Xbox Live's Summer of Arcade has been known to put out an occasional release that appeals to old-school gamers. It already did that by kicking things off with Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD, but with the recent release of Deadlight, old-school players have a game that'll satisfy their possible craving for zombies.
What Is It About?
Taking place in a post-apocolyptic setting, Deadlight is a highly stylized look at a 1980's zombie crawl in Seattle. Players are put in the shoes of Randall Wayne, a survivor of the terrors that the zombies (called shadows) have cast upon Seattle. After an unfortunate incident that forced Randall to kill an infected friend, his family escapes to the "Safe Point," an area presumably safe from the shadows, and it's up to him to catch up after getting stranded. Randall also ends various twists and turns along the way that would make the average person seem helpless.
Deadlight is a 2.5-D sidescrolling platformer that seems to take a page out of Limbo's book. It's a survival horror game that isn't that scary, an sidescroller that doesn't have a lot of action, and a puzzler that isn't all that confusing. While the game doesn't stray too far in one area, the pacing and story do just enough to at least provide a reason to keep playing.
Why Should I Care?
Upon first turning the game on, it's quite easy to tell that the game relies a lot on its stylish visuals to tell the story. From its gloomy title screen on a rainy afternoon to its hand-drawn action-packed cutscenes resembling The Walking Dead novels, Seattle after the zombie break doesn't look like a place to vacation in.
The game itself starts out very easy to play due to its simple control scheme. While much of the progress in the game is linear, the game makes up for it with clever level design and gameplay mechanics you wouldn't see in your average platformer. For example, early on in the game, Randall will come across an axe that he can use as a weapon to fend off shadows. However, since he possesses such low stamina, he'll begin to excessively tire after two blows with his axe, making him more vulnerable. On top of that, the AI makes it so that the shadows all gang up on you, so it's nothing like arcade beat-em-ups where enemies fight you one by one.
Another weapon Randall will come across is a gun, and as you'd expect in a survival horror game, there really isn't much ammo to begin with.
That being said, oftentimes the best, and sometimes the only, strategy when facing a horde of shadows is to flee. One of the more useful moves in Randall's arsenal is to whistle and yell to gain the zombies' attention, so that they follow him. So while the shadows travel one way, Randall can travel to the other and escape their clutches.
There are also a handful of puzzles in the game, but none of them are too difficult. Most of them require you to find a switch to turn off live electricity, or simply run and knock a barrel of water into a fire.
While this is all easy, eventually things take an abrupt turn, and that's where things become a little crazy.
Near the end of the main game, you'll come across times where you'll have to flee from more than just zombies, and it'll feel like the game has gone from Metroid to Sonic in the sense that instead of being exploration-based, the platforming rears its ugly head due to the random accurate jumps you'll have to make on the run, all while understanding how far you can have Randall fall without suffering damage. Sure, it gives the end of the game quite an adrenaline rush, but it also will make people wonder what aspects of the journey are even required to be in the game in the first place.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
Despite its rather random shortcomings, Deadlight offers just enough for players to have quite a pleasurable experience. It's good to see a story in such a game work so well, especially considering the fact that not only is it a sidescroller, it's a survival horror game too–two genres where stories are often irrelevant. Furthermore, the graphics, sound, and other production values are top-notch. Having the zombies go from being in the background to being an interactive killer can be a frightening experience, and it should keep players on their toes.
The game will roughly take 5 hours to beat, more or less, depending on how much the average player struggles. A handful of the deaths will come from being unable to take on a horde of zombies, and most of the trouble players will have will be towards the end of the game where the action begins to pick up. Either way, Deadlight is probably the best Summer of Arcade experience so far this year and therefore is a solid $15 purchase.