Back in January a game was announced that promised to be a new style of survival horror that would lean more towards a cinematic-puzzle-platformer than what you'd usually associate with the genre. Just over seven months later Deadlight is about to hit Xbox Live Arcade during the delectable Summer of Arcade promotion, flaunting some of the best games that Microsoft have coming out for their digital marketplace. Deadlight is the first game to be developed by recently established independent studio Tequila Works, however don't let it put you off that they haven't released a title before, Deadlight is one of the most enjoyable games I've played on Xbox Live Arcade.
The story in Deadlight at times feels compelling and also less so with a character who rarely communicates with others and only occasionally talks to himself, but that of course gives a certain mystery about him; the strong silent type. This does mean he feels a little detached at times but only because you're not given a huge amount of backstory into the character or the people he reunites with. You will at times have to put up with fairly cheesy sections of dialogue as well but that didn't put me off much at all. The story features three acts and although things get slightly harder near the end of the second act I urge you to make sure to keep at it so that Randall's story comes to a close. Even if some difficult sections of the game encourage the throwing of controllers.
Deadlight gives the same vibe as you get while playing Limbo, however unlike Limbo you can actually feel quite safe at times, so sometimes moments of running for your life can come out of the blue and usually end in your eventual death. However with a very mixed pace to the game it's never very easy to tell when the game wants you to run unless there are lots of shadows about, which then means you need to run as fast as you can until you get to higher ground.
The controls are very easy to get used to, as long as you remember sprint is on the right bumper and A is jump then you're almost ready to do your best running away to save your hide. The rest of the controls are fairly standard, melee attacks and pushing enemies are on B, which can give you a few extra seconds which could save your life. While picking up items and interacting is on X. As you may expect from a survival horror experience, ammunition is scarce so although you'll be happy the second you see a firearm you may not want to go about shooting willy-nilly as you may need to use them to get you out of a sticky situation.
Artistically Deadlight ticks all the boxes, the animations are key to making Randall fit within the traversal heavy style of platformer that Deadlight is and they really help sell the look. However while you're creeping or sprinting through each location the level of detail put into the background is astounding, be it stationary and giving a great feeling of depth or ever so slightly animating there isn't one location that didn't feel alive or real. To create this illustion of depth for a 2D platformer The game is separated into three distinct layers the foreground, background and play space. One of the best moments near the start of the game was walking along the first location, I was feeling very safe with no more shadows in the play space, only to see some make their way out of the background and start heading my way. If a shadow isn't trapped in the background they will make shamble towards you if you make a noise or attract the attention of others.
Being set in the 80s I would have expected a little more influential design and atmosphere to the environment however sadly the setting feels like a bit of a standardpost-apocalyptic setting, which to be fair can be hard to make feel "80s". The 80s influence has definitely been near the achievement names and very fun playable-collectables that can be found in each act and they're a great addition to the game, as long as you can find them as they're very well hidden.
The only aspect that I felt let me down ever so slightly is the complexity of the puzzles throughout the game felt a little easy. Of course this will mean that it's easier for people to complete it and also with Shadows chasing after you it's a bit hard to put the pieces together for a difficult puzzle. It just feels like there could have been one or two to get me scratching my brain. With that said the locations of some of the collectables are extremely well hidden and help present a challenge for anyone wanting to 100% Deadlight.
Deadlight plays very similarly to games you may have experienced on older consoles like Flashback and Another World, two amazing games of their time and you can see what Tequila Works were wanting to achieve. While comparing Deadlight to the games of our childhood I also had an almost immediate comparison with Uncharted 2 while traversing over billboards and climbing up a dangling train cart or two. Along with Dead Rising by being able to safely stand on top of a van while the zombies, or shadows try their best to reach you but just haven't got the brains to climb up.
Deadlight is one of the most enjoyable XBLA experiences that I've yet to encounter, it's on par with the best out there; Limbo, Braid, Shadow Complex and Dead Rising Case Zero to name a few and with a great story and visual art style it's one of my favourite games of the year to date.
Deadlight is available on Wednesday 1st of August on Xbox Live Arcade for a very reasonable 1200 Microsoft points, I highly recommend you give it a go because it's definitely not a bland zombie game.
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