It’s great when a developer releases video diaries of what they’re working on; it gives gamers a chance to get a look at what makes the developers tick and what inspires them to do what they do. Tequila Works have joined the ranks of those who have opened themselves up to the public in this way, and have managed to inspire a Top 10 list in doing so. What the public got to see was a modern take on an old genre mixed with the current trend: zombies.

Deadlight starts with the main character, Randall Wayne, moments after he's forced to kill one of the survivors in his group. We learn that he’s been separated from his wife and daughter, and that the dead have risen to attack the living. When the “shadows” -- the term given to the zombie like entities in Deadlight -- ambush the group, all but Randall manage to escape. Randall tells them to get to the “Safe Point” that keeps being announced over numerous radio waves and that he’ll meet them there, and thus begins Deadlight and Randall’s venture into the dilapidated remains of Seattle.

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Not much can be said about the story without giving away too much of the 140 minute experience, so it’s best to simply sum it up with one word: grim. The world around Randall has truly gone to waste and, instead of being the gun-toting zombie killer found in the majority of zombie inspired titles, Randall is just a man who wants to get to his family. This is no action shooter, and though you may stumble upon a gun or two, the game does its best to stick to the puzzle platformer gameplay found in old school titles like Flashback.

In fact, Deadlight is so much like Flashback and its predecessor Another World that, had the graphics been a damn sight worse, it could almost be at home in the early 90s. This is no coincidence though, as Tequila Works have openly admitted that games like the above and the original Prince of Persia serve as inspiration for Deadlight and what is now a lost genre. Disappointingly, it seems that Tequila Works may have tried to mimic the old style a little too much instead of merely paying homage to them as some long lost frustrations also see their return.

Grim is definitely the right word.

Maybe gamers just have it too easy these days, but trial and error mechanics as part of the gameplay is something that hasn’t been around for a while. These days, when you enter a new area, you are usually fed some sort of visual or aural clue as to what you should be doing next. In Deadlight, if you don’t know what you’re meant to be doing as you enter a new area, there’s a good chance Randall is about to meet his demise and that you’ll be placed back at the start of the current “phase”.

While it’s immensely satisfying to scramble through a crumbling building, rush past some feeding zombies, and jump a gap to your safety on your first attempt, the split second decision making you’re asked to make will usually end with frustration. It’s not uncommon to have to take multiple attempts at something that should be easy, and sometimes it’s purely because you weren’t pixel perfect with your timing.

The majority of the game is your typical puzzle platformer affair: peruse environment, work out strategy, implement strategy, repeat. Sadly, nothing ever taxes the brain cells to the point where you’re tempted to give up. Some may find this a strength of the game, but as it's a puzzle platformer, I believe a gamer should feel more puzzled. Solutions should be hinted at, instead of giving the answer away directly. Giant red Xs spray painted on things or flashing icons highlighting where you need to go next take away some of the fun challenge that could have been present.

A leap of faith

The game mechanics don’t differ hugely throughout Deadlight and, despite it hinting heavily at upcoming stealth sections, they never arrive, leaving you starved for what could have been some amazingly tense moments.

All is not lost though; when the game is good, it’s great. The atmosphere and setting are fantastic and really capture the same grim feeling that The Walking Dead would if it was set in the 80s. The environment looks amazing and is clearly something Tequila Works wanted to show off, considering the entire game is viewed from a distant camera.

As nice as the environments are, it’s only a matter of time before you feel the disconnect with Randall and start wishing for the option to move the camera closer. Cutscenes, while progressing the story along nicely, also tend to distance you from the immersion. Going from a great looking game to animatic style cutscenes is a stylistic choice that was probably made due to time / technical constraints. Having these moments in real-time would have been beneficial in every way.

The air lurks gloom

Despite coming away from Deadlight content with the experience and happy that someone has tried to recapture a dead genre, it’s just not something that’s easily recommended at the 1200 points ($24) price-tag. Once you’ve beaten the two and a quarter hour experience you’ll find little to go back for. Again, that’s not to say that the game is bad, as it is far from that, but it’s just not justifiable at that price for anyone other than those hungry for some Flashback-inspired nostalgia. Grab the trial and see if it’s for you, but otherwise wait for a price-drop.

"Zombies and side-scrolling platformer action, oh my!"
- Deadlight
Follow Own it? Rating: R16   Difficulty: Easy   Learning Curve: 5 Min


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