At a glance...

Reviewer Platform Publisher Developer Players
Dave Wickham Xbox 360 Microsoft Studios Tequila Works 1
Requirements
None.

Deadlight review

Microsoft's "Summer of Arcade" feature arrived on time for the season this year, and brought with it, amongst other things, a little game called Deadlight. Whilst its name may not instantly suggest long days out in the warmth of the sun, within a few minutes of playing you will be filled with the spirit of summer. Wait, hang on, I'm thinking of Super Mario Sunshine - I'll be back in a minute with the right game.

This is a screenshot, not concept art

This is a screenshot, not concept art

Deadlight starts out by throwing you straight into the story with no real introduction - all you've had is a cryptic cut-scene (made up of a series of still images) featuring yourself shooting somebody in the head. Before too long you realise that you're in the tutorial section of some kind of side-scrolling survival horror game filled with zombie-like creatures called shadows. Think Resident Evil meets the original 1989 Prince of Persia (if you've never played it, then think Super Mario Bros. instead, except unfortunately jumping on your enemies doesn't defeat them). There's generally a lot of running about, hanging onto ledges, pushing things around, and trying to keep away from shadows.

The plot of the game is revealed in a couple of ways; obviously the present and future are covered by your actions in the game, but the back story is a bit more hidden. The most obvious references to what has occurred are covered by some dream sequences, where Randal (the protagonist) will slip into a repressed memory that you must play through. However, if you're thorough when searching areas, you'll find lost entries from a 60-page diary scattered around, usually in corpses. Quite how these people managed to get hold of Randal's diary pages is never quite explained, but reading the diary does provide some insight as to what you're actually doing, and what the repressed memories may be referring to. These diary pages aren't the only things you'll pick up, though. There are also ID cards featuring names of serial killers, as well as three handheld games to collect. I'm not entirely sure why.

Following the leader

Following the leader

There seem to be three different play styles throughout Deadlight. There are some areas that attempt to challenge your puzzle-solving skills, although they're rarely too complex (the only one I really got stuck on was because I'd forgotten you can taunt shadows). Other parts are spent trying to avoid being killed to death with the strategic use of a firearms, a fireman's axe, and jumping - apparently shadows can't climb. One final stage involves legging it as fast as possible, trying to memorise the sequence of events you must make your way through, a bit like a more lenient Dragon's Lair. The diversity is rather refreshing, although the last stage could have been improved if there wasn't an eight second load time every single time you die; those eight seconds feel incredibly long after the 10th time in a few minutes.

Perhaps the biggest problem I have with Deadlight is that it's rather short, even if it does make my life as a reviewer that bit easier. It reckons I played it for about 2 and a half hours, so if that's accurate, at a price of 1,200 Microsoft Points (£10.20), that would be 480 MSP per hour. Admittedly I've not found all of the secrets or earned all of the achievements, I have played through the entire storyline and seen the credits sequence, so I'd reasonably describe that as finished. The most disappointing bit of this is that it felt like I was really starting to properly get into the game just as it was ending - it left me wanting to play more, but there was no more to play.

Can you spot our protagonist?

Can you spot our protagonist?

In summary, Deadlight is a rather enjoyable game, but one which is just a bit too short. The controls could possibly do with a little bit of simplification; I kept accidentally climbing up ledges instead of jumping off them, but this is a fairly minor niggle. It's also rather pretty, making use of Unreal Engine 3 to render its environments, providing a dark, atmospheric backdrop to the world. And the plot, whilst not groundbreaking, provides a bit more to the game than just running away from shadows.

Ratings

Overall Given a longer campaign, some trickier puzzles, and shorter loading times, Deadlight could have picked up another point. It has all the right elements, they just need a bit of tweaking and extending to bring it up that notch. 7/10

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