So yeah, here we go with another zombie game. I sometimes get the feeling that games studios just have huge meeting where they try to create something wonderful and completely imaginative on the Monday, but by late Friday afternoon they just don’t care anymore. They’ve run out of jokes by Tuesday, coffee by Wednesday, someone’s thrown a chair at someone by Thursday, and by Friday everyone in the room have their heads slumped on the desks in despair at their un-creativity, much like me with this analogy.
Then one guy goes raises his head, almost numb from the complete lack of originality coming from the continuous bland meetings which result in nothing but weariness and a sense of un-fulfilment in their jobs and says the first thing that comes to his mind. “Zombies?” Everyone else gives that look of “We shouldn’t do this. It’s been done. Repeatedly. But we’ve got nothing and that board meeting’s next Monday where we’ve got to present some games ideas.” They collectively sigh at their inability to think creatively and morosely respond “Zombies”.
And that’s how zombie games are made.
What disappoints me is that usually this is done by companies who have worked through the barrel of original ideas before going, “Zombies”. Tequila Works on the other hand decided that would be their first game. Really, that’s how you are going to start? Do the most generic game style ever? Ok, let’s see how that works out. But then Tequila Works went; “Wait, it’s set in 1980’s America and it’s a sidescroller game like from the 80s and 90s.” That gets your attention. It’s not going for the present or future cop-out at least which is at least in some regard a new take on zombie games, and sidescrolling would give the game a different feel to Call of Duty zombie games. And then Tequila Works goes “Also it’s a survival horror which has cinematic platforming.” I know I should be annoyed with myself for buying yet another zombie game which has been done to… death; oh God I just cringed at that terrible pun, but at least it’s being done in a, slightly, different way.
But now here comes the reality of actual gameplay and the storyline. So you are Randall Wayne, a Canadian park ranger who is searching for his family in the wake of a zombie apocalypse. He, fellow park ranger Ben, and a few other survivors who won’t really be expanded upon, set out to Seattle after hearing radio messages of a “Safe Point”. Convinced his wife Shannon and daughter Lydia are there, Wayne and his group of companions set off for Seattle, however upon arrival not everything is at is appears. Oh and there’s zombies. Lots and lots of zombies.
I’ll give Deadlight this, the artwork is glorious. The sidescrolling mode of play really allows the game designers to create real depth to the game which is awesome to look at, and the graphic novel cut scenes are just perfect for the tone the game is creating. You can look back to the mass of zombies tearing up a corpse or just appreciate the detail gone into the background aesthetic. Visually, this game ticks all the boxes. While the graphic novel style has already been done by The Walking Dead graphic novels and the point-and-click-adventure game by Telltale Games, it has its own feel which allows it to finds its own niche artistically without giving the feeling of copying everyone else.
I also like the little details that were put into the game that you can interact with, such as finding pieces of your own diary which, although seems weird why you would have lost pieces of your own diary in a city that you’ve never been in before, is still good to give you a little extra depth to the game and to your own character’s back story. Also you can find the I.D’s of people who have presumably died in the outbreak and what is cool if you look it up, all the I.D’s of the people are serial killers and their photos are just photos of members of Tequila Works staff. I like those little subtleties and how it kind of winks at the main storyline itself, but I won’t go too deep into it so as not to spoil the game.
Another thing which this game gets right is casting Stephen Hughes as Randall Wayne. His gruff voice fits in with desolation surrounding him, allowing the gamer to feel that he is in good hands of a knowledgeable and, when the time comes, a violent person. Also the limited variety of weapons gives pause for a bit of reality in the game. Your weapons, which you gain at different points in the game, are an fire axe, a revolver, and a shotgun. That’s it. And although at certain stages you can get ammo, it is not prevalent enough to let you think that you’re going to find another cache of ammo anytime soon, so that gives the game some realism. Oh, and if you think you’ll just use your fire axe all the time, think again. It uses up your stamina quickly if overused, meaning the zombies will soon be munching on your brains if you get too close around too many.
But then comes the reality of gameplay and, I’m sorry to say, that it misses its intended target of horror and glances generic shooter instead. There is no point in this game I got scared at. Not one. Maybe’s it’s because I’ve been conditioned to the sight of zombies so I won’t be surprised at their inevitable uprising, or maybe it’s because they just weren’t scary. In the sidescroller format the zombies don’t really give you a fear factor, rather an annoyance factor. The zombies in a lot of numbers can be a real nuisance, and in fairness you do see a lot of zombies, but a lot of the time you run past them and when you do fight them, they are not so much scary, rather they become a bit of a chore. Most of the time you just hack or shoot your way through a small number of numbers in each room and then move on to the next batch, with a bigger bath thrown in for good measure every now and again. It’s a little repetitive.
But then Tequila Works at least tries to shift things around with some more platform based stuff, some of which done under pressure (i.e.: imminent death). This can be done to allow the game to slow the pace and give the gamer something else to do besides hacking zombies, which is good to give some variance in gameplay. However, at points in the game, the margin for getting it right is so fine that you can easily miss it. This just makes what could have been an interesting part of the game in to a repetitive frustration as you’ve died so many times and you’ve heard the same dialogue so much it has become branded into your very being. Either that or I’m just terrible at gaming.
Also, the game is briefer than it needed to be. If some more levels were invested in the game, Deadlight could have been a far more interesting than it actually is. It could have allowed for deeper character building and they could have developed the storyline so it would have been more complex and interesting to follow, but it appears that they blew their budget on the look of the game rather than the actual content and it suffers for it. I understand it’s only an indie game with a limited budget, and was only released on Xbox Live Arcade and PC through Steam, but it still leaves you feeling; “Oh, well that’s a little disappointing.”
All in all, Deadlight is an artistically great game with several titbits that’ll give some entertainment in of it, but beyond that it won’t be remembered as a great game as a whole. In reality, it’s really hard to remember this game after completion. I do hope Tequila Works learns from Deadlight and, with their second game, Rime, coming out on the upcoming PS4, because they do have some good points which they can learn from and, with a little originality, they can produce good storylines along with great graphics.
– http://www.destructoid.com/review-deadlight-232053.phtml – Recommended Article.
– http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OqR5Y42aONo – IGN’s Review