and really demonstrates his affection towards his wife and daughter. Which is a major theme throughout Deadlight. You will also come across the I.D. of various members of the deceased, which it turns out are all names of various serial killers. There are also three handheld games hidden, one in each act, that you can play in the extras menu at the title screen.
Deadlight is plagued by several problems that really hold the title back from being a real gem, however. The only actual challenge in the game comes from cheap deaths, where you are unaware of upcoming obstacles that will kill you immediately, this is especially rampant in the game’s second act. Deadlight is also a very short game. Ranging from 2-3 hours. You may be able to add an additional hour if you may have missed a couple collectable items for 100% completion. The ending, while suiting to the themes set throughout the game will leave the player wishing for more closure, and the anti-climax will likely leave many disappointed.
Tequila Studios has made a good first step in something that feels not only fresh for the survival horror genre, but is also a look back at many great plat formers of the past such as Oddworld: Abe’s Odyssey, or Rayman. The game is problematic featuring cheap deaths, which can easily frustrate a player as well as its short length leaving much to be desired. Deadlight however, does one thing that is important in all horror games, and that is atmosphere. The ruined world of Seattle feels believable and some of the imagery of the lost city will fill the imagination with wonder. However, it’s cons, however weigh Deadlight down more than its pros and leading to a title that is best skipped.