Zombies, zombies …. zombies everywhere, it seems zombies are in a plentiful supply in the gaming industry and why not? Zombies are like the new Nazis because:
a) you never get bored of killing them
b) you never feel bad for killing them!
The problem is zombie games are pretty predictable and revolve around gunning down as many of the undead horde, in an expendables-like fashion, until your inevitable demise or rescue. So when you think the zombie genre has finally shown you everything, a Spanish based company “Tequila Studios” released their arcade game “Deadlight” which incorporates the undead nightmare (sorry rockstar) into a side scroller game with a pinch of survival horror and platforming.
The game kicks off with Randall Wayne, who has survived the near-total decimation of society following the outbreak of a virus which brings the dead back to life (sound familiar?) and must search to find his missing wife and daughter (sound familiar?). His search brings him to 1986’s Seattle, which explains the severe lack of a grunge soundtrack, where he will encounter a sewer dwelling man, delusional dreams, a violent militant group and hordes of shadows.
Shadows? you mean zombies right?
Nope Deadlight went Walking Dead on us, making no reference to the brain munching zombie we’ve come to love instead focusing on the evil shadow darkness which wants to bring down mankind. The plot for the most part is pretty standard with this genre and was pretty sub-par. This was further hindered by the voice acting which didn’t really add much character resulting in the main character being un-connectable and 2D-ish in personality. I will mention though that the plot has an intriguing revelation at the end which adds a twist to the overall story that helped salvage some interest.
Deadlight employs the gameplay of a 80/90’s era side scroller with Randall running, climbing, crawling and sliding through buildings, sewers and abandoned streets. This adds a unique feel to gameplay and was a welcome breath of fresh air from the more traditional first and third person view.
The developers also weaved in puzzle platforming traits by having Randall work out puzzles using aspects of the environment like cars, movable boxes, and phone-lines to get to certain destination. The platforming was rarely challenging but when added to the side scrolling gameplay helped create a pleasant fast pace which complimented the overall feel of the game. There are a few sections where the platforming isn’t so simple, these sections resulted in brief frustrated ranting at the screen but the flow of the game was never disrupted too much by these odd occasions. The game unfortunately is very linear and doesn’t really allow for exploration apart from a few secret rooms where collectibles are hiding, the game kind of holds your hand for the most part but as mentioned before this aids in the games overall fast pace.
Combat takes an interesting turn as the game will usually advise the player against trying to fight the mass of “shadows” wanting to rip your throat out. You get the standard combo of a melee weapon (an axe) and guns ( a revolver and shotgun) later on, but ammo is very scarce and any attempt to make a stand will be rewarded with a undead dog pile on top of your flailing body. Some might find this irritating or frustrating but this combat mechanic really adds to the survival horror element of the game as you genuinely feel a sense of fear as you hurry to escape the enemies staggering from across the screen.
Deadlight visually is an impression game and the 2.5D effective really allows you to get engrossed into the game, specially when your running across the screen and the zombie stumbling in the background which you thought was part of 2D backdrop actually moves forward and chases you. This enforces the environmental significance of the title. There were several times I had to just stop playing and admire the setting taking the time to absorb the beautiful details of a crumbling Seattle. Now add in a eerie sobering soundtrack to the mix and Deadlight does a excellent job of creating a grim atmosphere where the hopelessness of the situation creates a real sense of pessimistic despair.
Deadlight can be a double edged sword in that the game suffers from poor voice acting which stops the game being a complete immersive joy along with a story you wished had a bit more meat to it. The game is also relatively short taking roughly four hours to complete which adds to the desire of wanting more. The game redeems itself by using visual effects and settings in its short playtime to really draw you in and creates an engrossing experience which falls just short of its potential. This is a game I would highly recommend if you want to break away from the usual run of games as well as having a near immersive experience (though short) without having to sacrifice the undead horde aspect then Deadlight is your game.