Deadlight Review (Xbox 360)
Seattle is perhaps not the ideal place to be right now, an annoying virus outbreak has taken place, and just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water you wake up one morning to find the dead rather inconveniently walking around your front garden, trampling those pansies you spent the entire day before planting, but digression aside, it’s nothing out of the ordinary these days to have the undead hordes knocking on your door…
Side scrolling platformers come and go, but to hang around a little longer they need that something extra to hook you, make you go “oooh” and take over your brain. Conveniently an apocalypse just so happens to be that favoured bait of today’s game designers and zombies are pretty much a license to print money; everyone likes games with zombies in them.
Meet Mr Wayne (no, not him in a suit), Randall Wayne. He’s a gruff kind of chap who seems to have misplaced his wife and daughter in all the commotion, hooked himself up with a band of fellow survivors and now faces the daunting task of scaling the heights and searching through the ruins of the city in order to find his aforementioned family. To make things just that little bit harder, read that as interesting, your task is made all the more difficult by having pesky zombies, in this case named shadows, on your tail and often blocking your path pretty much the entire way.
As it is side scrolling you are restricted to only being able to run along a pre-aligned path rather than a full-on 3D free roam sandbox type game, but that’s not a problem as your path ahead is often pretty clear, though sometimes the monochromatic visual style can become a bit mischievous as it blurs a rather important ledge or floor opening into obscurity, but on the whole your path is relatively straightforward.
The structure is made up of nicely constructed obstacles and such, that require a bit of thought rather than just legging it from left to right, so there’s a nice mix of tempo to the overall gameplay. Sometimes it may be straight forward, other times a couple of cunning puzzles are thrown at you that require a bit of thought before making your next move, and other times again thought is required but you’re given so very little time; think quick, but think smart.
A lot of the time you will have to rely on your wits, as combat, in the form of melee, can be a dangerous exercise, not only in the fact it drains your stamina bar, as does climbing and such, but also you will quickly become overrun. There is a little respite to be found, in the form of a fireman’s axe but this too requires a keen eye being kept on that stamina gauge. Eventually a trusty side-arm or shotgun can be found though bullets and shells aren’t exactly a luxury so use them wisely. It all adds to the suspense and you never quite know what will be around the next corner…headshots are always gratifying though.
Weapons and “Every Which Way but Loose” (unfortunately there’s no orangutan – Ed) style fist punching will only get you so far, so be aware of your surroundings and who knows, that balcony might just come in handy or that precariously looking object in the distance could be utilised in your favour. Interact with the environment wherever possible to gain the upper hand.
Most of the time, Randall reacts quite well to control inputs and the control scheme itself works very well, but as with everything there is something just a little haphazard about it sometimes. Unfortunately Deadlight does seem to have copied the control scheme from another generation, namely a 1996 game involving a busty adventurer intent on stealing from the dead. A control scheme that worked fine, back then, but over the years has become a bit clunky in all honesty.
If you’re not standing in the pixel perfect position needed then you’re not going to be grabbing that ledge you so sorely crave, meaning the Shadows (minus Cliff Richard) are going to get you, unless you’re lucky enough to just fall to your death. Both mean a checkpoint restart and the frustration of re-living, or re-playing the same hit and miss moment all over again…and again and after a while you may probably just wish you were in the pleasant town of Punxsutawney instead.
Despite the game playing on the 2D plane you are treated to some wonderfully deep and detailed backgrounds that adds oodles of extra depth to the 2D platform style of the game. However, as beautiful as the backgrounds are, they can sometimes obscure important elements, such as ledges and platforms that may come in quite handy for the general progression of the game not to mention those illusive little hidden areas. The areas usually hiding those secrets become just that little more elusive, as they should be, so just keep your eyes of the hawk on standby and all will be revealed.
As with all Arcade games there does always seems to be some kind of ‘quality’ differentiator between XBLA titles and their retail cousins. Where you would expect a lavish cut-scene to take place in a retail game, the arcade brethren tend to just stick in a comic book style, slightly animated storyboard that unfortunately doesn’t always portray what it intends in the best light or to the same atmospheric standard. If only another bundle of notes were thrown their way…if only.
Deadlight is also somewhat of a collection-fest as you progress through the game picking up lost diary pages along with souvenirs, mementos and other items of seeming interest, be it from friends, fallen comrades or just strangers along the way, all of which can be viewed at your leisure in the ‘Randall’s Memories’ menu. It’s not however, thankfully, one of those grind-a-thon games that make finding collectibles similar, I would imagine, to scooping your own eyes out with a spoon, or something similarly fun.
There is however one set of collectibles that do make the game stand out from the usual, a wonderful hark back to the Game & Watch and other LCD handheld games of old. In each Act, of which there are three, there is a handheld game to be found, usually requiring a step beyond in order to acquire, but well worth it. Each handheld can be played from the ‘Randall’s Memories’ menu and each offer a different slant on some retro fun, a nice distraction and breather from the incessant Shadow chase.
Along with a great visual style there is also a fantastic atmospheric soundtrack to be enjoyed and a rather interesting little twist to the end, something I’m sure M. Night. Shyamalan would be proud of ,even jealous of, so expect to see that in the cinemas soon.
Also in order to help you along your way a couple of Power-ups can be acquired, though sadly not in the form of mushrooms or fire flowers, these ones just add an extra point to your health or kick in your stamina bar to overdrive. Helpful, but not easy to come by, you need to have a good search, often in places you’d prefer not to go, due to being kind of partial to breathing and all that. Make the effort though and you will be rewarded, it even gives an opportunity to explore a little more and pick up any remaining secret collectibles. Double whammy.
It’s great game with very few flaws, none of which particularly ruin or hinder your enjoyment of what is an original slant on a now increasingly tired genre. A game with an increasing difficulty that just about manages to stay on the right side of frustration, despite the trial and error method a couple of areas may be guilty of.
It does lack some replay value in the respect that once all the collectibles have been found there is little reason to go back but that said most games are like that, but therein lies the added extras of being able to read through the diary you’ve collected along the way which fills in story gaps along with the awesome handheld games that will occupy you, if found, for quite a while after as you try to top the leaderboards.Deadlight Review (Xbox 360),