Zombies seem to be everywhere nowadays. Whether in movies, comic books, TV shows or video games, zombies truly are taking over the world. Each new offering tries to do something new with the genre, and Deadlight is no exception. It strays from the popular run-and-gun formula and focuses on just the run element while throwing in puzzles and platforming.
Like all zombie games, Deadlight’s focus is on survival while continuing the tried-and-true story of finding your family in a zombie apocalypse-ravaged world. In this 2D side-scroller, gunplay is replaced with easy to solve puzzles, platforming and avoiding the walking dead at all costs. Playing as Randall Wayne, you can run, jump, tackle, shoot and hack up the reanimated corpses while on your journey to find your loved ones.
The platforming elements in this game are done pretty well and everything moves at a frantic pace. And, since the zombies seem to move a lot faster than you, you have to try and stay one step ahead of them. This would be extremely difficult if the game didn’t assist. If a jump to a ledge to escape a swarm of the undead is required, a little arrow above the ledge appears to guide you.
It is like that with all your jumps so you don’t have to stop and look around the environment to find where you need to go. Leaping from object to object is common, and timing is everything. If a jump is mistimed by a slight margin, it usually means death. This can get kind of frustrating.
For example, I was sliding down a roof and had to jump to a scaffold. On my first attempt, I thought I timed it perfectly, as I was able to grab and hang from it. As I was pulling myself up, the scaffolding fell and I went with it. I tried this same jump four different times until I was able to get the perfect jump and actually land on the thing, which then allowed me to quickly jump to the next platform. I found while playing through Deadlight that most jumps required absolute perfect timing which led to a lot of do-overs.
The puzzles in Deadlight don’t often require much thought as, again, you typically don’t have much time to ponder. The puzzles usually consist of moving boxes or flipping switches to help get you where you need to go. At times, I did feel stupid trying to solve the challenges, but not because they were hard. Rather, I wasn’t timing my jumps perfectly, and because of that, I moved on to try another solution only to fail because it was incorrect. It took me about 15 -20 minutes to finally figure out that it was my jump timing, and not my puzzle solving, that was not perfect.
While platforming and thinking through the challenges help keep you alive, running and dodging zombies are also needed. This is the most frustrating element in the game, and it’s disappointing since the evasion is what separates Deadlight from other titles featuring the undead. The run-and-dodge works fine against one or two zombies, but stops functioning when there are 3 or more (which is most often the case). While Mr. Wayne is very agile, he seems to have trouble escaping the grasp of the living dead. Once grabbed, you need to press the B-button to shove the attacker off before you are made lunch for the zombie pack. This, of course, slows you down.
You can shove away two or three zombies and escape alive, but if there is even one more, you’re dead. This happens so much that when I encountered a group of 4 or more zombies and get grabbed by one of them, I don’t even try to escape because it just ain’t happening. Luckily, the checkpoints are pretty close to where you are when you die so all that progress made doesn’t have to be re-visited. However, once the game is quit, regardless of whether you hit a checkpoint, you’ll restart at the beginning of the level.
Deadlight does include melee and shooting elements that help you dispatch the dreaded zed-word. When you have a gun, you use the right analog stick to aim and pull the right trigger to shoot. If you have an axe, you can chop up some zombies, but be aware of your stamina bar. Swinging the axe depletes it extremely quickly, and this can be the death of you if you hack at zombies in a group. Well, swinging the axe can cause that anyways as you swing it slowly in the first place. While you can get lucky and take a head off with one swing, most of the time you have to get the zombie on the ground and finish him off by holding the B-button down to perform a powerful strike. Why killing a zombie with an axe is that hard is beyond me. Needless to say, I prefer having a gun so I can blast the zombies in the face and not worry about them getting back up. But bullets have to be used smartly as zombies are way more abundant.
The best things about Deadlight are the environment and the score. Since this game is a 2D side-scroller, all the action takes place in the foreground. There really isn’t a whole lot to typically see, but the background is amazing. Streets filled with zombies and dead bodies, abandoned cars and houses, military trying to get the situation under control and the typically dark sky are all extremely gorgeous. The zombie apocalypse never looked so good, and the dark and creepy score just adds to the whole devastated atmosphere.
Deadlight tries to do something new with the zombie genre by paying more attention to solving puzzles and using platforming elements to get away from zombies. While I applaud the effort, it just falls flat. Dodging the fast, pack-forming zombies is extremely frustrating, and if caught by one, you are as good as dead. Topped with jumping that requires absolute perfect timing, the result is multiple retries that add frustration and suck the fun out of the game.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.