So I played all the way through Deadlight yesterday, developed by Tequila Works and originally released for xbox 360. It’s been ported over to PC and as is often the case, available on Steam now. Here is what I thought about it…

Deadlight is a side scrolling faux 3d platformer, set in a familiar by now, zombie apocalypse. The story begins with you splitting up from a bunch of other survivors, them heading for a safe haven and you determined to find your wife and daughter. Pretty standard affair really, the story’s end is poetic but also telegraphed before you get there, which is a little disappointing since the actual end is unusual for a video game character.

Visually the game works really well, characters are predominantly cast in silhouette, with the world being bleak and falling apart  due to the aforementioned apocalypse. Zombies scavenging in the background smoothly transition into the foreground when they detect you. It adds a nice layer of uncertainty for a 2d side scroller, as you have to work out which zombies might be “real” or simply scenery.

For most of the game you need to avoid zombies, since you are a mere mortal and have limited stamina with which to fight. It’s quite easy to die quickly once cornered and you do get a good sense of the fear of being overwhelmed by sheer weight of dead folk once they start hording toward you. Gradually you unlock weapons, a fire axe for melee, a revolver and shotgun for ranged head shooting and a somewhat largely redundant catapult which serves very little purpose beyond the mid game.

The controls of the game work ok, although it’s disappointing seeing the tutorial text, constantly forcing the xbox joypad buttons into your view when you are playing with a mouse and keyboard. Seems a lackluster effort to fail to hide them when you aren’t playing with a joypad. Audio fades in and out of obscurity, featuring a few moments of true eerie quality. The voice acting is fine, just not noteworthy.

You unlock diary entries and collect tiny factoids for your scrap-book on the various corpses you loot and secrets you discover. To be honest I never bothered reading any of the diary and only flicked through the collection of pages right at the end. The game story simply isn’t deep or engaging enough for me to really care, but at least it’s there if you want it.

The cut scenes have a walking dead comic book style to them, helping to flesh out the story and give relevance to the dialogue. Once you complete the game there is a nightmare mode you unlock, which no doubt does something to make the game more challenging. I’m not a big fan of replaying games on harder difficulties so I can’t tell you more than that.

Because of the dark silhouette like viewpoint and 2d/3d graphics, sometimes it can be hard to spot ledges or where platforms end. Once or twice this caused me to fall to my doom, mistaking what appeared to be a ledge or platform in the foreground, actually being in the background and mundane. Most of the game has a steady, shallow difficulty, which weirdly spikes in the last couple of levels.

It was quite jarring for the levels to suddenly switch to a “do this perfectly in sequence or you die” design from all the earlier levels, which were quite comfortable on the perfect timing front. I was sailing through the first four hours and then I met with a crumbling building, which I had to retry about 20 times to actually hit all the keys in the right sequence. Having finally passed that event I didn’t feel I had achieved anything, I was simply relieved I could just move on, not really a good sign.

Overall Deadlight is a decent game, the end levels didn’t feel quite as fun as the early game for me. Fortunately though, it didn’t frustrate me enough to mar the whole experience. If you have a spare 4-5 hours and enjoy a bit of survival platforming,  Deadlight is worth your time.