It’s a fact that people love horror. The feeling of being terrified out of our wits is something we greatly enjoy, and if box offices numbers prove something, it’s that horror is the most popular genre in theaters. We love reveling in the unknown and gasping at things that go bump in the night, including the good old monsters, like vampires, werewolves and the classic zombie. Due to the comeback these creatures are mounting in our literature, film and other mediums, horror is as popular as ever. Tequila Works, a developer from Spain, understands this appeal and has created Deadlight, a side-scrolling horror-based platformer that imagines a world overrun by the undead.
In Tequila Works Deadlight, the world has literally gone to hell. In the year 1986, zombies, known as Shadows, have decimated most of the world’s population, and survivors have been living on the move, hiding when they can and always sleeping with one eye open. Survivor Randall Wayne lives day to day in the smoldering, destroyed remains of Seattle with only one goal in mind: to find his daughter and wife. Rumors in the air say that the military has a installation to protect survivors from the undead, so Randall must make his way to the base in hopes that they made it safely.
Deadlight’s story is a mixed bag, While the game had some potential with some interesting moments, the plot is somewhat thin, as the plot is somewhat straight forward, with no real character exposition or growth. It also features a strange section right in the middle of the game that drives the plot into foreign territories that doesn’t really fit with the game. The writing is also pretty strange, with some strange metaphorical dialogue that occasionally makes no sense. Though this could be attributed to the game’s country of origin, maybe the dialogue could have used some work.
When it comes to sound and visuals however, the game has some pretty nice work behind it. The soundtrack is a mix of somber and mysterious music that goes excellently with the tone of the game. Soundbytes are also quite good, with zombie grunts and growls, gunshots,wet splatter sounds and more sounding pretty authentic. Voice-acting, despite the writing, sounds professional as well.
The visuals in this game are quite fantastic. A 2D platformer reminiscent of games like Shadow Complex, the visual style in Deadlight is unique as everything is shrouded in dark shadows, similar to what is seen in Playdead’s Limbo. Tequila Works makes the style it’s own, however, with beautifully detailed backgrounds that come to life with explosions, zombies shambling about, and more. The game also features fantastic animation, with every jump, strike, roll and undead encounter looking realistic. Character models aren’t too shabby either.
When it comes to playing the game, Deadlight features some solid controls. Randall must climb, push objects, run, jump, and fend off zombie hordes with melee strikes or gunshots in his quest to find his family, and each is as easy as tapping a couple of buttons. These actions respond on the dime, so death only comes from human error or delay in time-critical situations. Platforming in the game is also handled well, with a series of thrilling moments where Randall must repeatedly make accurate jumps to frail surfaces in order to avoid falling to his death, or must run away from a frightfully large group of shadows. Gameplay is superb and fun, and constantly manages to get heart pounding from beginning to the end.
The game also features a number of collectibles to keep the game from feeling too straightforward. Items like Randall’s journal entries and certain individuals I.D. Cards are strewn about the game’s many chapters, and serve to expand on the game’s mythos, though they’re really mostly about Randall’s background. Then there’s also collectibles that serve to increase Randall’s health or stamina. Finally, there are three hidden mini-games that come in the form of old-school hand-held devices. These awesome additions play just like their classic counterparts, complete with monochromatic screens, simple soundbytes and addictive gameplay.
The main campaign is divided into three Acts, each coming with a nice change of scenery and a questionable change in plot. While the first third of the game is very strong and serves as a good opener, the game loses focus during the second act and culminates way too quickly during the third. That being said, the game is horribly short, with the main campaign lasting two hours at most. The campaign can also be replayed Time Trial style in order to get on the leaderboards, further emphasizing just how short the game really is. While games shouldn’t be measured due to the length of the campaign, I do take slight offensive because the whole experience ends so quickly it shouldn’t be priced so highly.
Deadlight is a unique experience that is unfortunately is marred by the story and length. While the gameplay is great and full of thrilling, memorable moments that have you on the edge of your seat, the story is ultimately a jumbled mess that makes no sense and ends all too quickly. Tequila Works’ first game had the potential to be a great entry in the survival horror genre, but unfortunately fails to have any lasting impact.