Deadlight is set during the mid 80’s in a world devastated by a mysterious event that has caused a zombie outbreak and wiped out most of America. The cause has not been identified, anyone and anything could be the blame, from a virus to the Russians did it, it is during the cold war after all. You play the character of Randall Wayne, a former firefighter who must find his missing family lost during the apocalypse.
The gameplay is influenced by classic platform games such as Flashback and Another World and more recently Shadow Complex. The action takes place in the foreground, while the background scenery and events helps to tell the story. Your journey takes you on a tour of Seattle, through the streets, sewers and buildings. Very little has been untouched by the events and if you take a moment to look at the background you can see the devastation; from abandoned buildings, zombies feasting on survivors, flashbacks and more.
The city is mostly void of human life, replaced by zombies which are called Shadows. They are the slow-moving kind which is fortunate as Wayne is a regular guy, initially armed with nothing but his wits. Deadlight is a game about survival at the most basic level, not killing every Shadow in sight. In the early stage of the game you find an axe which becomes your main weapon. Attacks are limited by a Stamina gauge which will replenish after a few seconds of inactivity. The axe is slow and cumbersome, requiring a couple of hits to drop a Shadow, after which you must perform a final plunge otherwise they will rise again. You can kill one or two Shadows before your stamina expires so the saying ‘flight before fight’ is a useful one to keep in mind.
A pistol and shotgun are found during the course of the game, but as expected ammunition is in very short supply. It is possible in most cases to not fire your weapon but instead avoid Shadows, guns are a last resort! Some puzzles need a gun so keep some ammo spare.
Your journey is a fairly linear one, usually via horizontally scrolling levels split over stages. Areas have puzzles which must be solved to progress, ranging from hitting a lever to raise a platform, hitting targets to remove an obstacle and pushing boxes to reach higher platforms. Puzzles also extend to helping reduce the Shadow population. Shadows blocking your path? Why not lead them into an electrified pool of water or topple a car on a higher platform to crush them? The overall difficulty ranges from easy to medium, usually solvable on your first attempt, though a few puzzles will cost you some lives to experiment and solve.
Wayne can jump between platforms, grapple on edges and leap reasonable distances to others nearby. He is not the most nimble character in a game though. For example climbing ladders can be painfully slow as he gets his footing, not ideal when a Shadow who can and will grab you back down for dinner if you are not fast enough! It helps build the feeling of vulnerability which can sometimes be lacking in survival games.
It is the puzzles combined with the controls where the game shows a few cracks. The controls and interactivity with scenery can be inaccurate, for example when closing a door behind you. It can require you to position your character in an almost pixel perfect alignment with the door to get the icon to close it, not easy with a few Shadows chasing you. There were a few occasions that resulted in cheap deaths due to poor controls which causes some frustration through no real fault of your own.
The story is told very well by Wayne as he progresses through the game via narration and his diary pages which are found scattered around the city. The story is troubled and often depressing, heightened by also finding ID Cards of residents which brings the devastation closer to home. The missed hidden items offer some replayability once the game is finshed. It is possible to complete the game in a little over one hour on a speed run, though your first attempt will take around three to four. There are also three bonus Game & Watch style handhelds to find and are playable which offer some distraction from the game.
Graphically the game style is a fitting style of design. As mentioned earlier, the background helps set the theme of an apocalypse, while the foreground is dark and moody. The artwork is great, everything looks like it has been hastily abandoned or affected by the events. The music is minimal with eerie themes, again giving the feeling of vulnerability. There is a nod to 80’s music via the achievement names, what a sound track that could have been!
Overall Deadlight is an enjoyable game but there were times when I felt the game was a little too linear and some wider exploration areas would have helped break things up. The controls did cause me a lot of frustration in places, resulting in me having to take a break to calm down. Putting these issues aside, Deadlight is an enjoyable atmospheric game with some good storytelling and excellent artwork. I definitely recommend you at least try the demo with the intention to buy the full game.
An enjoyable mix of puzzle solving and action sequences with a good story to keep the game interesting. The controls and interactivity with objects can be clunky which does let the game down in places.
A great style of light background and dark foreground help keep the focus on showing the devastation and events as you play. A lot of attention and detail has been put into the artwork and the game really benefits.
Music is kept to eerie themes which work well with the style of the game. Voice acting is overall performed well.