Deadlight is the debut game from Tequila Works to arrive on Xbox Live Arcade. The game introduces you as Randall Wayne who is a resident of a post apocalyptic Seattle of the 1980′s. Which is the scene of a zombie out break and are refered to as Shadows in Deadlight. The first time your introduced is seen below when Randall blows the head off of a young girl who was bitten by the shadows. Not only that she was a sister of one of the survivors of the group that brings both tension and a story element to the game. Sadly you don’t get to know any of the survivors of the group to become attached to them and feel like they have meaning in the first cut-scene of the game. The biggest drawback of Deadlight is that the dialogue has the intelligence of a zombie. Actually if the story was told in zombie, the new language I just made up, it might actually make me want to watch a cut-scene in the game. It is these comic book like cut-scenes will continue to haunt you and make you feel like the third wheel when encountering the rest of the group throughout the game’s progression.
Yet some of the things that Deadlight gets right are when the hordes of shadows overwhelm you. It is unique and fresh when a struggle with just one shadow feels like a battle. The game in this respect has a lot going for the title. However some things like the platforming and tutorials are just simply unforgivable. This is true when trying to navigate Randall around the world and progress to the next level or section of the game. While even with a 42″ TV a small white arrow tries to help navigate the player to the next part of the environment. Yet the arrow is so tiny to see and once you have progressed through to the next room or building you realize there are 20 more before the end of the level. It seems like Tequila Works forgot they made TV’s smaller than 72″.
Rather than feel fun, these kind of moments of the game feel tedious and exhausting. Sure it’s not too bad until you reach a level when you follow a skinny old man who calls himself “The Rat” yep very clever indeed. Randall then progresses through what feels like an obstacle course filled with Shadows. Which is an interesting idea however, once you finish this level, if you are brave enough you will feel like it was specifically designed with the intent for the player to stop playing this game. It doesn’t help that your weapons you have gathered to this point are taken away and replaced with a slingshot. This in turn gives the game a very unorthodox gameplay element were you hit trash can lids with a red “X” to get to the next platform. Which is about as entertaining as it sounds.
The game’s health system is composed of 2 bars one being your Health and the other being Stamina. The health bar is indicated with the red cross logo and 3 bars every time you are being attacked by a Shadow or take fall damage that isn’t fatal one bar will be depleted. In order to get back to full health you must find a First Aid Kit during your progression throughout the level. Sadly the First Aid Kits aren’t able to be picked up which takes away from the Deadlight experience. The Stamina gauge regenerates over time and will deplete when running, hanging, jumping and even attacking enemies with your axe. If you intend to push Randall to the limits be warned as your vision on the screen will become obscured by darkness making it almost impossible to see.
Combat in the game has you wielding axes and handguns along with some other zombie killing tools. Each weapon doubles for another way to unlock a new route or path through the level. When getting a hold of the handgun at first you are taken back to one of Randalls memories and instructed on how to shoot and reload. After struggling to find the fire button I damn near threw my controller in frustration. The game has a tutorial for platforming and pretty much every other aspect of the game. But when it comes to shooting the developer completely forgets to instruct the gamer on how to shoot a weapon. Finally realizing that the right control stick is how to aim and the right trigger shoots your gun my frustration was exhausted on the poor zombie that was tied up.
While the game isn’t the best game on the Xbox Live Arcade, it isn’t the worst either. With mediocre written all over it Deadlight could have been worse. What saves this title from turning into a shadow is the struggle you feel as you play through the game. Also with pretty moments while moving along rooftops and scurrying through hospitals for meds the graphics in the game are dark and grim with detail found throughout the levels of the game. There is essentially no real replay incentives though as most of the collectables don’t really tell a new part of the story with the exception of Randall’s diary pages. The other collectables are of random strangers ID’s and small trinkets of other people. Unlike other great games in the survival horror franchise Deadlight sadly has nothing going for it. So if you are so inclined to pick this one up be warned as you may turn into a lifeless zombie while playing it, because it is not a game for the living.