An atmospheric dose of summer zombie fun.
XBLA’s “Summer of Arcade” is synonymous with solid mid-year gaming titles. Summers past gave us gems like ‘Shadow Complex’ and ‘Limbo’, both 2D platformers taking drastically different (and successful) approaches to the genre. This year’s ‘Deadlight’ attempts to combine the action of Shadow Complex with the moody atmosphere of Limbo, while maintaining a unique voice.
Lofty goals I know, but does it succeed? For the most part.
‘Deadlights’ is a 2D action platformer set in 1980′s Seattle. Some catastrophic global event has turned most people into (wait for it) soulless zombies. Players assume the role of Randall Wayne, a rugged outdoorsman who keeps a surprisingly revealing journal. Like most post apocalyptic tales, all Randall wants to do is find his wife and daughter amidst the chaos.
Overused premise aside, Deadlight has a lot going for it. First off, this game has style for days. Players view Randall entirely in silhouette on his left to right journey. Enemies can come from anywhere including the background, and the environments do a fantastic job of setting the ruined world tone. Exploring/running for your life in a beautifully destroyed Seattle or a collapsing hospital really add to the intensity of Randall’s situation.
Another high mark for Deadlight is the fantastic platforming controls. Things are kept pretty simple (run, jump, melee, shoot, shout, etc.) but require spot on execution for some sequences. It’s definitely a game where faults lie with the player and not the controls themselves. I died a lot trying to jump from rooftop to rooftop (while being pursued by Shadows and military helicopters) but the reloads and checkpoints are aplenty, keeping you in the action.
The tightness of the controls are one thing, but ‘how’ they are used also excels. In several sequences progress may be impeded by a cluster of enemies and the only way to get by is to cry out and get their attention. Zombies will flock to your shouts (often falling off cliffs) and armored guards will get close enough to a door for you to crash through it and take them out. Such solid platforming puzzles are present from start to finish.
Deadlight’s narrative is told through graphic novel style cutscenes, in-game conversations, and flashbacks. A lot of it (like most things involving zombies) has been done before but are still entertaining. Conflicts with the Shadows, other survivors, and a martial law military move the story forward to a satisfying conclusion. In fact, the only real eye roll moment I had (other than a few flat lines of dialogue) involved a mid-game scenario where you have to platform your way through an underground city a hobo built during the chaos. Yeah…
Hobo-topias aside, Deadlight’s only real shortcoming lies as mentioned earlier with the player. Again, I died a lot because I jumped a second too early or late. And as thrilling as a sprint for your life from zombies scenario can be, until you know how to navigate a certain jump or quickly clear a puzzle, you can easily be pulled out of the moment by game-over screens.
In summary, ‘Deadlight’ has a lot of what you want from a Summer of Arcade title. It’s short and sweet (my first time through took about two hours), an intense and fun play, and pure zompocalypse escapism. Is it as action packed as Shadow Complex? No. Is it as eerily haunting as Limbo? Not quite. Was it worth $15? Absolutely. I’ve paid more on countless occasions to watch craptastic movies and this is a game that (although short) can easily be shown off to and enjoyed by friends.
Score: A solid summer fun 8.0
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