In a world full of darkness and shadows, one man searches for his wife and daughter. No this is not the plot to next Hollywood blockbuster, this is Deadlight. The first game by Tequila Works and although it is not a complete success it is definitely one of the best titles coming out of this year’s Summer of Arcade.
If you are looking for a straight forward zombie fighting affair, this is not it. This is a tale of one man’s struggle in desolate world. Randall, your playable character, is not the most likeable protagonist; the first circumstances you meet him under hardly leave him in the best light. He is a grizzled man and the definitive loner, slightly delusional and will do anything to reunite with his wife and daughter. He looks at lot like Viggo Mortensen’s character in The Road, which is not the only influence they have taken from the film.
The world is bleak and yet has a certain dark beauty to it. Set in Seattle during the 1980s – before the world has been dominated by social media and cellphones – it’s modern enough that people can relate to it but without all the trappings of current technology. You feel Randall’s loneliness and desperation. Tequila Works have created a great atmospheric world.
Seattle feels dead, just like most of its inhabitants. It has has sprawling cityscapes, dank sewers and the classic zombie location of a hospital. The environments change frequently and are all outstanding. During the opening portion of the game you are walking across a desolate highway, it is littered with abandoned cars, debris strewn across it and the undead are feasting on the corpses of fallen men and women, but I could not help but stand there and drink in this world that they have created. Upon this adventure you will also find collectables such as an ID on the deceased, deranged scribblings on a bedroom wall and scattered pages of your diary, this all really gives it a lived-in feel.
The gameplay is that of a classic 2D platformer, the zombies being more of a puzzle mechanic than a threat. The puzzles range from simple move object to climb up a platform to whole rooms where you have traverse various pitfalls. The puzzles are not overly taxing with only a few involving a few seconds of thought, but when mixed in with escaping from hordes of undead it can lead to some fear inducing chase sequences. I did have some issues with the jumping mechanic not always going where I wanted it, which did lead to multiple replays of some frustrating sections.
My enjoyment of Deadlight was soured by the final act, which is too short and feels somewhat tacked on. I felt a bit cheated by it after a great set up with good story and believable character dialogue. The ending frustrated me, it felt forced and little too cliché, in the world of the undead it’s stepping away from the conventional that really make it stand out. Simple falling in line and not deviating from the cliché only hinder the experience. Without spoiling it, lets just say I wanted more. I felt like this game could have been the start of a series. As much as I enjoyed Deadlight I feel that it borrows too heavily from The Road and elements of The Walking Dead (The games cut-scenes resemble the panes of a comic). This is when I became less immersed in the experience and I was just spending my time going “oh it got that from this”.
This is a great first game by Tequila Works and they are certainly on my radar in the future.
Release Date: August 1st 2012 Price: 1200 Microsoft Points