In some inland post feel the savagery, the utter savagery, had closed round him--all that mysterious life of the wilderness that stirs in the forest, in the jungles, in the hearts of wild men. There's no initiation either into such mysteries. He has to live in the midst of the incomprehensible, which is detestable. And it has a fascination, too, which goes to work upon him. The fascination of the abomination--you know. Imagine the growing regrets, the longing to escape, the powerless disgust, the surrender, the hate. ~Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness
Randall Wayne is a broken man: his family is gone, his life is in shambles, he might be losing his mind, and he’s on an odyssey through the zombie apocalypse to (hopefully) fix it all. While gamers may scoff at the notion of “another zombie game”, Deadlight
, the first release from Tequila Works, aims for so much more and largely succeeds.
Against the backdrop of the waning years of the Cold War, Randall’s life has fallen apart. A native Canadian, he has been forced to flee his country by the emergence of “shadows” (zombies) which have overrun his peaceful, secluded town of Hope. On the run towards Seattle and a “Safe Zone” with a few other survivors, Randall is desperately searching for his wife and daughter who left ahead of him. A man torn apart by a world of change and chaos, Randall is quickly separated from the rest of his companions and begins his journey towards reunion, safety, and a respite from the horrors of a world gone mad.
In many ways, Deadlight
shares quite a bit of DNA with Alan Wake
, the internal monologue, the quest for family members, the mental incongruities, the darkened enemies, the Pacific Northwest setting, even (amazingly) the collecting of journal pages. While Randall’s prose may never be mistaken for Alan’s, Randall is much more a man of action, a man of impulse. Rather than wondering “why?”, Randall is just concerned with getting his family and friends back, getting them to safety, and keeping them safe.
Even though tales of the zombie apocalypse are wide-ranging, one thing is for certain, they are never sunny. Deadlight
takes this notion to the extreme, displaying every character in silhouette and muting all of the world’s vibrance. In lieu of cut scenes, Tequila Works opted for still, graphic novel style frames that are just as dark as the rest of the game. The jarring juxtaposition side-scrolling action with still-framed cut scenes makes for an arresting, unique visual experience.
Billing itself as a puzzle platformer, gamers will have few problems with either in terms of difficulty. The platforming mechanics are rather simple and classic platformer fans will have little trouble picking up the controls. The only exception is the gun play which forces you to aim with the right stick and fire with the right trigger. It may sound simple, but in the heat of a platforming moment, it can be rough. Much like his spiritual comrade, Alan Wake, Randall is no prize athlete and his stamina will drain quickly when swinging his melee axe, hanging from ledges, or running, so combat is best circumvented rather than engaged in most scenarios.
The puzzles are puzzles in name only with the toughest ones only requiring two or three attempts. When failure does happen, however, Deadlight
becomes one of the most forgiving games in recent memory, as checkpoints are frequent and load times are short.
On the achievement front, Deadlight
is very kind. As one of the new(er) 400 GS games, Deadlight
is generous with a steady stream of achievements. While some gamers may lament the presence of collectables, Tequila Works alleviates much of the stress with a chapter select feature that lets gamers know how many collectables they need to recover in each scene. Even playing without the assistance of an achievement guide, I was easily able to obtain all but one of the collectables. A tip of the hat is also extended for naming all of the achievements after songs from the 1970’s through early 90’s.
Technically speaking, Deadlight
is very smooth and I experienced only one, stuttering hiccup, which I wasn’t able to repeat in subsequent playthroughs. At almost two gigabytes, the game is a whopper of a download, though.
If there is a drawback to Deadlight
, it’s the voice acting. Randall’s performance desperately tries to straddle the line between narration and conversation, and manages to miss at both. Somehow worse is the (mercifully short) performance of a character you’re charged with rescuing in the second Act. You’ll know this performance when you hear it, but it is one of the worst that I’ve ever encountered… up to and including children’s community theatre.
Fortunately, tin-eared performances and wayward parts of the second act can’t hold back the excellence of Deadlight
’s story and gameplay. Tequila Works has crafted a tight, masterful story of loss and suspense that will keep gamers engaged through the entirety of the experience. The 1200 MSP price point is well worth the price of admission.