Review: Deadlight (XBLA)
Prince of Persia (2D) + Zombies = Deadlight. What more could you possibly want? Deadlight is one of those games that makes me very happy that I own an Xbox 360. Some of the best games on the platform reside on the Xbox Live Arcade and Deadlight easily rests among those. If you want the long and short of it, without reading my in-depth impressions, go buy this game right now; you will not be disappointed.
Still need some convincing? Not a problem, as I’ve plenty good to say about this zombie infused platform puzzler. However, let’s just get the nasty stuff out of the way first. The voice acting is pretty mediocre with the quality dipping down into very poor at times. Story wise, there are a few surprises, but overall the plot kind of meanders and though it has glimpses of greatness, isn’t anything to write home about. What I do like about the story though is that you can participate in as much or as little as you’d like. If you want to just watch the cut scenes (of course you can skip those as well) then more power to you. However, if you’re like me and you want to scour the levels for diary pages of the main character and scraps of a past before the zombie apocalypse, then you’ll actually vastly increase your narrative understanding and improve the story of the game as a whole. Giving the player that choice in how to participate in the narrative and how much to see is always a welcome inclusion in my opinion and is definitely appreciated here.
You will be filling the shoes of Randall Wayne who is searching for his family in the fallout of a war with the undead. The zombies, or Shadows as they are called here, have overrun the Earth and the attempts of the military to wipe them out by carpet bombing has left the world in shambles. You’ll navigate those shambles with a combination of platforming and light puzzles that make clever use of the surroundings and almost never feel forced. Like any zombie game worth its salt, the ammo can be limited and many times your wits will be the only weapon you have available. Whether it’s popping a zombie in the head with one of your few bullets or luring them to their death by crushing it’s almost always satisfying.
Graphically the world is represented in bleak colors and shadows. Randall shows as an outline with a few details, shadowed against the background of apocalyptic torn cities and the zombies are shambling outlines themselves with red eyes. I’m usually one for vibrant colors, but the overall aesthetic works very well for the desolate and hopeless feel of the game, and gives it a distinct look. You can instantly tell Deadlight apart from other games just by looking at screenshots and the presentation overall is pretty high. The cut-scenes you’ll see are shown to you in a graphic novel style which adds a nice touch of detail and gives you a better look at Randall up close while keeping the distinct art style.
Deadlight is a decent challenge, though I don’t suppose it will give hardcore players and platformer fans much problem. The game itself lasts somewhere around 4 hours on a rushed play through. The play time may be longer or shorter, there isn’t a play clock that I’ve found, but adding it up to my completion of the game it sounds about right. Of course if you plan on seeing everything the game has to offer, scouring the levels for things you’ve missed will keep you busy for a little while longer. Still time length only reaches around 5 and a half hours when maxing everything out. It’s a little disappointed considering some ofther games on XBLA that triple that playtime.
When playing to unlock 100%, I’m a big fan of being able to replay scenes and levels of a game instead of replaying the whole game. Make no mistake, Deadlight is worth multiple playthroughs, but I really appreciate that it lets you see what you’ve missed and go straight to the level that you missed it in so you can scour every inch of the world. In my opinion some of the nicest touches are the mini games you can unlock and play that are represented by finding these little dot pixel handheld machines the likes of which Tiger used to make. The game is set in the past and it just adds something to the game to see these sorts of things represented while also making references to current video games with tongue in cheek humor.
With repayable levels, finely balanced platforming/puzzle gameplay, a high level of graphical presentation, and a host of unlockables; it isn’t hard to see what is so appealing about Deadlight. Sure it makes a few missteps with voice acting, but being that it’s in a XBLA title that isn’t really that big of a dig on the game. I’ve started to grow a little weary of the host of zombie games out there, so it’s a big kudos to the developer that they were able to approach gameplay in a manner that we haven’t seen before with zombies. Overall Deadlight is not only a solid purchase, but one of my favorite games on the XBLA platform altogether.
Writers Edit: Please note, upon completion of the game I’ve lowered the score, mostly due to the shortness of the game. While I still believe the game is of high quality, besides voice acting, I also feel that it’s a little on the short side for 15 dollars.
For more information on how we review games check out our criteria here. A copy of this title was provided to The Paranoid Gamer by the publisher for review purposes. If you have any questions about this game the reviewer will be able to answer them in the comment section.