Deadlight Review (XBLA)

Posted by Jim Cook, Jul 30, 2012 21:39

Author’s Foreword, Regarding Hidden Content: Deadlight has a lot of secret items to find, including what seem to be three mini-games listed at the main menu. I played to the end, but missed some of these items and can’t fully cover them. In my defense, they’re optional and many others with a review copy also failed to find them at press time. Nonetheless, this is something readers should be aware of.

Deadlight is simultaneously typical and unusual. Its premise is well worn by now, depicting a man struggling to survive a zombie apocalypse in modern (or close enough, it’s the 1980s) society and save those he cares about. The gameplay is what makes it stand out; it was originally described to me as a puzzle platformer, but that’s not the best description. Instead it is closer to a ’cinematic platformer’, in the style of Blackthorne, Flashback, Out of this World, some of the Oddworld games, and the original Prince of Persia. This is a sub-genre that has seen only a few releases since its glory days of the 1990s, so Deadlight’s arrival is a welcome treat.

Deadlight (Xbox 360)Played from a 2D side-scrolling perspective, Deadlight has you control an ordinary man. He can fight, but he is not particularly trained at it and you must pick his battles; it is often smarter to just run from pursuing zombies. When you aren’t debating fight-or-flight, you’ll be solving basic puzzles. These tend to revolve around picking the right order to make a series of jumps in, luring a zombie into a trap so you can safely leave the building, or finding the item you need to proceed. Like other games of this type, your character’s movement has some realism to it. He has to distinctly turn around if you try to change directions while he’s sprinting, particularly long falls can hurt him (unless you roll at the right time), and hitting exposed electricity is usually lethal. Playing a normal person who isn’t completely helpless yet isn’t an action hero is quite interesting, and one of the game’s strongest points.

While this mix of platforming, simple puzzles, and deciding whether to fight or not is pretty basic, it’s joined by a story. Parts of it are optional, revealed to you by collecting hidden items that identify others who failed to survive or coming across lost pages from your diary. Others are mandatory, told through comic book style drawings and cutscenes. This lets you play Deadlight your way; there’s nothing wrong with blitzing to the end, but there is a decent story to unravel if you want it. This may be a good idea, as the game can otherwise be finished in just a few hours. That’s not counting time spent replaying some areas when you die, which will happen fairly often since some traps require a little trial and error to figure out. Thankfully, death usually only sets you back about a minute or so at most.

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Our Rating for Deadlight Review (XBLA)
6.0 Replay
While generally linear, there are several secrets to find. This includes a trio of mini-games, though the author (among many other pre-release players) was unable to find them at press time. This may delight those who enjoy trying 100% completion runs.
7.5 Graphics
A bleak, ruined world is convincingly portrayed through subdued colors and generally good animations. A few unintentionally hilarious ragdoll glitches can come up during certain deaths, but these are otherwise solid visuals.
7.0 Sound
Passable voice acting is joined by good, atmospheric sound effects and music. They’re a little hard to notice sometimes, but this is intentional to reinforce how devastated most of the area is after a zombie outbreak.
8.0 Gameplay
Struggling to survive as a fairly realistic, normal man is more fun than it might sound. Moving from jump to jump, choosing whether to fight zombies or run from them, and solving mostly intuitive puzzles adds up to a satisfying experience. Some repetitive mechanics and control quirks mar it, but don’t even come close to ruining the game.
0.0 Multiplayer/Online Content
N/A; this is a single-player game.
8.0 Overall
If you’re willing to accept that it will only last a few hours, Deadlight is a compelling addition to a genre that has been mostly dormant for years. It’s very different from most games in the XBLA catalog, and worth checking out for that reason.

Rating: 0.0, votes: 0

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