The first project from new studio, Tequila Works, rolls onto Xbox Live Arcade as part of the Summer of Arcade promotion this week and we’ve been waiting to play this one since we first laid eyes on it back in January. We’ve experienced a number of different takes on the zombie apocalypse over the years but this one focuses on the plight of one man as he tries to survive in the aftermath of the near extinction of the human race. Now, let’s take a trip back in time, all the way back to 1985; the year the world ended.
The story of Deadlight is set in the mid 80′s, a few months after people started rising from the dead and biting each other. The story doesn’t really focus on the ins and outs of the zombie virus outbreak, or what caused it, because the story is focused directly on Randall Wayne, our main character. Randall is part of a group of survivors trying to get from the town of Hope, British Columbia to Seattle, Washington where there is supposed to be a safe zone of some sort. Randall is separated from his group and begins one of the loneliest journeys you’ll ever experience.
Deadlight is the type of platformer that turns the action into a series of puzzles without the player really noticing. The action all takes place on a 2-D plane, with 3-D backgrounds, where things seem simple at first. Randall can jump, cling to ledges, jump off of walls and roll. Often you’ll be called upon to perform a combination of these moves in quick succession but the motive is not always the same. Sometimes it simply comes down to timing jumps so you have the distance to clear a pit, other times it’s because a helicopter is shooting a mini-gun through the windows of the building you’re in. The only issue I encountered with the mechanics is that Randall has a tendency to not want to jump straight up when you want him to; he’d rather leap to the left or right which can be detrimental to his health.
At first, it may seem like there isn’t any combat in Deadlight, that you’ll simply have to dodge, trap or outwit the “Shadows” (what they call zombies) but Randall does eventually get his hands on an axe and a couple of guns. Combat, however, is meant to be a last resort and taking on any more than two Shadows at once can easily lead to your death. Ammo is scarce and using your axe bleeds stamina so you won’t be able to simply hack away forever. I found I got a lot more enjoyment out of avoiding direct confrontations that I did fireaxe-ing a Shadow anyway.
While all of this is going on you’ll become aware that Tequila Works were really aiming to tell you a focused story and the character of Randall Wayne really comes alive as he mutters about the past when coming across a clue, or some other remnant of the old reality. Randall’s thoughts about his family, and single minded agenda of survival that he pushes on others really make him feel like a human being where action stars often come across as robots.
Now for the bad news. Deadlight is woefully short. I completed the entire game in well under four hours, including deaths and retries, and the game itself clocked me in at just under two hours. As enjoyable an experience as this was, I really felt like I didn’t get my money’s worth with Deadlight. The only real reason to replay is to get any of the collectibles you missed on the first run through. Just as the game was really beginning to suck me in, I could tell it was nearing the final encounter and minutes later it was all over.
Deadlight is the kind of game that really makes you enjoy solving each area, and each encounter. I love when a game serves up puzzles in such a way that you don’t notice until you’ve solved them and Deadlight pairs this type of action perfectly with a great story. Unfortunately it was very, very short and ends rather abruptly. Equally unfortunate is the fact that still have to pay the full $15 to experience the good parts.
Read more from Scott at The Controller Online.