7 Overall Score

Nice Graphic Style | Features to Make the Die-Hard anti-platformer stick with it.


Written by on August 11, 2012 in [, , , , , , ]

Tequila Works has developed a new post-apocalyptic zombie side-scrolling 2d/3d survival horror cinematic platformer.  The game reminds me of Playdead’s Limbo for graphic style and Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead for story content.  The art style is straight from an indie graphic novel with splotchy sepia and red ink instead of typical mass market cell shading style.  The look accentuates the dread and gloom of a world overrun by zombie creatures known as “shadows”.  In an ironic twist the whole population, living and undead,  is rendered in shadow.  With this setting the story begins.

It is 1986 in Seattle as this tale begins.  It is a tale told in three Acts.  Each act is intriguing but each act also seems a bit unfinished.  There is no tidy wrap up.  Each Act seems to end abruptly with no revelations.  The first act focuses on introducing Randall Wayne.  He is one of the few survivors in the new virus-infected world.  His horribly twisted flashbacks bleed blood red and fuel his insanity.   His mission now is simple.  He needs to find his family and friends at the mysterious port in the storm known as the “safe point’.  Randall is no hero.  He is sporting that creepy psychotic lumberjack-hitchhiker look made popular in 1980’s slasher films.  It left me wondering whether I want him to find his family.  Is he the good guy or are his acid flashbacks really guilt for the pile of bodies he has left behind?  The characters’ dialog and voices also reflect the amateurish style of the 1980’s slasher flick.   The most prevalent example in the game is heard from the main character.  Most will likely groan at the lack of depth of the dialog.  Randall is prone to thinking out loud, repeating himself incessantly, and speaking of himself in the third person. All of this further signifies his backward slide from sanity.

The second act focuses on the extremes man has gone to in order to cope with the new world order.  One is embodied in the man named “Rat”.  When overrun by the undead Rat saves Randall only to put him into a truly lethal maze to prove Randall’s worth.  Rat is in a self-imposed isolation to keep him and his son “safe” by living in a deathtrap.  This Act also introduces “The New Law”.  This insane militia has taken “zero tolerance” to the extreme.

The last act focuses on “The New Law”.  This group has decided that anyone outside their group, living and undead, should be annihilated.  No questions asked.  They employ extreme measures to ensure that their way is the only way.  They live out loud spewing propaganda over loudspeakers and airwaves.  Their traps are more subtle but no less lethal than the Rat’s.

This game is a platformer in the truest sense of the word.  It is the type of platformer that is the bane of my existence.  This type of game is true evil.  The only salvation is to survive the game.  This game includes the requisite long stretches of run-run-jumpitty-jumping.  All of these calisthenics can be done to near perfection and yet I will repeatedly die when character can’t seem to jump off a fence or randomly run/climb in the opposite direction.  These are the types of glitches that haunt me.  Other glitches include, but are not limited to, Randall’s refusal to drop from a gate or wall while enemies kill him, headshots that do not kill enemies, and controller schizophrenia. The schizophrenia I mention occurs when I hit one button but the game decides I meant to hit the one that has Randall flying in the opposite direction or dropping to his death.  All of this would not bother me as much if it did not have the uncanny ability to occur near the end of each seemingly endless run.  This makes the glitches far less tolerable to say the least.  There are also no difficulty levels or modes.  This means there is no allowance for a flexible experience to fit a player’s skill level.  You will play on their terms, no exceptions or substitutions.

No matter what skill level the player may have I can almost guarantee there will be dying.  Your character will die often and there is little to avoid it.  The game is set up like the old school platformers that lived to torture players.  There are many long stretches of non-stop running and carnage punctuated by moments of near impossible odds. Any death transports the player back to the very beginning of that scene.  After each death my stomach would sink and a quick prayer was said in hopes that I had just passed one of the extremely few and far between checkpoints.  Most often my prayers went unanswered.

This type of platformer encourages a technique honed in my youth.  A youth filled with games that taught you how to play by trial and death; many deaths.  Here is an excerpt from my inner dialog.  “I will now run into this new scene blindly and get mowed down by sliding saw blades.  OK, I see… I need to avoid these blades of mutilation,” I say with feeling.  I then run in a bit more cautiously and attempt t throw the perfect combo of run-roll-jump-run to avoid said blades…. I die.  “OK, that’s fair, I should have died for that, let me try it this way”, I admit grudgingly. Ten minutes and countless deaths later I am numbed to the carnage focusing purely on rage and frustration to carry me through.  By an act of great kindness I somehow get through the scene and run forward to try this time-honored technique once again in the next scene.  I am embarrassed to say that many times my frustration with the controls and platforming elements distracted me from following the story.  This is made even a bit more difficult by advances in plot being recited by the low mumblings of Randall as he runs away from past dangers to hit smack into newer dangers.

I have seen many folks say that Deadlight has puzzle elements.  I think that “puzzle elements” are being confused with “process elements”.  While running through this world the player will hit areas where they will need to proceed through it in a particular order.  This is not cracking a code, it is cracking skulls.  Even the most brutal of activities require minimal amount of strategy.  This is not a complaint of the game.  This is more an annoyance on interpretation of the game.  I do like that the developers added some of these elements to the game.  It makes it more than just a no brainer action side-scroller.

A few wisely chosen features help save this game.  The items that promote replay are the collections.  As items are uncovered they will be catalogued under the heading of “Randall’s Memories”. Collectables include news articles, photos, clues, diary pages, and ID cards on bodies that bear the names of real-life serial killers.  This may break the barrier between entertainment and the perverse for me.  I am not sure if the developers are implying that Seattle was once a haven for psychopaths or just having a little fun.  If you are able to explore a bit more you might find one of three 1980’s-inspired LCD handheld gaming devices in the world (one found in each Act). These unlock mini-games.  Collecting items is a key ingredient to this game, an element that may get overlooked while fleeing from all the scary creatures and situations.  Saving graces include offering the player the chance to choose a particular scene to replay.  This means I did not have to replay the whole game to collect items I may have missed.  Another feature that aids in collection is the fact that once you collect a collectable, you won’t have to pick it up again if, for some reason, you die.  No matter how many times you may have to repeat the scene, the player does not have to repeat collecting the item again. The final mixed blessing is that the game is relatively short.  I took about three hours.  A more skilled twitch platformer may take less time to complete it.  This means the idea of repeating portions of the whole game or the entire game to find what was missed is not as daunting as other games may be.

This is the type of game that tests my love of gaming.  This genre is the precise type of game that can put me in a rage quicker than almost any other.  This is not a condemnation of this game just a disclosure of my preconceptions.  The gameplay seems to actively attempt to aggravate me to the point where controllers get thrown into television screens.  I know there are people out there who love these games for their own sense of perverse accomplishment.  I admit that there is a satisfaction gained through surviving a game that seems determined to kill you.  There are some glitches that may test even the faithful of this genre.  The fact that this game is short is a great advantage in this battle.  Through scene selection a player can walk away from built up frustration and come back fresh to once again fight for survival.  This single element saved the game from my undying hatred and allowed me to complete the game with only a minimal loss of sanity.  This is no small feat for a genre that usually seems destined to hate me.  In the end I must say my pride in completing the game may tempt me to come back again to complete the collections, after the built-up anxiety subsides, of course.

A copy of Deadlight was provided to The Married Gamers for the purposes of this review.


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Author: Melisa Snyder View all posts by

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