It’s not every day that we get a brand spanking new horror title on XBLA, and it’s even rarer still that the game ends up being good. Remember Amy? Yeah. We sure do. Deadlight promises to whisk us away from the barren desert that was the month of July and ever so delicately drop us into a dark and dangerous 2.5D world where one wrong move can see your character being eaten alive by the hungry undead. Or worse yet, you could drown. Oh yeah, we’ll get into that in a minute, but if you like your teasers: the main character can’t swim. More after the break.
Adam: Remember when I told you about the dangers of water? Apparently, Tequila Works didn’t get the memo that detailed the (insanely stupid) idea that you should die immediately after dipping your fucking toe in the water. Look, it was a poor design decision in the 90’s, so the fact that we’re still seeing it in 2012 is almost as infuriating as unskippable cut-scenes. Dear game developers: I know you spent a lot of time and money on your cinematics, but for the love of all things furry, let me skip the cut-scenes.
TJ: The first thing I told myself when the game mentioned to me that Wayne couldn’t swim was “Ok, a 33 year old man that can’t swim. That’s possible, right?” So I kind of let it slide. But as I progressed through the game I got more and more mad when I would hit water about as deep as my head, and immediately drown. I mean sure, Wayne has quite the outfit on. Big trench coat, winter hat, probably boots, that shit is hard to swim in.
Adam: I agree. It’s totally something you can write off as possible, but that only works if Wayne comes in contact with water and doesn’t immediately sink like a stone. It’s almost as if the water drains the life out of him, because we don’t see him frantically flailing his arms or gasping for breath, he just sinks. It’s dumb, and really makes it seem like they were running out of obstacles to throw at the player.
TJ: I think swimming and avoiding zombies in the water could have been an awesome feature/obstacle. It didn’t have to get too crazy because obviously zombies wouldn’t be good swimmers. However, they probably couldn’t drown so that would pose quite the threat.
Adam: They even tease that fairly early on! There’s a point in the game where Wayne drains the water out of a small area and has to walk through it, past the (obviously very undead) “corpses” of a few Shadows (aka zombies). They get up and it becomes a frantic race to the higher ground. It’s fun and freaky, then we never see it used again.
TJ: Terrible waste of a potentially awesome feature. Anyhow, moving on. This game is A LOT better than we made it out to be in those first several paragraphs. One of my absolute favorite things that the game has going on is the ever moving and changing background. Zombies moving and attacking, rain coming down and you and even see it flowing down walls, explosions, hung people, dead people and so much more.
Adam: This is a beautiful game. It’s like a more colorful Limbo, and that aesthetic really works for a horror platformer like this. Though it sounds like you might’ve enjoyed this a little more than I did. See, the first third of the game is incredible. You’re strolling streets and rooftops of Seattle, knocking down and/or running from the occasional Shadow, then, suddenly, you’re dropped into the sewers. To me, as soon as I met my “sewer sensei,” things went horribly wrong.
TJ: I must also admit that was quite a frustrating section of the game. There were several points where I thought to myself, man I wish they would give me a hint because something doesn’t seem right. I even had to text a friend to get me out of a jam I was in. I was trying to jump this gap off a box and I kept missing so I thought it wasn’t where I was supposed to go. Turns out I was wrong and was just fucking up the jump repeatedly.
Adam: My frustration with the middle third of the game was only partly caused by the total lack of direction they give you during it. Most of my issues stemmed from the awful idea to replace the creepy Shadows with mundane floor and ceiling spike traps, or the aforementioned pits of scary water. It didn’t help that that part of the game is all about trial and error, essentially turning it into more of an endurance test than a game.
TJ: Very true. I found myself dying an insane amount of times trying to figure out how to get past certain parts, However I must say, in most games when I’m put through hell like that I just fucking give up. But I’m pretty invested into the story, and up until that point I was really into the game. So I definitely have to give it to Deadlight for keeping me hooked.
Adam: I suppose I should admit something then. I don’t give fuck all about this game’s story. I know it’s about Wayne and his hunt for his family, which turns into a search for his friends, followed by some uber bizarre section where he chases a smart homeless man. After that, it’s all a blur.
TJ: First of all, HA! Second, I found myself reading his diary (which should have been called a journal, what is he a starstruck teenage girl?) and that got me a lot more into the story and into what’s going on.
Adam: A true man has a bright pink diary under his bed. Wayne, and myself, are true men. The game starts off promising, bringing with it a little of The Walking Dead in Wayne’s search for his family. Sure, it isn’t original, but compared to the rest of the story it’s pure gold.
TJ: I guess my blog on Live Journal is no longer valid in this argument.
Adam: This isn’t an argument. It’s a tiff. A lovers’ quarrel.
TJ: I still swoon when you call us lovers.
Adam: I feel like this review is getting derailed a bit.
TJ: I’ll derail you like when Jennifer Aniston got derailed in that movie Derailed. ANYWAY, I really like Wayne as a main character, and I love that it takes place in the 80’s. I also love that they aren’t beating around the zombie bush like A LOT of fucking games and movies do nowadays. Oh they aren’t officially zombies this, they’re just infected, or crazy. No these mother fuckers are straight up old skool Romero zombies, and it works perfectly.
Adam: I just pictured zombie bush. Not pleasant. As for Wayne, I don’t like him, but I don’t hate him. I put up with him. He starts off as a decently likeable (though entirely forgettable) lead character, but then, like the rest of the game, he eventually becomes annoying. His attempts to narrate his thoughts, trying to sound deep and emotional, come off as fake and awkward to me.
TJ: You’ve become so old and jaded. I’m going to call you Brad Jr. Or Lil’ Mister Disgusting.
Adam: I’ll take that as a compliment. Speaking of compliments, I have one more to pay to Deadlight. The sound design is pretty fantastic. Everything from the music that plays in the background to the sounds the Shadows make when they’re about to make that final lunge toward you. It sounds great. The only thing that weighs it down is the uneven voice acting. There’s some serious B-movie acting going on here, and that would’ve been funny if it was intentional.
TJ: The third act of the game definitely starts to trail off even further from where I thought they were taking the game in the first act. I found it a little weird I was dying more from getting machine gunned down by a helicopter then I was from zombies. Oh, but then there were the zombies. Hordes of them. If there is anything you can take away from this review, it’s this advice. Never forget what the 1st act taught you. Unlike most games that show you how to do something at the start and then you never use it again (i.e. remember at the beginning of BioShock when they make you break some boards to continue on, and then they never have you break anything with melee again?) Deadlight has you constantly using your skills. Remember that when the game MURDERS you over and over again.
Adam: That doesn’t make up for the awful second and third acts. I felt betrayed. They built up this incredible foundation for a fantastically creepy survival horror platformer, then it all came undone.
TJ: While trudging through the latter half of the game I did often think to myself (If this was still 100 percent survival horror, would I be bored out of my mind?) Though, it may have been better than getting killed by spike traps, helicopters, and drowning constantly.
Adam: I’m all right with a game like Deadlight delving into other genres, but if you’re going to do that, you need to do it well. This game does survival horror platforming and exploration extremely well, but it does not do Limbo’s unforgiving traps well, and when you replace its zombies with a bullet spewing helicopter, that just doesn’t feel right to me.
TJ’s Final Score: There is a lot that I really like about this game, but the more I played through it, the more frustrated I became. I even shut the game off several times out of anger. The sound, animation, and story are things I really liked, but it’s also weighed down by a lot of bullshit. Do I want this game to continue with a sequel? Absolutely. I feel like a lot of the mistakes that were made could be easily corrected, and a second game could really shine.
Adam’s Final Score: Deadlight is a decent game. It starts off strong but it also falls apart pretty quickly.
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of Deadlight.